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Help needed at Lankham on 15 Feb

Lots of small black furry caterpillars among dry grass
Marsh Fritillary caterpillars at Lankham on 7 February 2017. Photo: Nigel Spring.

Tuesday February 7th, Lankham Bottom Butterfly Reserve:  a beautiful almost spring-like day and possibly the earliest recorded date for Marsh Fritillary larvae on this site sunning themselves in a cluster on the southwest facing slopes of the reserve.

14 members of Butterfly Conservation and the Somerset EuCAN Volunteers gathered to finish the work on the chalkpit, to cut and burn up more of the scrub regrowth in what were formerly heavily scrubbed over areas of the reserve and to begin to remove gorse and thorn scrub in the south-east corner of the reserve where it is encroaching on valuable Marsh Fritillary habitat.

Small pit in a grassy field with a pile of rubbish in front of it

Lankham chalkpit now with a new face and emptied of rubbish! Photo: Malcolm Halfacre.

An enormous pile of buried rubbish was pulled out of the chalkpit with the help of a digger provided by Wessex Water, the owners of the site, and taken away in one of their dumper trucks. The face of the chalkpit was scraped of vegetation and topsoil to expose bare chalk which we hope will be colonised by Birdsfoot Trefoil, Kidney Vetch and other legumes and will become an attractive habitat for some of the blue butterfly species.

Orange dumper truck being loaded with rubbish.

Lankham Bottom Wessex Water as site owners very kindly took away the heap of rubbish extracted from the chalkpit. Photo: Georgie Laing

The work on the SE corner will continue next Wednesday Feb 15th – please come and help! See the Events page.

Fresh-looking Marsh Fritillary with open wings

Marsh Fritillary. Photo: Brian Arnold 2016.

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Volunteers wanted at Butterfly Conservation HQ in Dorset

Aerial photograph showing location of the office

Could you help Butterfly Conservation by giving some volunteer time at their HQ near Lulworth in Dorset?

It’s a friendly place, with tea and biscuits always on tap, and you could have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something to help butterflies and moths, even if indirectly. Continue reading

Branch Stall publicity triumph

The Dorset Branch education stall has recently spent four days at Moors Valley Country Park, for their ‘Butterfly, Moth and Minibeast Festival”.

More than 1200 people attended, mostly families. The star attractions were living examples including Orange Tip eggs, caterpillars and chrysalis. December moth caterpillars, all hairy and camouflaged against hawthorn twigs, were admired. Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars, chrysalis and an emerging adult came from Moors Valley. A selection of moths were on show, all described by the 10 expert volunteers.

The Buttterfly Conservation’s national Munching Caterpillars initiative also joined us, with Catherine Mason keeping young people busy potting plants to take home.

On the next weekend Winterborne Whitechurch Farm Open Day saw the stall have another 200 plus visitors looking at Poplar Hawk moths and their caterpillars, plus red, white and black Knot Grass caterpillars.

Knot Grass Caterpillar

Knot Grass Caterpillar. Photo: Lyn Pullen

Most amazing was an Orange tip caterpillar changing into a chrysalis as we watched. Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars were also making this wonderful change.

This farm has been surveyed by Butterfly Conservation volunteers and has 31 species of butterfly on its ‘managed for conservation’ areas. Eighty moths have also been seen on the farm, and our display included Privet Hawk Moth, Lobster Moth and the stunning Green silver lines. Our picture displays showed the link between food production and conservation.

You too can volunteer for stall help, it is wonderful to look up and see 4 pairs of eyes riveted on you!

Contact Bridget via our Contact Form.

Weymouth Relief Road is a hit with butterflies

Georgie Laing has pulled together the information gathered in 2013 on how the sides of the Weymouth Relief Road, built in 2012 for the Olympics, are doing.

This area was deliberately not grassed, but seeded with butterfly-attracting wild flowers, which certainly seem to be doing their job.

A riot of colour now greets travelers when the yellow blanket of kidney vetch blooms on the cuttings and bridleway on the ridgeway. This is important as the caterpillar food plant of the Small Blue.

Kidney vetch on bridleway

Kidney vetch on the Bridleway, 2013. Photo: John Elliott

For the last two years Butterfly conservation volunteers have been monitoring the site to record the species of butterflies.

2013 proved to be a good year:

  • 25 visits were made
  • 20 species recorded
  • 621 individual records
  • 8 new species were recorded:
    • Large Skipper
    • Clouded Yellow
    • Brimstone
    • Green-veined White
    • Orange-tip
    • Adonis Blue
    • Peacock

3 species showed large increases from last year

  • Small White (144 recorded)
  • Common Blue (213 recorded)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (79 recorded)
Small Blue

Small Blue. Photo: John Elliott

Species list for 2013

  • Large Skipper (new 2013)
  • Clouded yellow (new 2013)
  • Brimstone (new 2013)
  • Large White
  • Small White
  • Green-veined White (new 2013)
  • Orange-tip (new 2013)
  • Small Copper (new 2013)
  • Small Blue
  • Brown Argus
  • Common Blue
  • Adonis Blue (new 2013)
  • Red Admiral
  • Painted lady
  • Small Tortoiseshell
  • Peacock (new 2013)
  • Wall
  • Marbled White
  • Gatekeeper
  • Meadow Brown
  • Ringlet (2012 only)

We would like to continue the monitoring in 2014 and are hoping to design a formal butterfly monitoring (transect) walk. More volunteers are needed.

If you would like to help or would like a more detailed report of the records please contact Georgie Laing  via our Contact Form.

Thank you for the records

Many thanks all of you who contributed butterfly records to the website in 2013.

You sent us 2,948 records, totalling 22,720 butterflies!

Graph of web records

Graph of web records

These will be added to those that come in via other methods to form a vital count of Dorset’s butterflies.

We couldn’t have done it without you!

Work on Lankham Bottom Butterfly Reserve

A team of 10 BC volunteers spent a beautiful still autumn day on Sunday November 17th at Lankham Bottom Reserve continuing the clearance work on the gorse and bramble scrub at the top of the south-facing slope.

Conservation work and bonfire

Lankham Bottom Conservation Work November 2013. Photo: Ann Evans

The bushes have been extending inexorably over the downland for over 40 years (according to local sources) but with all the efforts of volunteers and contractors in recent seasons, the large blocks of scrub are being broken up.

This will provide not only a greater area of valuable habitat for butterflies, moths and other wildlife that favour open grassland, but also more agricultural land for our tenant’s cattle to graze.

The next scheduled event at Lankham Bottom is on Sunday January 19. See the Events page for more information.

Help needed with checking butterfly records

Could you volunteer to help us with the butterfly records that come in via our website?

Our new recording form on the website this year has meant we are receiving many more records than previously, and they all have to be checked before they are added to our database. The job is presently being done by one person, but we need a small team to share it between them.

Adonis Blue butterflies

Adonis Blues. Photo: Mark Pike

You would need to:

a) Have your own computer and be computer literate.
b) Be able to reliably give some time each day to this task, during the weeks you are on duty – it takes up to 1 hour per day in June/July/Aug, but almost none in the winter. How the work is split between the team members can be worked out to their mutual satisfaction.
c) Be ready to communicate (tactfully!) with recorders by e-mail when the record they have sent in appears to have an error.
d) Know a bit about butterflies. In-depth knowledge is not needed: there will be initial training and then people to support you, and you will learn as you go along.
e) Be systematic: our system allows making non-public notes to yourself, and you need to keep track of any records which you have queried so you can chase up any lack of response.
f) Be comfortable with moving text around on the records to enhance the public view of them.
g) Have a working knowledge of grid references or be willing to learn – it’s not difficult and the process of grid ref checking is partly automated.

You will get in return:

a) The pleasure of helping us grow our butterfly sightings database, which provides essential information for ensuring butterflies flourish across Dorset.
b) The camaraderie of working as part of a team.
c) Interesting contact with many other butterfly-minded people.
d) The satisfaction of seeing data come in and go out, and knowing you have helped it on its way.

If you are interested, please contact Bill Shreeves at w.shreeves@btinternet.com or 01747 852587.

Help Needed at Buddleia trial in North Dorset – lots of butterflies to record!

Dorset Branch members Peter & Judy Westgate started their private collection of well over 100 buddleia varieties in Fontmell Magna last year, with the aim of finding out which were the best for butterflies.

This year the bushes have grown larger, and are attracting even more butterflies: those who have already visited have counted nearly 100 Peacocks, plus growing numbers of Small Tortoiseshells, Brimstones, Red Admirals, Commas from the mid-summer Hutchinsoni variety and occasional Painted Ladies, Clouded Yellows and Dark Green and Silver-washed Fritillaries. Of course there are also clouds of fluttering Whites, mostly Large and Small but also some Green-veined.

Buddleia test plot

Buddleia test plot

We would welcome more recorders to visit & help to collect data on which varieties and colours attract the most butterflies.

Last year’s champion, the amazing dark purple Dartmoor with florettes hanging down in bunches like bananas, has not yet reached full bloom, but there are many new varieties now taking the field.

The collection is open at any time but if you have not visited before please contact Bill Shreeves to obtain directions on how to get there, how to record & a plan of the site. E-mail: w.shreeves@btinternet.com or write to 5, Butt’s Mead, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 8NS.

If you visit, it would also be much appreciated if you could help the plants to keep flowering by doing some ‘dead heading’ – bring your own secateurs!

As an extra inducement Peter Westgate has also provided a comfortable seat under the shade of the orchard from which the amazing butterfly spectacle can be contemplated!