Butterfly numbers are on the up

Dr Marc Botham says butterflies enjoyed a revival in the British countryside last year

Dr Marc Botham says butterflies enjoyed a revival in the British countryside last year

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

FARMLAND butterflies flourished in last year’s summer sunshine, bouncing back after their population fell during the washout of 2012, according to a recent survey.

Research was conducted for the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey, run by Butterfly Conservation, the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology in Crowmarsh, near Wallingford, and the British Trust for Ornithology.

It found most farmland butterfly species grew in number last year, after research was conducted at 850 one-sq km sites across England, Wales and Scotland.

It aimed to find out how butterflies were faring in the wider countryside, where hedgerows and the edge of fields are important habitats, compared to specially managed sites, including nature reserves.

Church Westcote, on the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire border, was the most diverse spot for butterflies last year, showing 17 species and 1,680 individuals during two visits.

Dr Marc Botham, butterfly ecologist at the centre, said: “According to data gathered by the survey, the majority of farmland species recovered in 2013 after suffering the worst year on record in 2012.

“Species including the Brimstone, Common Blue, and Small Tortoiseshell all enjoyed a good year.”

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Dr Botham said it was difficult to say if the prolonged period of extremely wet weather the region has experienced in recent weeks, would affect butterfly numbers this year.

“There is no hard data but we have hypothesised that even though flood plains don’t tend to be butterfly rich, a warmer winter could have a more general effect.”

Recorders saw an average of 85 butterflies in July and August last year, with up to five different species spotted, as the sunny conditions allowed butterflies to fly, feed and breed.

This was almost double what was recorded in the wet conditions in 2012.

The Small Tortoiseshell, which has declined dramatically in recent years, recorded its best year since 2009. A total of 6,833 were counted, with the species seen in 80 per cent of the locations, up from 40 per cent in 2012.

Herald Series:

  • Common Blue

The Common Blue also did well, with a five-fold increase in the average number seen per area, while the Small Copper and Brimstone were both more widespread than the previous year.

Meadow Browns were the most widespread species, recorded in 90 per cent of the squares.

The Holly Blue and Red Admiral species were among the minority whose numbers were down compared to 2012.

Herald Series:

  • Silver-spotted Skipper

Local view

ACCORDING to the Upper Thames Branch of Butterfly Conservation, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire are home to three quarters of the 60 British species of butterflys

Half the UK colonies of the Black Hairstreak are found in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and the most northerly UK populations of the Adonis Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper are found in the Chilterns

And colonies of the Barberry Carpet and Pale Shining Brown have been found in West Oxfordshire

For further information visit upperthames-butterflies.org.uk

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