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“ALL THE MOOR BUTTERFLIES”
We have now had confirmation that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £318,000 to Butterfly Conservation to finance a new three-year project focussed on the conservation of rare butterfly and moth species on Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.
The project will extend the very successful Two Moors Project which BC has run for several years on Exmoor and Dartmoor, both by including Bodmin Moor and also by widening its scope to involve the public more fully.
The aim is to restore and create habitat for the High Brown Fritillary, Heath Fritillary and Marsh Fritillary, all three of which are in serious decline due to habitat loss and changes in land management, with a 70% reduction in their distribution recorded over the last 40 years. The project will also benefit the nationally scarce Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth. As well as working closely with landowners and farmers, the project team will run training days, guided walks, butterfly surveys and conservation work parties across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset over the next three years to encourage the public to get involved with the project.
Jenny Plackett, who very successfully ran the Two Moors Project and is now BC’s South West Regional Officer, said: “We are really delighted to have been awarded this grant. Volunteers are at the heart of our work saving threatened species, but with this project we will be able to offer opportunities for a whole new audience, including young people and those with mental health problems, to have access to these landscapes, enjoy their unique wildlife and take an active role in conservation. With everyone working together, we hope to secure the future of our moorland butterflies and other wildlife as well.”
The project will launch across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset in January and we will be working in partnership with the National Trust, Natural England, the Environment Agency, Cornwall AONB, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Exmoor National Park Authority to develop its full potential.
RESULTS FROM THE 2016 BIG BUTTERFLY COUNT
Common butterflies saw their numbers collapse over the summer. Despite weather conditions that usually help them to thrive, the majority of species studied as part of the scheme saw their populations fall with some producing their worst numbers since the Big Butterfly Count began.
Widespread species such as the Gatekeeper, Comma and Small Copper experienced their worst summers in the project’s history and were down 40%, 46% and 30% respectively compared to last year. The Small Tortoiseshell saw a 47% drop in numbers and Peacock slumped by 42% with both species recording their second worst years. These figures were even lower than those experienced during the cold and wet summer of 2012.
The reasons why butterflies have struggled despite favourable summer weather conditions are as yet unclear. When we have cold, wet summers, as in 2012, we expect butterfly populations to plummet but that wasn’t the case this year.
The importance of Big Butterfly Count is that it takes place every year over a long period; the longer it goes on the more we can learn about the causes that are driving the declines and, in some cases, increases of our butterflies. In fact, the Count showed that both the Red Admiral and Green-veined White bucked the negative trend. The Red Admiral was up 70% compared to 2015, had the largest year-on year-increase of any species and achieved its second highest abundance since the Count began. The Green-veined White was up by 58% compared to last year and was the only one of the common white butterfly species to experience a substantial rise in numbers. The most commonly seen species was the Large White, up 2% from last year and topping the Count for the first time.
More than 36,000 people took part in this year’s Count, recording around 390,000 butterflies during the three-week mid-summer recording period. Results can be found at http://www.bigbutterflycount.org . The Big Butterfly Count is sponsored by Waitrose and John Lewis.
Big Butterfly Count 2016 – top 10 species ranking
- Large White 62,890 seen
- Small White 61,955
- Meadow Brown 57,281
- Gatekeeper 47,597
- Ringlet 26,968
- Red Admiral 26,568
- Peacock 18,508
- Green-veined White 16,879
- Small Tortoiseshell 12,335
- Speckled Wood 10,271
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