Welcome to Butterfly Conservation in Somerset and Bristol
Celebrating 50 years!
Our 50th Anniversary year has started well. The day before the first lot of snow came, throwing Western civilisation into chaos, we, Natural England and SWT had a joint work party at Thurlbear Quarrylands in bright sun, the temperature ideal for some not-too-strenuous labour clearing encroaching scrub to maintain sheltered glades especially for Duke of Burgundy, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers.
After that came a very successful “Get-Together” with short presentations, if anything bettering the usual high standard, plus the traditional excellent tea, and we raised just on £200 for Branch funds. As usual, Dave Ayling MC’d the event, taking a brief break from checking around 45,000 records submitted by Branch members in 2017, a winter-long task which he undertakes as our County Butterfly Recorder.
Then on 10th March, the “Conservation Day of Action”, we got to work at the Shutes Farm end of Mount Fancy Farm coppicing old hazel and clearing bramble to open up a very shaded area that formerly held Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Although we have lost them from the Reserve they are still present in the area and we hope that by keeping conditions suitable they may be able to recolonise. Despite early rain we got a good fire going to clear the cut material and, of course, cake featured in the day as well! Rob Skinner's time-lapse video of the day's work at https://twitter.com/BCSomerset (scroll to 10 March) gives a pleasing if slightly false impression of just how fast we worked!
Meanwhile, contractors have been working on Westbury Beacon to clear about a hectare of old gorse, hawthorn and sapling ash trees on the south-facing slopes. These areas have been impenetrably overgrown for many years and clearance is exposing bare ground and rock but there will be a seed bank and while inevitably gorse will predominate we hope that other plants like Thyme and Horseshoe Vetch will still be present and that by sustained management including grazing we will greatly improve conditions especially for the Chalkhill Blues.
We have a full programme of Guided Walks planned, starting at Buckland Wood in the Blackdowns in early May and ending at Netherclay in Taunton in August.There are some interesting new sites widely spread across the County as well as reliable favourites. The full list will be posted at the end of March in the Events section and included in the next issue of The Arion.
Following a massive data entry task lasting most of the winter, Dave Ayling has updated all the butterfly distrribution maps in the Species section and listed at the Surveys - Unrecorded Squares page all those 1km squares for which we have had no records for at least seven years. So if you're wondering where to go for a stroll on a sunny day, why not visit one of two of these and see what turns up?