News and Features
The Butterfly Conservation Silver-studded Blue Project: Update
Wednesday 27 July
The Silver-studded Blues are now being seen at many locations across Ashdown Forest. You can follow progress and submit your own sightings here
Your help will guide conservation action.
Do also search further afield. Download a map that includes historical records and records up to 2014.
There is still a prize available for the person that finds or rediscovers the most remote or unexpected colony!
Neil Hulme awarded a British Empire Medal by The Queen
Saturday 17 June 2017
Neil Hulme has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his work saving the Duke of Burgundy in Sussex.
Neil, said: "It is a great honour to be recognised in this manner."
He added: "But the conservation of butterflies is always a team effort, so it is equally a recognition of my colleagues and particularly the volunteers of Butterfly Conservation Sussex Branch.
Sussex Branch chair Nigel Symington commented "Neil's leadership qualities, and his generosity and enthusiasm in sharing his knowledge with others, have led to the success of this conservation work. I know that everyone in Sussex Branch will be delighted at this well-deserved award and join with me in congratulating him".
I am sure that everyone at the Sussex branch of Butterfly Conservation will agree that Neil's award was richly deserved.
Fritillaries for the Future Update – 2017 SPBF Re-introduction Completed
Tuesday 13 June 2017
Firstly, I would like to reiterate my thanks - see report below - to the dedicated captive-breeding team of volunteers Theresa Lux and Gary Norman, working under the guidance of Mike Mullis. After a long journey, during which many setbacks were suffered and overcome, Sunday (11 June) saw the successful completion of the first part of a programme to reinstate the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (SPBF) to Sussex.
More than 400 SPBF have been released, as either final instar larvae or adults, into carefully prepared habitat networks at both the BC reserves in Sussex (Park Corner Heath & Rowland Wood) and FC Abbot's Wood. These reintroductions form part of a strategic, landscape-scale project targeting sites where sustainable management plans are in place.
I would like to thank our members for heeding the request for restraint in pursuing the butterflies too enthusiastically in this first season, and for allowing them to go about their business unhindered. I would also like to thank Natural England and the Forestry Commission for their support, and the main project sponsor, Heritage Lottery Fund.
On 26 May an event was held to celebrate the project, attended by former reserve managers and volunteers who had served 'above and beyond the call of duty' in the past. Needless to say, this was a very happy day that put smiles on many faces. I feel that we have done everything possible to resurrect the fortunes of this species in Sussex, but only time will be the judge.
Fritillaries for the Future Project Officer
Ashdown Forest Silver-studded Blue search
Saturday 10 June 2017
The coming week should warm up and the Silver-studded Blues should really get going on Ashdown Forest.
If you have chance to get out onto the forest and spot the butterfly you can record via this new bespoke recording system: http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/ssb/ Of course, you can still record butterflies via all the other means (email, spreadsheets, iRecord, MapMate, etc.). This online system just gives us an extra option and will provide immediate feedback on where the butterfly is being spotted. Please do also let me know if you search areas but find none; this is very important information too.
We’re still looking for any blues in the northern part of the forest. None were found north of Old Lodge in 2016.
Signs are also going up around the forest to encourage visitors to record their sightings of Blue butterflies (see attached). This is a new approach for us and we’ll see if it generates more records and more interest from general visitors.
The data we collect this year will be important in helping to direct autumn conservation work and future conservation effort.
Senior Regional Officer - South East England
BC Fritillaries for the Future News - Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries are Back!
Monday 22 May 2017
I'm delighted to announce that the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (SPBF) is again flying in Sussex, as a re-introduction programme, conducted in compliance with the 'BC Code on Introductions and Re-introductions 2010', is now under full steam.
I would like to start by thanking our volunteer team of Theresa Lux and Gary Norman, for their immense contribution in looking after the captive-bred stock. This has involved a huge commitment in time and effort. Thanks also to Mike Mullis, under whose guidance they have worked, and to Forestry Commission and Natural England for their support.
SPBF is being re-introduced to very carefully prepared habitats, with ongoing, sustainable management plans in place, at our BC Park Corner Heath reserve and FC Abbot's Wood. As we have adopted the combined approach of releasing final instar larvae, followed by adults, this means that pupae and freshly emerged butterflies will be in the low scrub over areas where you might spot the adults flying.
Would particularly photographers please therefore exercise restraint in pursuing the butterflies away from the well-worn paths and tracks. The first year of any re-introduction programme is key to success, so please help to ensure that the butterflies have the best possible chance of becoming firmly established, by allowing them to go about their business unhindered.
As the reintroductions are being carefully monitored (we know how many are present), and as these are released butterflies, we won't be posting member's reports or images on our website this year. However, next year it will be 'business as usual'.
As the captive-breeding team and I will be working around the clock to ensure the highest chance of success, unfortunately I won't have time to respond to any queries until the job is complete.
Please enjoy the return of the Small Pearl, but do consider the best interests of the species while doing so.
Fritillaries for the Future Project Officer
Dr Dan Danahar gives presentation at Cambridge Conservation Initiative hosted #EarthOptimism
Saturday 29 April 2017
On 22 April 2017 the Cambridge Conservation Initiative hosted #EarthOptimism Cambridge, part of a global celebration of successful nature conservation, with a focus on hope and optimism about the future of the planet. At the event, which took place at the David Attenborough Building, visitors heard a series of inspiring talks by leading conservationists, naturalists, and distinguished figures including Sir David Attenborough, Dame Jane Goodall and Professor Steven Pinker. A 'Solutions Fair' provided visitors with the opportunity to talk to over 30 local, national and international organisations who were showcasing a variety of practical ways that people can make a real difference for the planet through their everyday lives.
This session, chaired by Martin Harper, features presentations by Dr Philine zu Ermgassen & William Baker, Dr Dan Danahar, Professor Helen Roy and Rio Heriniaina.
You can find Dan's presentation around 17 minutes into the video.
You can find the rest of the videos of the conference, including those featuring Sir David Attenborough, here.
"Butterflies of Sussex" Where's my book?
Saturday 27 April 2017
We're nearly there. The books have all been printed, and are being covered and bound. The publisher is expecting delivery from the printer/binder in the first week in May, so they will begin to be despatched after that. So you should have yours by mid-May.
You can order a copy here.
South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service (SDVRS) visit to 'Pete's Wood'
Tuesday 25 April 2017
A group of SDVRS and National Park rangers met Fritillaries for the Future Project Officer, Neil Hulme, for a walk around a privately owned part of Tottington Wood, Small Dole, on 20 April. The event, which focused on spring butterflies and woodland flowers, was arranged as a mark of gratitude for all the help provided by the SDVRS in managing this and many other sites over recent years.
'Pete's Wood' has benefited greatly from the cutting of overstood Hazel coppice and thinning of the tree canopy, allowing more light to penetrate to the woodland floor and triggering a spectacular display of early season flowers. The results of the management work performed over the autumn and winter are clear to see, and each season sees a further increase in the wildlife here, with ever greater numbers of butterflies and birds. This was an opportunity for members of the SDVRS to appreciate the fruits of their labour.
The visit was well timed, with Bluebells being at the very peak of their all-too-short season, forming extensive, dense carpets. Plenty of other flowers added splashes of colour to the woodland floor, including Early Purple Orchid, Lesser Celandine, Wood Anemone, Red Campion, Greater Stitchwort, Wood Spurge and Common Dog-violet. Some areas contained clumps of Spurge Laurel and horsetails were beginning to show in the damper parts of the wood, bordering a small stream which empties into a beautiful pond.
Nine species of butterfly were seen during the walk, including Orange-tip, Brimstone, Green-veined White, Small White, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue. This diversity of species is only found in the actively managed parts of the wider woodland, much of which is overgrown and dark. Another area, at the opposite corner of the complex, is cared for by the Tottington Woodlanders.
Birdlife has also benefitted from the work of the owner and SDVRS; this is one of the noisiest parts of Tottington Wood. Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Jay and Common Buzzard were all seen or heard.
Amongst the Bluebells lay a little social history. We looked at the remains of what appears to be a vintage truck, which was probably abandoned by a woodsman in the days when coppicing was much more widely practised. It's good know that, with the help of the SDVRS, the revival of this management technique is returning the place to its former glory.
Harrowing time at Top Common, Byfleets Lane, Broadbridge Heath
Friday 31 March 2017
A Speckled Wood was watching today, as we power harrowed the Top Common at Broadbridge Heath prior to seeding the area with various wildflower seed mixes to increase the future availability of nectar for butterflies, bees and other insects in what was previously a very dark and overgrown site! Over the winter more than 500 hedging plants and trees have also been planted to provide egg laying opportunities for a wide range of butterflies and moths.
"Butterflies of Sussex" goes to the printer!
Friday 31 March 2017
After a frantic last few days of proof reading "Butterflies of Sussex" has been sent to the printers. Copies will be sent out in early May.
The book also received its first review
The new Butterfly Atlas at nearly 300 pages is a truly worthy successor to the 1996 Atlas
(Atlas of the Sussex Butterflies by Joyce and Peter Gay) and allows readers to compare gains and losses in the
county's butterfly fauna. Some gains due to long term conservation effort are evident, with the exciting possibility
that the Swallowtail might once again take up residency in the county. The new Atlas is highly readable, packed with interesting
facts and figures and a must for anyone interested in the conservation of nonvertebrates in the UK.
The British Journal of Entomology & Natural History
You can order a copy here.
"Back from the brink" wins £7.7 million funding
Monday 27 March 2017
"Back from the brink" is a partnership of conservation organisations which includes Natural England, Bumblebee Conservation, Plantlife International, RSPB, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and the Bat Conservation Trust. They have just received a funding award of £7.7 million to protect 20 key species threatened with extinction in the UK.
The 20 key species are Black Click Beetle, Field Wormwood, Shrill carder bee, Interrupted brome, Matted bryum, Chequered Skipper butterfly, Northern dune tiger beetle, Ladybird Spider, Narrow headed ant, Royal Splinter Cranefly, Variable Chafer, Moccas beetle, Oak Click Beetle, Violet Click Beetle, Grey carpet moth, Bearded False Darkling Beetle, Cosnard's Net-winged Beetle, Purbeck Mason Wasp, Prostrate Perennial Knawel. A further 200 threatened species will be helped including the Large Blue butterfly and the Duke of Burgundy butterfly.
Butterfly Conservation will receive £1 million of the funds. CEO Julie Williams said "We are delighted that National Lottery have recognised and rewarded this multi-organisational partnership to deliver something special for our threatened species. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts and we look forward to working with our partners to demonstrate that and make an even bigger difference."
You can read more about it here.
Saving the Butterflies of Sussex
Monday 27 March 2017
We've teamed up with film-maker Justin Ingham to highlight the situation facing butterflies in the area and to provide an insight into the conservation work carried out by volunteers at our Park Corner Heath and Rowland Wood Reserves in East Sussex.
Work has been ongoing for many years at these two reserves to reinstate a well-managed wood and heathland with a wide range of habitats and a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. In particular we are working to secure the future of the rare Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly and the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. This short film shows just a few of the many volunteers who are helping with this work.
As well as a long career as a freelance cameraman in international broadcast television, Justin Ingham has increasingly been working with select businesses and charities in the UK.
Justin said, "It was a huge privilege to work with the dedicated volunteers to make this film. We were all amazed by the fiercely passionate conservationists who do so much for these fragile creatures. No matter whether they were young or old, everyone had the same vision and commitment to make a difference - we have learned a lot from all these people."
To find out more about film-maker Justin Ingham, please visit www.justiningham.co.uk>
Things are looking up for butterflies on Bevendean Down!
Saturday 25 March 2017
Things are looking up for butterflies on Bevendean Down on the north east edge of Brighton. Hogtrough is one of the best parts of the site and Friends of Bevendean Down had a discussion with Dan Danahar about creating a chalk scrape.
At our site meeting a couple of weeks ago farmer Stuart West suggested using some of his big machinery to pull out some of the hawthorns which are invading the chalk grassland areas. This would also create areas of bare chalk where the roots of the trees had been, a double bonus, achieved much quicker by machine than our small work parties!
Emma the ranger also put up notices to explain why the work was being done. Removing scrub from urban fringe sites can get people very upset so providing information hopefully lessens this possibility. We look forward to seeing how these bare areas will be colonised.
Film crew descends on conservation work party at Park Corner Heath
Sunday 12 March 2017
Today was the last conservation work party of the season at Park Corner Heath. Despite the threat of rain a large number of people turned up and were rewarded with conditions that stayed dry throughout the morning.
An added excitement was the arrival of a film crew, who are shooting a promotional video about the branch and the conservation work it carries out. Many of the volunteers were interviewed about work being carried out, including Reserve Manager Bob Foreman.
Over the winter volunteer work by dozens of different people at Park Corner Heath has dramatically improved the habitat on the reserve, returning much of it to the heathland that gives it its name. We can look forward to an exciting butterfly season ahead.
Butterfly Conservation Sussex would like to extend a big thanks to all those who have worked so hard at Park Corner Heath over the winter. We look forward to seeing you all again in the Autumn.
PondNet Spawn Survey 2017
Monday 28 February 2017
The Freshwater Habitats Trust has launched "PondNet Spawn Survey 2017" , a nationwide project in which they are looking for us all to record evidence of frog or toad breeding wherever it is found. They are interested in records of spawn or tadpoles and the survey is running until the end of May.
There is a Spawn Survey page on the Freshwater Habitats Trust website with useful information on amphibian identification as well as survey forms and data entry guides on the Freshwater habitats Trust website.
All records they collect through this project will be shared with the SxBRC.
Keep Our Downs Public rally: Eastbourne Sat 25 Feb 2-3pm. Meet: Bankers Corner, Terminus Rd and walk to the Bandstand
Saturday 25 February 2017
Assemble at Bankers' Corner (vicinity of Barclays, HSBC etc) and march to the Bandstand. More details coming soon.... For people who come to this page who may need to know more about the issue here is some background from the KODP FB group. You can also like the FB page Eastbourne Campaign to KODP.
The Eastbourne Keep Our Downs Public group is about opposing Eastbourne Council's plans to sell its downland farms.. Please sign and share the petition to stop Eastbourne sell-off: https://actionnetwork.org/./stop-the-sell-off-of-eastbourne. To keep in touch with developments in Eastbourne, go to Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth's page . To get updates, information, actions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a critical time for nature conservation in Sussex. If large areas of our local authorities' downland estates are sold, it's unlikely they will ever come into public ownership again. And while some protections will remain, through site designations and the South Downs National Park Authority's planning policies, it's likely that the capacity of conservation bodies to influence the land-use and habitat management on these important downland sites will be much reduced if the land goes out of public ownership.
As all butterfly-lovers will know, the South Downs provides enormously important habitat for butterflies; they need all the protection we can give them. We would therefore like to see Eastbourne Borough Council's downland estate remain in responsible public ownership.
Chair, Sussex Branch
'Butterflies of Sussex' update
Sunday 19 February 2017
The first set of proofs are back from the publishers and I have to say it looks absolutely amazing! We've managed to jiggle the book around to fit it in 332 pages to keep the postage weight down. Here's a few of the pages laid out on the carpet and ready for inspection. We're now proof reading the book checking for typos and taking out some of the swear words. There's so much in the book - it's a real epic which will no doubt stand alongside 'War and Peace' and 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'. There's just 6 weeks left to get a copy for the special pre-publication price of £20. http://www.naturebureau.co.uk/bookshop/the-butterflies-of-sussex-detail.
The Purple Emperor and Other Wonders - A talk by Matthew Oates - Thursday March 23rd 7.30pm
Saturday 11 February 2017
Black Down and Hindhead Supporters of the National Trust have organised a talk by the celebrated ecologist and author Matthew Oates entitled "The Purple Emperor and Other Wonders". The talk is at Haslemere Educational Museum on the Surrey Sussex border on Thursday March 23rd 7.30pm. There is a £5.00 entry fee which includes a glass of wine. Tickets on the door.
Matthew is the author of "In Pursuit of Butterflies, a fifty-year affair" which is based on his butterfly diaries, and chronicles a lifelong year with Lepidoptera. He was schooled at Christ's Hospital near Horsham in West Sussex and the early part of this book is focuses on his butterflying expeditions to St. Leonard's Forest and other local woods in the sixties. Matthew's fascination with Purple Emperors is a constant theme throughout the book. In recent years Matthew has returned to the Horsham area because to his involvement in the Knepp rewilding scheme. The book also features cameos from our own Neil Hulme and Dan Danahar.
Help required to manage the Liz Williams Butterfly Haven - Saturday February 4th
Saturday 28 January 2017
The many wonderful wildflowers and butterflies found at the Liz Williams Butterfly Haven require annual management to be maintained. In the past we would achieve this with sheep grazing but now that the cost of doing so has become prohibitive, the site is now managed by hand with the use of brushcutters. We are fortunate in that members of the Murray Downland Trust have volunteered to brushcut the site for us.
Whilst they cut the rank vegetation, this must be raked and removed from the site, so that annually we reduce the nutrient load and so enhance conditions for nature conservation. To do this we need volunteers to help rake the cut plant material.
Find out more hereCancelled due to adverse weather conditions.
Dr Dan Danahar
Brighton site managed for Brown Hairstreak success - Friday 27 January 2017
Saturday 28 January 2017
A site in Patcham, Brighton produced sightings of egg laying female Brown Hairstreaks within the last few years, with the main hedge line cast in shade, management was needed to help this small population. Work began last year supported by Neil Doyle, Brighton and Hove City Council, City Park Ranger, with local volunteers. In early 2016 we cut what is believe to be a mixture of Blackthorn and Wild Damson down to the ground, come the Autumn I checked the regrowth and found two Brown Hairstreak eggs.
At the latest BC Sussex committee meeting it was agreed that the branch would fund the purchase of 40 Blackthorn whips for planting at the site, sourced from Special Branch, Stanmer (Park) Organics. Yesterday I joined Neil Doyle and local volunteers Liz Yeats, Cliff Munn and Simon Wrigley to plant the acquired Blackthorn whips into open pockets of shrubland, with my additional whips from a Woodland Trust pack a total of 52 whips were planted. The group additionally cut down another portion of hedge line to further encourage regrowth, which the female Brown Hairstreaks favour.
I showed the group the two egg I had found last Autumn, not before Liz Yeats and myself spotted three more Brown Hairstreak eggs of which I had previously overlooked. The group were keen for me to keep them informed of any Brown Hairstreak activity during the butterflies flight period, enthusiastic and engaged, couldn't hope for more.
Brown Hairstreak in Burgess Hill -
BC Sussex meet with local officals to discuss hedgerow management
Friday 27 January 2017
Triggered by BC Sussex member David Cook's survey of the Brown Hairstreak around the Burgess Hill 'green belt'
(and other reports in the area from Peter Farrant), David and I met up with representatives of both Mid Sussex District Council (David Terry and David Witchell
to the left in the image) and Burgess Hill Town Council (Nick Setford, Sarah Hughes and Steve Gridland to the right) on Tuesday 24 January.
We discussed the possibility of adjusting the management of the extensive network of blackthorn-rich hedgerows in the area, to better suit the Brown Hairstreak and other wildlife. Although it is very early in the process our proposals were met with enthusiasm, and we are hopeful that this project will develop further.
First archived newsletter article published on the website
Thursday 26 January 2017
The Sussex branch has been producing The Sussex Butterfly Report for many years. Several members have asked if we can be put some of the excellent articles written for the newsletter onto the website. Consequently I will be uploading some of them over the next few months.
The articles wil appear in the News & Features section of the website.
The first article comes from the 2011 report and is Butterfly Photography - Guidelines and Tips by Neil Hulme. The article needs not introduction from me as the title says it all, and I am sure you are all familiar with Neil's photos on the sightings page over the years.
It has been an enormous pleasure pouring over these reports, which are full of interesting articles and amazing photographs. I would also like to pay tribute to the design work done by Bob Foreman over the years which really stands out.
Conservation Work Continues at Park Corner Heath Despite Freezing Conditions.
Monday 23 January 2017
The temperature rose from -8 to -5 as seven hardy volunteers arrived to help with the reshaping of our Park Corner Heath reserve early on Sunday morning. By lunchtime it was considerably warmer, particularly for those who enjoyed a Sloppy Giuseppe. Thanks to all who braved the cold to help continue this important work. The next work party here will be on Sunday the 12th of February.
Major Boost for Threatened Woodland Butterfly
Friday 20 January 2017
A ground-breaking project to save a butterfly from extinction in West Sussex has been awarded more than £20,000, Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.
The wildlife charity will use the money from the Veolia Environmental Trust to create new habitat for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary at the Charlton Forest near Chichester.
The butterfly, which is now restricted to just a couple of sites within the region, has been seen in very low numbers close to this site and experts fear the Pearl-bordered Fritillary will disappear unless urgent action is taken to increase the local population.
The grant, alongside additional support from the Forestry Commission, will be used to open up shaded areas of woodland to create the sunny clearings required by the butterfly to breed successfully.
Other rare species like the Duke of Burgundy butterfly and Plumed Prominent moth are also set to benefit from the work.
BC's Project Officer, Neil Hulme, said: "The Pearl-bordered Fritillary has suffered a severe decline in the South East and to lose this species from the Sussex countryside is unthinkable, so I'm delighted that Veolia has stepped in to help in this way.
"The site at Charlton Forest forms part of a larger area within which other conservation groups, such as the Murray Downland Trust and Graffham Down Trust, are already improving wildlife habitats for many other species.
"The project has also received support from the Goodwood Estate, Chichester District Council and South Downs National Park Authority and by working together I am confident we can turn this situation around and save this beautiful butterfly for future generations to enjoy."
The Pearl-bordered Fritillary was once known as the 'Woodman's Friend' due to its habit of following the sequence of clearings made by coppice workers and foresters and was common and widespread until the middle of the last century.
A report produced by BC and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, The State of the UK's Butterflies 2015, recorded a 95% drop in the butterfly's national range between 1976 and 2014. It's thought this decline is most likely down to changes in the climate and in the way we manage our woodlands.
Forestry Commission Ecologist, Jay Doyle, said: "The Forestry Commission is very happy to be part of this project to improve the forest surroundings for the threatened Pearl-bordered Fritillary. I'm very hopeful that we'll be able to reverse the decline facing so many butterflies by working with Butterfly Conservation to enhance and create essential breeding habitat."
New Hazel coppice cycle in a wood near Arundel announced
Wednesday 11 January 2017
With permission kindly granted by the Angmering Park Estate, Chris Letchford has started a new Hazel coppice cycle in a wood near Arundel. I will be assisting Chris with the annual cutting of a succession of coupes, to encourage natural colonisation by the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, as part of a landscape scale project to assist its spread away from Rewell Wood.
As is always the case with coppicing, a wide range of other fauna and flora will benefit.
Rowland Wood and Park Corner Heath - Conservation work party - 8 January 2017
Wednesday 11 January 2017
Many thanks to our fabulous volunteers who helped with the major clearance work taking place on our Park Corner Heath reserve last Sunday.
A much more open structure, more reminiscent of bygone days, is being recreated. The next couple of months will be crucial in preparing the ground for our cunning plans
to turn the clock back in more ways than one. There will be an 'extra' work party here on Sunday 22 January, specifically for all those who have played some part in my Fritillaries
for the Future project. Details nearer the time, but please try to keep that Sunday free - every volunteer hour is vital.
Also working at Rowland Wood today, but concentrating so hard on the task in hand that they missed the main photo shoot, were Dr Dan Danahar (dressed for his new role as a qualified strimmer operator), Bob Foreman, Carole Mortimer and Paul Tibbey