News and Features
Ivy lifeline for autumn moths - Butterfly conservation press release
Thurday 12 October
Despite Christmas being weeks away, wildlife lovers will be gathered around the ivy over the coming nights as they search for rare and spectacular moths looking for an autumn lifeline.
An immigration of rare moths from Europe is currently taking place across the UK with the scarce Silver-striped Hawk-moth and Radford's Flame Shoulder all seen in recent days.
These rarities have also been joined by spectacular immigrant species such as the giant Convolvulus Hawk-moth and Humming-bird Hawk-moth.
The Clifden Nonpareil, one of the UK’s most striking autumn moths has recently become established from Dorset to Kent but numbers have this year been boosted by dozens of immigrants from the continent.
As part of this year’s Moth Night, an annual UK-wide event to record moths, organisers Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology are asking the public to investigate their local patches of flowering ivy to help gather more information on the plant’s importance to moths.
Ivy provides a lifeline to moths, butterflies and other pollinators as it flowers late in the year when other nectar sources are unavailable.
Over the next three nights wildlife lovers are being asked to take a torchlight safari of ivy flowers and count some of the moths that are on the wing in autumn.
Many different autumnal moths are regularly seen refuelling on ivy blossom, including the beautiful Pink-barred Sallow, Angle Shades, Green-brindled Crescent, Yellow-line Quaker and Lunar Underwing.
Migrant species may be attracted too, such as the Silver Y, supping on the sugary nectar that will power their flights southwards to warmer climes.
For moths staying and overwintering as adults such as the Buttoned Snout and Red-green Carpet, ivy flowers provide an important food source as the moths build up their fat reserves.
All this insect activity has other benefits too – pollinating the ivy flowers will create the black berries that provide a winter food supply for birds.
Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording, Richard Fox said: "A quick check of ivy blossom on a sunny autumn day will reveal bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects, all making the most of this seasonal bonanza of nectar".
"After dark, the pollinator nightshift takes place and a myriad of moths come out to feed."
"For this year’s Moth Night, find some big patches of ivy flowers nearby and go back with a torch after the sun has set. It’s a fantastic and easy way to see some of the beautiful moths that are on the wing in autumn."
Atropos editor Mark Tunmore said: "Ivy is an undervalued natural resource and there is a tendency for it to be regarded as something that needs to be tidied away in the garden."
"However, ivy offers valuable nectar for insects, shelter for bats and nesting birds, as well as a source of berries for small mammals and birds. It is also an attractive plant in its own right".
"We are encouraging people to get out over the coming days and look at what they can see on their local ivy patches. Some of our most attractive autumnal moths may be glimpsed, taking advantage of this rich nectar source."
Ecologist at CEH Marc Botham said "There are a fantastic range of autumnal moths in the UK, a number of which are declining. They provide food for many other animals especially those feeding up for winter when food is scarce. National Moth Night will provide important data to help determine the status of some of these species."
Moth Night 2017 runs from 12 to 14 October and will include moth trapping events across the UK.
Moth Night 2017 is organised by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation in association with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, with the aim of encouraging recording and raising the profiles of moths amongst the public. The annual event was founded by Atropos in 1999. For information about events and to submit sightings visit www.mothnight.info
For interviews and images contact the Butterfly Conservation Press Office 01929 406 005 email@example.com
Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies, moths and our environment. Our research provides advice on how to conserve and restore habitats. We run programmes for more than 100 threatened species and we are involved in conserving hundreds of sites and reserves. www.butterfly-conservation.org
ATROPOS is the popular UK journal for butterfly, moth and dragonfly enthusiasts, catering for amateur and professional interests. www.atropos.info Up to the minute information about latest sightings of migrant insects around the British Isles may be found on the Flight Arrivals pages of this website.
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) www.ceh.ac.uk is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere, and part of the Natural Environment Research Council. CEH employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. You can follow the latest developments in CEH research via @CEHScienceNews on Twitter
Natalie Ngo Media,
Officer and Assistant Editor Butterfly magazine
The future of Tide Mills
Tuesday 10 October
Many members may be aware that there are plans afoot to destroy a large part of Tide Mills. Plans are that a new road will be built and a concrete factory too.
This whole area is an important and sensitive site for all kinds of wildlife, as well as a flat area which is accessible to many local people. In recent years rare birds such as Serin and Red-backed Shrike have stopped off there and it is also a regular place for Wheatear, Whinchat and Ring Ouzel and as they migrate and overwintering Black Redstart. It will also affect wading birds such as Redshank, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Purple Sandpiper.
As far as butterflies go it is famous for being one of the most reliable places in the UK to see the Long-tailed Blue in 2013 and 2015 and would be in future years if these plans do not go ahead. Clouded Yellow, Common Blue, Small Copper and many of the Brown family are also found here. Wall Brown used to fly here and may well do in the future again.
More details, and a petition against these plans can be found at Save the Western End of Tide Mills and Seaford Bay.
Charlton forest - Project update
Saturday 2 September
The extensive habitat improvement work carried out last winter exceeded expectations and has created an extensive network of open space within Charlton Forest. Within these sunny open spaces new vegetation will flourish, creating future habitat that we hope will be colonised by Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Duke of Burgundy, Grizzled Skipper, Drab Looper moth and many other species.
Around 5km of ride edge has been mulched, creating wide sunny rides. The arising have been raked and cleared, leaving bare, open ground in which violets are already beginning flourish. These new, sunny corridors will provide the dispersal routes for many butterflies and other invertebrates.
Huge box junctions have been created where woodland rides intersect. As the vegetation develops, these will provide a mix of habitat structures, all with different aspects and with shade at different points. These will be the busy hubs from which the butterflies, moths and other species will cross and disperse.
Connecting rides have been sensitively widened with scalloping cuts that produce wide sunny bays. The trees and branches have been raked back in these areas. The back of these scallops, set-back from the ride edge, will scrub up to provide a soft edge to the woodland, whilst the front banks will be rich in low woodland flora.
Stumps have been ground down so that these new areas can be maintained easily and effectively with a forestry mower, ensuring a long continuity of economically and ecologically sustainable management for many years to come.
Bramble and bracken will be selectively targeted for control to ensure the woodland ground flora has chance to establish without being shaded out. We’re working with the Forestry Commission team to deliver this follow-up work.
Conservation volunteer work parties will add the finishing touches to some of the areas of greatest potential for early colonisation by butterflies. We’ll be working with the South Downs National Park team to deliver these work parties during winter 17/18.
In summer 2018 we’ll initiate the formal survey and monitoring programme that will measure the changes for years to come.
We wish to thank Veolia Environmental Trust for supporting this project. Thanks also to the Forestry Commission and the Goodwood Estate for enabling this project.
Senior Regional Officer - South East England
South Downs Heathland Forum at Iping and Stedham Commons
Thursday 31 August
On Tuesday, by invitation of the South Downs National Park Authority, Sussex Branch Chair Nigel Symington attended the South Downs Heathland Forum which was held on Iping and Stedham commons and in Midhurst. The objective of this project is to expand and connect the existing 1% of heathland left in the national park. This habitat is home to some of Britain’s rarest wildlife including all twelve of our native reptiles and amphibians, and also the Silver-studded Blue.
The project is funded by partner contributions and a £1.44 Million Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The total project value is £2.37 million. This will aid heathland management which includes bare ground creation (60% of heathland insects rely on bare ground during some stage of their life cycle) and scrub removal. This will create wildlife corridors forming an area of heathland greater than 1, 200 football pitches by the end of the five year project.
The last presentation of the day was by ecologist Petra Billings, who reported on a Bioblitz held to connect
Ambersham and Graffham commons.
She highlighted 10 key points of that day. Of these, No 9 was Michael Blencowe (for being Michael Blencowe) and
No 6 was Clare Blencowe (for identifying fungi, and in particular the Tawny grisette).
Successful Brown Hairstreak meeting with Mid Sussex District and Burgess Hill Town Councils
Friday 11 August
This afternoon David Cook and I had a very productive meeting with representatives of Mid Sussex District and Burgess Hill Town Councils, to continue our review of wildlife-friendly hedgerow management in the region. Our dealings with both councils have been 'like a breath of fresh air' and it's a pleasure to work with such receptive and proactive people. The details of a new cutting regime, which will benefit Brown Hairstreak and a host of other fauna and flora, have now been finalised.
The weather improved rather late in the day, but just in time for our tour of the Burgess Hill Green Circle meadows. We were delighted to be able to show them a female hairstreak at close quarters and a freshly laid egg. After the meeting, and with the sunshine now at full strength, David and I moved to another meadow and saw a further three females and a male. This is a great area for Brown Hairstreak, and it's going to get even better. We are very grateful to MSDC and BHTC for their assistance.
Fritillaries for the Future - Project Update: Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary second brood
Wednesday 9 August
I'm delighted to announce that Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (SPBF) has produced a second brood in Sussex, following the re-introduction of this species to the BC reserves and FC Abbot's Wood earlier this year. They were first spotted during a Bracken management work party at Park Corner Heath on 21 July and have since been seen flying over both our reserves, including egg-laying females. Smaller numbers have been sighted at Abbot's Wood.
County historian Colin Pratt (2011) records that partial second broods flew in about a quarter of the years during the 21st century, usually following a strong first brood and in warmer summers. However, to see a partial second brood so soon after the initial re-introduction, must surely bode well, and surveys have revealed widespread and abundant caterpillar feeding damage to violets. It is too early to claim success, so we must wait until next year before getting too excited, but there are clearly grounds for optimism.
This year we have endeavoured to keep reporting to a minimum, so as to allow the butterflies to get on with their business in peace. However, we will be very keen to hear of any sightings in 2018.
Once again, I would like to pay tribute to our captive-breeding team of Theresa Lux, Gary Norman and Mike Mullis, and all who have supported the Fritillaries for the Future project, through financial donations and attendance at work parties. My thanks also go to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust. (Neil Hulme)
Sir David Attenborough: 'A critical summer for butterflies'
Friday 14 July
Sir David Attenborough has warned that UK butterflies face a critical summer after a string of poor years has seen the numbers of many common species decline.
Last year was the fourth worst on record for butterflies and Sir David is urging people across Sussex to take part in the Big Butterfly Count survey to help reveal how widespread species are faring this summer.
Common species such as the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper experienced declines in 2016, but the warm, dry spring and early summer experienced over much of the UK so far this year could offer butterflies some respite if the good weather continues.
The Big Butterfly Count is the world's largest butterfly survey, which encourages people to spot and record 18 species of common butterflies and two day-flying moths during three weeks of high summer.
On Saturday 15 July – the first weekend of the Count - families are being invited to take part during a butterfly day at Hollingbury Park in Brighton from 10.30am until 1pm and again between 3.45pm and 5.30pm.
Guided walks and butterfly events are also running on Sunday 16 July in Bevendean in Brighton, the Warnham Butterfly Reserve in West Sussex and Eartham Wood just north-east of Chichester.
Big Butterfly Counts are also being held at Wakehurst Place near Haywards Heath between 24 and 30 July. Information on all of these can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org/sussex.
Butterfly Conservation President Sir David said: "The next few weeks are a vital period for our butterflies. They need to make the most of this chance to feed and breed.
"Last year, despite a warm summer, butterflies like the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper saw their numbers fall as a warm winter and cold spring earlier in the year led to problems that affected their numbers later on.
"Worryingly, we are now seeing the fortunes of some of our once common butterflies mirror those of our rarest species and they too are now also suffering significant declines with butterflies declining more rapidly in urban areas than in the countryside.
"In the last decade our butterflies have experienced several poor years and although resilient, they simply cannot sustain repeated losses, especially if the habitats they need in order to rebuild their populations are also under threat.”
More than three-quarters of the UK's butterflies have declined in the last 40 years with some common species, such as the Small Tortoiseshell, suffering significant slumps.
This year's Count follows new findings that butterflies are declining more rapidly in urban areas than in the countryside.
As many Big Butterfly Counts take place in gardens, parks and urban green space, this year's results from these habitats will help inform conservationists on how to make our urban landscapes more butterfly-friendly.
Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording said: "With increasing numbers of our common and widespread butterflies in long-term decline, Big Butterfly Count is more important than ever. Simply taking 15 minutes out of your normal day to enjoy the sunshine and count butterflies can help us monitor their populations. It's a win-win for wildlife.”
Sir David added: "Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is good for butterflies and it is also good for us all. The Count is good for butterflies because your sightings will tell us which species need help and in which areas we need to help them.reinvigorates that sense of wonder in the natural world.”
The Big Butterfly Count is sponsored by Waitrose. Tor Harris, Waitrose Head of Sustainability and Responsible Sourcing, said: "We recognise the fundamental role pollinators play in the production of food and are committed to supporting their future which is why we're delighted to be sponsoring the Big Butterfly Count for the second year and helping grow this important event."
The Count runs from 14 July to 6 August. Taking part in the Count is easy - find a sunny spot and spend 15 minutes counting the butterflies you see and then submit sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.
The Big Butterfly Count is being launched at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) London Wetland Centre. WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray CBE said: "Butterfly spotting brings great immediate rewards. You get to see beautiful little animals, and by counting butterflies you can help them too.
It's a great activity for families getting outside on a summer's day. That's why we're giving out spotter sheets at all our wetland centres across the UK."
BC Press Release
Dutch Elm Disease in Sussex: what to do if see an infected tree
Monday 3 July
The effects of Dutch elm disease (DED) have already taken their toll this year, the hot weather experienced during late Spring and early Summer have boosted the numbers of breeding Elm Bark Beetles that carry and spread the fungus, the fungus once within the tree spreads and blocks the transportation of water throughout, causing the Elm trees to die. This leaves the White-letter Hairstreak, Comma, Large Tortoiseshell and other moth species without breeding habitat.
The varying signs and stages of Dutch elm disease are illustrated in my photos, cases seen this and last year. Elm trees will first show signs of yellowing or browning leaves as they shrivel from Late Spring into Autumn, as the water which once reached them gets cut off. As the infection in the tree develops, typically from the crown of the tree, at the tips of branches, spreads downwards, the signs become more noticeable, when severe the leaves drop off leaving the branches bare, a former skeleton of the tree it once was.
Here are the contacts and links for reporting cases of Dutch elm disease within Sussex, it's important you do so at the earliest opportunity:
Brighton and Hove
Brighton and Hove (City Council) Arboriculturists, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01273 292929. Additionally visit the following Brighton and Hove City Council page to report your sightings online, lots of information available, here: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/leisure-and-libraries/parks-and-green-spaces/elm-disease
East Sussex County Council Dutch elm disease officer, Anthony Becvar, Email: email@example.com) or 01273 335087 or 0345 60 80 190.
Please visit the following East Sussex County Council page to report your sightings online, photos and information, here: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/woodlands/dutchelms West Sussex: West Sussex lies outside of the Dutch elm disease control zone, therefore there isn't a county council officer for reporting disease.
West Sussex lies outside of the Dutch elm disease control zone, therefore there isn't a county council officer for reporting disease. In the event of spotting Dutch elm disease inform your local council and local Tree Wardens if available.
The Butterfly Conservation Silver-studded Blue Project: Update
Wednesday 27 June
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