5 June 2015

Conservation work sees small blue butterfly population soar

Hundreds of rare small blue butterflies have been spreading their wings at the RSPB’s Winterbourne Downs nature reserve at Newton Tony in Wiltshire thanks to conservation works funded by SITA Trust, reports the Salisbury Journal.

Conservation work sees small blue butterfly population soar

Small blue butterflies making themselves at home at Winterbourne Downs (© Patrick Cashman RSPB)

The small blue butterfly had been hanging on in a small colony in an old railway cutting near Newton Tony. But as part of RSPB’s vision to create an ecologically rich landscape to act as a stepping stone for wildlife between Salisbury Plain and Porton Down, the RSPB applied for Landfill Communities Fund money towards a project to create suitable conditions for the small blue to expand out across the reserve.

RSPB’s Wiltshire reserves site manager, Patrick Cashman, said: “I was astonished to count 106 small blue butterflies along one field margin, and have now seen them over 2km away from the original colony.

"It has been especially rewarding to see them on the new chalk banks designed to give them a home."

To create an environment for the small blue, scrub was cleared from two areas of south facing railway embankment, and an innovative 150m long south-facing “S” shaped butterfly bank dug out of the chalk in one of the nature reserve’s fields.

These designer homes and other suitable light chalky soils around the reserve have been planted with kidney vetch, the favoured food plant for small blue caterpillars.

The charity Butterfly Conservation provided specialist advice in setting up the project, and Director of Science and Policy Dr Nigel Bourn said: “I am delighted to hear that the RSPB’s work at Winterbourne Downs has had such a great result so quickly.

"It demonstrates that with financial support and by working more closely together nature conservationists really can turn things around.”

Over the winter volunteers were planting seed and plugs of wildflowers favoured for egg laying and nectaring by chalk downland butterfly species, such as the brown argus, chalkhill and Adonis blue and the marsh and dark green fritillary butterflies.

Rachael Fickweiler, SITA Trust Regional Fund Manager said; “This project was part of the Enriching Nature programme funded through the Landfill Communities Fund and we are delighted that our support has brought such tangible benefits for nature as demonstrated by the successful expansion of the small blues.”

MJ Abbott were very pleased to contribute to this conservation effort by constructing the chalk butterfly bank. To read more about this project, follow this link: http://www.mjabbott.co.uk/projects/the-rspb-winterbourne-downs-wiltshire

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