17 November 2014

MJ Abbott creates second butterfly bank for RSPB

Following the success of the butterfly bank created last autumn for the RSPB at their Winterbourne Downs nature reserve near Salisbury, site manager Patrick Cashman called on specialist contractor MJ Abbott Limited once again when he wanted to create a second butterfly bank on the same site.

MJ Abbott creates second butterfly bank for RSPB

Peter Jay in action constructing the second butterfly bank at Winterbourne Downs

Winterbourne Downs is an important RSPB reserve of species-rich chalk grassland, a nationally important habitat which unfortunately has largely been lost in the local area. The reserve forms an important link between the extensive grasslands of Salisbury Plain and Porton Down. These grasslands are managed to provide a safe haven for breeding stone-curlews, a bird typical of this area but which is under threat.

The second chalk bund constructed by MJ Abbott will provide further habitat currently in short supply on the reserve – steep, south facing banks. These are the sorts of conditions that suit many chalk downland butterflies, and their associate caterpillar food plants such as horseshoe vetch and rock rose.

The bund was constructed by MJ Abbott's expert machine operator Peter Jay in just under a week, using his Hitachi ZX180LC 360° tracked excavator fitted with an Engcon Tiltrotator. The chalk subsoil was scraped from a borrow area and deposited in layers to form a bund, and the surface was shaped and compacted. The next step will be to sow the bank with chalk grassland seeds, especially chalk butterfly food plants such as horseshoe vetch, rock rose, devil's bit scabious and hairy violet.

Patrick Cashman, the RSPB's Site Manager, Wiltshire Reserves, said: "As for last year’s butterfly bank project your operator, Peter Jay, did a marvellous job for us and was most helpful in discussing the design of the bank and keeping it to schedule during its development. It is quite impressive to watch him working as he is able to control the bucket of his excavator, as a potter would use his hands working clay."

The Winterbourne Downs reserve is next door to Porton Down, a stronghold for butterfly species such as Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue and Dark Green Fritillary. Good numbers of the Dark Green Fritillary have already been noted flying across the reserve, and it is hoped that in time other species will be seen too.

RSPB Winterbourne Downs:  http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/w/winterbournedowns/index.aspx

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