A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Butterflies on The Lizard

Red Admiral
As ever with butterfly spotting the likelihood of finding a good diversity and number on the wing depends on the weather on the day, and the weather in preceeding weeks, months and years. There is plenty of protected wide open flower filled space on The Lizard, so given the right conditions numbers of some species should be good.

Marsh Fritillary Survey - Spring 2015

Earlier in the year, researchers from the University of Exeter’s Environmental & Sustainability Institute (ESI) conducted surveys and research on the Marsh Fritillary butterfly on the Lizard (see  http://www.the-lizard.org/index.php/article-archives/butterflies-moths/513-butterfly-surveys-in-march-your-help-pleas).
The larvae were found on 5 sites, but because this butterfly is so rare nationally, the Lizard populations are now very important at both the county and country level. However, they were not found on one small site which they were known to frequent until very recently.


A small cluster of larvae in early springA small cluster of larvae in early spring. ©Chloe Lumsden

Butterflies at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve

My main interest is birding; however I enjoy all the diverse flora and fauna that can be found on the Lizard. Summer is a relatively quiet time for bird rarities, but there is still plenty to see on the wing. This article highlights some of the fantastic butterflies that can be found on the Lizard. I am not a butterfly expert! All the pictures were taken at Windmill Farm National Nature Reserve; however, most of the species can be found all over the Lizard.

The first species contradicts my last statement as it is only found in a couple of places on the Lizard – Windmill Farm being one of them. This is the nationally rare and beautiful Marsh Fritillary, which can be seen in June and early July  they always lay their eggs on Devil’s-bit Scabious.

 

Marsh Fritillary 

Marsh Fritillary

Clouded Yellow 

Clouded Yellow

Butterfly conservation reaches new heights

A larval web in March 2016As spring came around this year, researchers from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute were once again busy conducting surveys across the Lizard for one of our nationally rare butterflies, the marsh fritillary Euphydryas aurinia. The mission? To better understand the habitat requirements of this declining butterfly, with the ultimate goal of developing meaningful management practices to conserve these important populations for the future.

In March the black caterpillars can be seen basking and feeding together within silken webs near to their hostplant Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis. Extensive surveys for these conspicuous webs revealed populations at 8 sites (see here for last year’s survey). Although this is good news, populations can fluctuate largely from year to year and remain very sensitive to changes in climate and habitat. So we must obtain a sound understanding of their habitat requirements in order to give them the best possible chance...

Butterfly season begins!

It was with eager anticipation that I awaited the beginning of April this year – the start of the butterfly recording season for those of us who walk a set route regularly, noting down the butterflies we see. The route I walk (called a transect), once a week from April to the end of September, is on the south-western fringe of Goonhilly Downs in the centre of The Lizard peninsula. My enthusiasm was slightly dampened by the weather conditions – cold and wet, not conducive to butterflies taking to the wing!
During the first four weeks of walking the transect I have only seen three species of butterfly: a rather tatty and faded Peacock, which probably overwintered somewhere close by; a freshly emerged speckled wood and a green-veined white fluttering around a cluster of primroses. Despite this, however, I have enjoyed walking the route again, passing through some beautiful woodland, heathlands and fields, with their hedges coming into leaf. I been fortunate to see a young fox emerging from the heather, as well as snipe, and hear the sound I associate with Spring, a chiffchaff calling from a nearby tree.


Speckled WoodSpeckled Wood

I started walking this transect in July last year so have yet to have the enjoyment of seeing the Spring and early Summer butterflies that use the various habitats that this transect passes through. I am excited to see what fritillary butterflies are still in the area; small pearl-bordered fritillaries, dark green fritillaries and marsh fritillaries have been recorded here on the heathland in the past, as well as the impressive silver-washed fritillaries in the wooded areas. I spotted a number of the silver-washed fritillaries last year, as well as the purple hairstreak, which is usually hard to see as it flies high up, above the canopy of oak trees. I was fortunate to be in the right place, at the right time, when one flew down and landed on a bramble leaf a few metres away from me. That’s the beauty of looking for and recording butterflies, you never know what you may encounter!

Butterfly Surveys in March!! Your Help Please

Catrpillars and their web on devils-bit scabiousBelieve it or not, right now is the best time to survey the population health of one of our most notable butterflies – the marsh fritillary. Admittedly, surveyors will not be looking for butterflies on the wing but they will be taking advantage of the occasional sunny but not too warm day to spot basking caterpillars.
This spring, ecologists from the Environmental and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at Exeter University are undertaking a survey of Marsh fritillary butterfly colonies on The Lizard. This attractive butterfly is one of the most rapidly declining butterfly species in Europe, principally because the damp meadow habitats it frequents have been increasingly drained for agriculture. Scrub encroachment through lack of management and climate change are also factors in its recent demise.

Marsh fritillary Survey 2016

Marsh Fritillary caterpillars - copyright  Pete Eeles Marsh Fritillary Report Card

Over the last two years, researchers based at the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter have been undertaking surveys and research on the Marsh fritillary on the Lizard. Our main conclusions are that this butterfly remains extremely localised (occurs on only a handful of sites) and vulnerable to extinction. We have recently produced a report card which summarises our knowledge about the Marsh fritillary, and how best to manage the Lizard landscape for its continued survival. This document is uploaded onto the website, so please take time to read it and hopefully it will inspire you to go out and look for the autumn webs, which while are not as attractive as the adult butterflies are interesting nonetheless.

Saving the Lesser Butterfly Orchid

The Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia) is one of the focus species of the groundbreaking Back from the Brink project. This project aims to save 20 species from extinction and benefit over 200 more through 19 projects that span England – all thanks to funding from the National Lottery and People’s Postcode Lottery.
The once widespread Lesser Butterfly Orchid is one of the fastest declining species of plant in the UK and has disappeared from 75% of its recorded range in England.


The project aims:
• To identify and manage key sites where the plant occurs in the South West of England and increase the populations.
• To better understand the reasons for decline.
• To increase public awareness of the plant.
• To engage and involve the public in its protection