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Butterflies of Shabden Park Farm

When Kirstie came to Shabden Park Farm in 2003, she brought with her a passionate interest in butterflies. Having been active within her local branch in Cheshire, Kirstie was very excited at the prospect of contributing to wildlife conservation at Shabden Park Farm by monitoring the butterfly species and populations on the farm.

Through advice and cooperation with the local branch of Butterfly Conservation, a national conservation society dedicated to saving butterflies, moths and their habitats, we are managing areas of the farm particularly for butterflies and moths, and even for individual species. This is not at the expense of other wildlife, as butterflies and moths, along with all other living things, can only survive within a sustainable ecosystem made up of plants, insects, birds and mammals. Butterfies, however, are excellent indicators of how healthy an environment is, and healthy populations and a wide range of species of butterfly indicates that the surrounding countryside sustains an ecosystem within which many other plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals live.
The ecosystem at Shabden Park Farm, and the specific wildlife habitats within it, is maintained by selective grazing with cattle and sheep and both benefit the other.
Find out more about our environmentally sustainable farming methods.

Common blue on wild marjoram Shabden Park Farm
Latest Sightings and Notes

 

Grizzled Skipper confirmed breeding on SSSI, Long Plantation


The Surrey & SW London branch of Butterfly Conservation works with local landowners and conservation organisations to help save butterflies, moths and their habitats. We have a county butterfly reserve at Oaken Wood, near Dunsfold, and we organise the Surrey Butterfly Garden Show at Juniper Hall, Boxhill, every other year. Our branch volunteer members carry out practical 'scrub-bashing', promote butterflies, moths and conservation locally, and attend shows and events.
For more information on the branch, visit the Surrey Butterflies website.

Butterfly Transects

The transect method of monitoring butterfly species involves the establishment of a fixed route across a site. This route is divided into a number of sections, which usually vary in length, habitat type and management.
Each week, between April and September, walks are carried out along the transect, where the number of individuals of each butterfly species counted in each section are entered onto a standardised form. This information will then be collated and sent to the County Recorder and to the Research into Farmland Butterflies project coordinator at Butterfly Conservation.

comma on sedum july 04

The Shabden Park Farm Transect

Kirstie walks a transect on the farm, split into sections according to habitat i.e. woodland, pasture or open field, scrub and so on, every week, weather permitting. The results of these are compiled and shared with our Wildlife Trust ranger Bob Crompton, and the County Recorder.
At the end of each year, we will publish the overall results for the year on this page. See also Butterflies on the Species page for an overall list for the farm.
Latest sightings of butterflies on the farm, and field notes will be posted above throughout the year.
If you have seen a butterfly on the farm and need help identifying it, or you would like to share a sighting, please email Kirstie.

Small Skipper on Field Scabious Chipstead

The Shabden Elm Project

When Dutch Elm disease struck in the early 1970s, the vast majority of elms in south England were affected and had died in a matter of two or three years. Many of the insects dependent on elm were severely affected, especially the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly, whose caterpillar larvae live off the elm plant. The White-letter Hairstreak is a small butterfly with a flight which spirals upwards towards the tree tops. It is distinguished by a bold white 'W' mark across the under wing and short ‘tails’ to the lower wings. The dark upper wings are seen only in flight as the butterflies always settle with their wings closed. Adults are difficult to see because they spend so much time high up in the tree canopy, although they occasionally come to ground level to nectar on flowers near elm trees or saplings.

 

White-letter Hairstreak

Against all expectations the butterfly has survived in reduced numbers by living off the sucker growth which many dead elms are able to regenerate. Because of the cyclical nature of this regrowth, there are years when the butterfly is hardly seen. Often the good years are followed closely by another wave of infection.Dutch Elm disease is a fungus which is spread by bark beetles. These beetles feed in the upper branches of the tree and introduce the fungal spores to exposed tissue. Once infected the disease spreads rapidly and unless treated at the early stages the tree will not survive. In the late 1960s an aggressive strain of the disease, originating from North America, was imported into this country via diseased timber. It spread rapidly across southern England, and by 1977 was estimated to have killed 50% of the elms in the area. The disease shows no signs of waning in Britain. In summer 2005 it attacked ancient elms in the centre of Brighton resulting in the felling of 370 prime specimens. Horticulturalists have been trialling many different elm hybrids in search of an elm tree which is totally resistant to the fungus. One of the successful hybrids, named Lutece, is being used by the French government in a massive planting programme to restore elms to the French landscape.
Elm Lutece sapling SPF May 2006
On 16th February 2006, three whips of elm Lutece were planted at Shabden Park Farm by Kirstie and Mark Banham, as part of a project by the Surrey & SW London branch of Butterfly Conservation. The project has planted 30 whips across South London and Surrey commons and country parks and has recorded the exact location by GPS in order to locate and monitor the young trees. The three young elms at Shabden are within ten metres of each other on the edge of one of the woodland shaws. In summer, the whips are surrounded by waist-high brambles and nettles which give the root some shade and shelter. All three are in leaf and are strong and healthy. Hopefully, all three elms will grow to maturity, but they could be grown as coppiced elms if more appropriate, and this would also allow the butterflies to breed. The elm Lutece is in its infancy, but elsewhere, caterpillars of the Comma butterfly and the Grey Dagger moth have been found on young bush elms, so there is a great deal of hope and potential for the White-letter Hairstreaks.
With thanks to Malcolm Bridge, County Butterfly Recorder, Butterfly Conservation Surrey & SW London, for help with this article.

Mark planting elm whip Feb 2006

Links
Surrey Butterflies species id, photos, field trips, information and fun for kids!
Butterfly Conservation national website of the conservation organisation for butterflies, moths and thier habitats
UK Butterflies photo guide and info

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