Within the past couple of weeks, we have witnessed two butterfly species never previously observed at Anton Crescent Wetland, Avenue Primary School and Cuddington Meadows. The sightings of brown hairstreak (Thecla betula) at Anton Crescent Wetland and chalkhill blue (Polymmatus coridon) at Avenue Primary School and Cuddington Meadows is fantastic news.
The Brown hairstreak is an elusive species due to their low landscape population density and preference for high canopies and is a therefore an impressive find by Sutton’s Biodiversity Officer, David Warburton as it rarely travels low enough to be identified. Essential for this butterfly is its larval food plant the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Specifically, they prefer younger blackthorn (2-3 years old) and management at some of our sites involves the rotation and coppicing of the hedges in order to provide this essential habitat. Importantly, Butterfly Conservation has listed this species as a high priority for conservation, while it is also listed as a biodiversity action plan species, meaning the sighting of the brown hairstreak is incredibly positive! If you want to find out more and potentially see a brown hairstreak, some of the best days are coming up with Surrey Butterfly Conservation at Bookham Common.
Arguably, the viewing of these butterflies is dependent on ‘Ecological Networks’. In 2010, the government released a report called ‘Making space for nature: A review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological network’. Primarily, this report suggests how England’s nature can thrive despite climate change, urbanisation, agricultural expansion and other
pressures on our land. According to the leading author, Professor Sir John Lawton, this involves ensuring that our wildlife sites consist of ‘coherent and resilient ecological networks’. Ecological networks have been created or planned for in areas that are subject
to fragmentation through human activities. Within an ecological network there will be a network of sites that conjointly support habitats necessary for a range of biodiversity. Importantly, the connectivity of these habitats, through ‘corridors’ and ‘stepping stones’ (such as the nature reserves we manage in Sutton) mean a species will have a reliable supply of resources for both breeding and feeding, thus ensuring the viability of populations.
Despite the careful habitat management by Sutton and the SNCV and the continued sightings of new species, improving local ecological networks can be achieved more fully. One of the greatest contributions to creating a “resilient and coherent ecological network” can be through developing our gardens. Here, we have the opportunity to create ‘key
nature reserves’ and develop ‘resting and re-fuelling stations’ where the buzzing of bees and fluttering of butterflies becomes a familiar sight. For example, one of our supporters recently sent us a fantastic photo of a brown hairstreak roosting in their garden.
Nature has an incredible sense for finding their resources, so if we provide them, they will come (but maybe not such scarcities!). Both Sutton Biodiversity Team and the SNCV are committed to assisting with the development of all our gardens, so please have look at: http://www.sncv.org.uk/biodiversitygardens/wildlife-gardening-resources/ and the upcoming workshops at our ecology centre.
If you would like to send us your photos of the rare species, or any species that you are proud of, in your garden or local green space / nature reserve, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org