Thursday, 29 March 2012

Heath Fritillary bouncing back in Cornwall

Helping Cornwall's rare butterflies take wing again
March 2012. A conservation project underway in Cornwall aimed at securing the future of one of Britain's rarest butterflies is proving to be a success, thanks to the creation of special ‘butterfly corridors' and the revival of traditional woodland management that have been funded by a Natural England Environmental Stewardship scheme.

Heath Fritillary
The results from a survey of Heath Fritillary butterflies, carried out last year, has revealed that the butterflies look to be making a comeback in Cornwall as a result of conservation work underway in the Tamar Valley.
The Heath Fritillary is a highly restricted species occurring in only a handful of areas of southern England - in the last 25 years populations of the butterfly have declined dramatically due to changes in woodland and heathland management.
The Heath Fritillary prefers sunny woodland glades where it flies close to the ground with characteristic flits and glides. The butterfly has historically been linked with the traditional practice of coppicing of woodland, giving it the local name of the ‘Woodman's Follower'.
Tamar Valley
Cornwall was once a stronghold for the Heath Fritillary but the population has plummeted here too. Although a small population of Heath Fritillaries has clung on in the Tamar Valley, the future was looking so bleak for the species that local conservation organisations, land owners and volunteers joined forces in a bid to save the area's butterflies.
The project - which is a partnership between Butterfly Conservation, The Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England and the Tamar Valley AONB - is focused on an area on the Cornish side of the river. Here scrub control, coppicing and conifer removal is being carried out at three main sites. The aim is to expand the areas currently occupied by the Heath Fritillary and link these sites to new areas of suitable habitat by creating special ‘butterfly corridors' through the valley.
At Greenscoombe Wood, which is owned by The Duchy of Cornwall, increased coppicing work is underway to create more havens for the butterflies. Rotational annual coppicing is carried out to provide continuous areas of suitable butterfly habitat.
Similar work is planned at Deer Park Wood, where coppice compartments are being managed by the Duchy of Cornwall. Funding to carry out the management work is coming from the Duchy and from Natural England's Environmental Stewardship Higher Level Scheme (HLS).
The creation of a new ‘Fritillary Flyway' has been created on Deer Park Farm under a separate HLS agreement. The work helps to connect both Greenscoombe and Deer Park Wood, increasing the likelihood of the butterflies extending their current territory still further.

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