Monday, 16 July 2018

Dry weather boosts UK's most endangered butterfly

High brown fritillary population rises due to harsh winter and sunny spring

Mon 2 Jul 2018 00.01 BST

The combination of a harsh winter and sunny May and June has given the population of the UK’s most endangered butterfly, the high brown fritillary, a welcome boost.

Volunteers have been counting rare butterflies in a wooded valley on the Devon coast, which has been the focus of a project to encourage species such as the high brown fritillary.

Matthew Oates, a National Trust volunteer and one of the UK’s leading butterfly experts, said: “The butterfly seems to be having a very good year, with over 200 seen during the count.

“Ideal weather conditions; a cold and harsh winter, which has helped knock back the bracken and then a warm and sunny May and June have been ideal for caterpillar development.

“As we are having some fairly dry weather, it’s now the perfect time for seeing this large and powerful butterfly.”

Conservationists believe changes to woodland management, such as the abandonment of coppicing, have contributed to the steep decline of the large, fast-flying butterfly over the past 50 years.

The National Trust has been given £100,000 by the People’s Postcode Lottery to improve 60 hectares (150 acres) of lowland heath and wood pasture at Heddon Valley in north Devon as a habitat for the butterfly.

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