From the end of July into the beginning of August, volunteers were out and about in the most fantastic weather, counting the butterflies in the Sid Valley. This was all part of Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count.
We now have three years of data for the Sid Valley from which to compare the success or failures of each species. This year there was an outright winner, with over 600 Gatekeeper being spotted. It looks to have done very well nationally too as it is in second place, moving the Small White off its long-held position. The Gatekeeper is a small orange /brown butterfly that enjoys our hedgerows, so is often encountered near gates, hence the name. For me, the biggest buzz I got this year was walking along a hedgerow on South Combe Farm where, in the 15 minutes allocated for each count, I recorded 153 Gatekeepers. That’s ten each minute! The path burst with butterflies. The Large White has taken top spot nationally for many years, it is interesting in the Sid Valley the Gatekeeper is recorded six times more frequently than the Large White, reflecting our rural environment.
A big thank you to all the people in the valley who took part, with 134 counts being made; the good news is that the number of butterflies being recorded is increasing. In total there were 1700 individuals recorded, and the average number of butterflies per count is up from 10 in 2020 to 13 this year. Perhaps though people are getting better at knowing when and where to do their counts. Last year Soldiers Hill was my best spot, with Meadow Browns in abundance; this year the grass was cut earlier than usual in the field because of the hot season, and I did not see the huge numbers. There were also good numbers of Common Blues and Small Coppers there last year, not so good this. This year my best spot was definitely on the unimproved grassland of South Combe Farm.
I divide the valley into six areas to give a more detailed picture of butterfly populations. It was the West Town that stood out as the biggest improver this year. West Town is the area between Station Road and Sidford Road and includes the Knapp Nature Reserve and the Cemetery. There were many more counts there this year, 56 in total, and increases in eight species of butterfly. These included Speckled Wood, Comma and Small Tortoise Shell. The average number of butterflies for each count is six, doubled from two years ago; bravo.
One species I will be looking out for in the future is the Brimstone. The Friends of the Byes have planted 50 new Buckthorn trees there, these are the food plant of the Brimstone caterpillar. I would hope that one day The Byes will be brimming with these bright yellow beauties. The first recording of this species in the Byes has been made this year. Painted Ladies have also done well, being a migratory species, this is largely dependent on weather. None were recorded in 2020 and this year 24. Also encouraging in our data is the increase in Small Tortoiseshell; bucking the national trend downward, we have seen an increase this year up from 7 in 2020 to 20.
I will be writing up a detailed report of the butterfly survey in the near future and this is sent out to supporters of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group. All you have to do to become a supporter is respond to this email asking to be put on our email list. You will then receive the full butterfly report and much more up to the minute information on the valley’s wildlife. So why not ping us an email asking to become a supporter? The email address is email@example.com