Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation

The poor state of nature in the UK is increasingly clear to all – we have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows and 50% of our hedgerows since the 1940’s. This has led to a serious decline in wildlife species – not least our butterflies and moths and other insects which are so key to pollination. Land has been taken for building, for road and rail infrastructure, and industrial scale agriculture has changed the face of the countryside.

Our park – with its diverse woodland, meadows and waterscape, is a real gem in this crowded corner of Warwickshire. It provides a haven for a wide variety of bird, mammal and other wildlife species. But could we do more? Butterfly Conservation UK monitors habitats across the land to assess how our native butterfly and moth species are thriving, and assists with landscape scale interventions that can help reverse the worrying loss of our insect pollinators. Under the guidance of local branch Chairman, Mike Slater, Compton Verney is contributing to this effort. Since April, an enthusiastic band of volunteers has conducted weekly surveys along a defined route around the Old Town Meadow and its northern extension, recording the numbers of all types of species seen, and adding them to Butterfly Conservation’s national records database. We are one of many such groups carrying out such surveys, and the long term aim is to establish what conditions best enable our native species to thrive and reverses the current threat to so many species.

The identification of the butterflies seen on our trail has proved both challenging and educative to the volunteer team. Whilst we have all casually admired butterflies, moths and the plants they inhabit, the task of actually identifying which of the 30+ species native to Warwickshire come into view on our walk, and in what number, is often tricky! Our photographic skills were challenged, too, but we did capture some nice examples! We hope to share more of our photographs later.

And, of course, the weather is not always on our side – butterflies are best seen on a nice sunny, calm day; so, cloud, wind and rain have frequently hampered our chances! Despite that, we have managed to record results every week since April, and these records will serve as a baseline for future year’s surveys, and enable us to see whether the way the Grounds Team is managing the landscape is helping species to thrive.

To that end, we will during the winter be installing a “butterfly bank”, just beyond the hedge in the top corner of the Old Town Meadow. This will provide habitat for butterflies on open grassland swards. The aim is to create an area of varied aspects where herbs predominate but where there is also abundant bare ground. We shall see in due course whether this attracts new or greater numbers of species to the Park.

Everyone involved in the butterfly survey says how much they have learnt, and how spending time studying the wilder aspects of our landscape has provided an extra dimension to our enjoyment of our wonderful parkland.