Update Number 3
The Wall (Brown) was once a common sight along hedgerows and field margins all over the country. Sadly, numbers have declined by an alarming 87% since 1976 for reasons that are still unknown. Maybe changes to farming practice and land management played a key role in loss of habitat. Hedgerows that were ripped out en-masse over many years have slowly been put back; but had the damage already been done? The quest for maximum output from every square metre of land meant that field margins disappeared, although these too are now being reinstated. The attempt to eradicate pests and diseases led to myriad chemicals being unleashed on farmland and, inadvertently the surrounding countryside. Slowly, it is being recognised that this arsenal of chemicals IS actually detrimental to wildlife and to pollinators in particular. Could it simply be that Climate Change has had the greatest effect on this delightful butterfly? It does appear that the Wall is becoming confined to coastal areas and, inland to areas at higher altitude. This certainly seems to be the case in Leicestershire and Rutland. Whatever the reason for the decline in Wall numbers, we must consider ourselves lucky to still have populations present in the county.
The Wall has been recorded at Bardon Hill in limited numbers for a few years. A total of 35 individuals were recorded on 2014 Butterfly transect with a highest single count of 8 being noted. Numbers dropped alarmingly in 2015 with only 9 individuals seen on the transect in the whole of the season (the highest count being 4 on the 5th of June). This decline could simply be down to the erratic weather conditions that had to be endured during the respective flight and breeding seasons. Sunny spells alternated with mild and wet conditions, sometimes with periods of heavy rain over consecutive days. This could have had a significant effect on the breeding habits of our grassland butterflies, but other results show that this weather pattern didn’t affect the Ringlet, Meadow Brown or Gatekeeper (the three most prolific butterflies in the county last year). Could the decline on Bardon Hill be put down as a temporary ‘blip’? Only the coming season will answer that question. A repetition of last year’s figures could potentially put a question mark over the way the site is managed; if this proves to be the case then EMBC will need to work closely with the owners to address the problem. The Wall needs short grass (2cm-9cm) to sustain a population. Some areas at Bardon in 2015 were clearly well above the upper limit. This site will be monitored closely over the coming Transect period.
There is good news, however in the fact the Wall has expanded its territory in the Charnwood area, with sightings coming in from six (possibly seven?) different sites all within a 2km radius of Bardon Hill. Warren Hills with its numerous rocky outcrops had already been registered for sightings of the Wall over the last couple of years, and 18 individuals were recorded here last season. 2015 also saw records coming in from Charnwood Lodge (2 separate sites) with 10 being noted here, Altar Stones produced 2 sightings, Hill Hole Quarry where a single specimen was spotted during a L&R Wildlife Trust survey and from Bradgate Park (2 separate sites) with 3 being recorded here. It will be interesting to see if these sites produce sightings in 2016, and to see if there is any further expansion. One site I will be looking at is Billa Barra. Surveys I carried out last summer were inconclusive and it may be that the grass high up on Billa Barra may be a little too tall.
Anyone who knows these sites, and plans to visit this spring and summer is encouraged to submit any news of sightings either directly to my email address ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or via the Facebook group ( Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland ). The status of this hardy butterfly will be monitored closely, not just this year, but over subsequent years. It is important that we do not lose this butterfly from our county, but how much we can influence and even halt the decline awaits to be seen.
I would like to, if I may repeat my request from my last Update. East Midlands Butterfly Conservation have been developing the Website over the winter months and several changes will be filtered through over the coming weeks and months, so please keep checking. One facility that is now up and running is the County Blog pages. It is planned that the email Updates for Leicestershire and Rutland, and also Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will be posted directly to here. This will save on time spent sending emails out to groups of individuals, as once the Update is posted, recipients will receive an automatic notification email allowing instant access to the Blog. I would like to ask each one of you to visit the EMBC website’s Blog page and ‘Subscribe to Blog via Email’. All you need to do is fill in your email address, click Subscribe and you’ll be ready to receive future posts for Leicestershire and Rutland, as well as Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire if you wish, by email alert. I will eventually, once everyone has subscribed, stop sending out the email Updates directly, and thus eliminate the risk of your email address being shared.
Please use the following link to go the Blog page and enter your email address where requested, www.eastmidlands-butterflies.org.uk/blog/ , and once you have done so could I please ask you to let me know that you have so that I can update my records accordingly (I don’t want you to miss out on what’s happening in the county).