|40 years of saving butterflies, moths and our environment|
FIELD TRIP REPORTS 2006
Devil's Dyke, Newmarket - Sunday 21st May 2006
The weather at the start was very inauspicious with dark grey clouds and feeling very cool. Only
one other person turned up by the start, a committee member from a neighbouring branch, so we set
off along the dyke, more in hope than belief that we would see anything ! However, careful scouring
of the banks and searching along the sheltered bottom of the dyke turned up 2 Dingy Skippers and a
Common Blue laying low in the vegetation as the rain began to fall, as well as several feebly fluttering
Common Heath moths.
Stour Wood - Saturday 1st July 2006
Ten of us gathered at the car park of Stour Wood RSPB reserve near the Essex coast, and were
treated to regular patrolling White Admirals from the very beginning, as warden Rick Vonk explained
about the success they have had conserving the White Admiral on the site.
Rick explained how the way the wood is managed is almost ideal for this species, although of
course it also benefits a great array of other species, from plants and butterflies to birds and
bats. A different area of the sweet chestnut and other trees are coppiced each year, and then left
to grow back for about 20 years before being coppiced again. This creates large open areas that,
after a few years, fill up with lots of flowering plants, supplying nectar to insects and dense
cover for birds. During the later stages of growth, ideal conditions develop for White Admirals
to breed – they lay their eggs on honeysuckle, but prefer it in the shade of a tree canopy. By
coppicing different areas each year, the sunny areas favoured by the adults and the shady areas for
breeding are spread through the wood in a nice mixture. The ride management is even more important
for White Admirals. The favoured locations for territories appear to be along ‘edges’, where a
sunny patch of bramble is adjacent to a tall look-out tree, with shady breeding habitat close by.
These conditions are maintained by selective coppicing, tree felling, ride cutting to rejuvenate
the bramble and recreate sunny spots while maintaining shade at the same time. During felling
operations, one critical aspect of habitat management, perhaps unique for this site, is that great
care is taken to maintain honeysuckle. Any trees with honeysuckle growing on that need felling are
dealt with by removing the honeysuckle, still rooted, and then replacing it on an adjacent tree.
White Admirals spend the winter as small larvae still attached to their foodplant, so removing the
honeysuckle in winter, as might be the case in most forestry operations, reduces the survival rate
for the species.
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