What a difference a year makes! With a dramatic change in weather since last summer, this year has been a bumper one for many species of British butterfly.
Last week, members of the Forestry Commission teamed up with Forest Holidays to support the nationwide Big Butterfly Count at Basing Wood, spotting seven different species in just 15 minutes.
Earlier this year the Forestry Commission met with Butterfly Conservation, an insect conservation organisation, to discuss a permanent butterfly monitoring scheme at Basing Wood. 20 weeks of data have been collected so far by a volunteer transect walker, with a peak count of 310 butterflies recorded on 2nd July.
The Basing Wood Butterfly Conservation Project undertaken by the Forestry Commission and funded by its partner, Forest Holidays, has enhanced crucial butterfly habitats at Basing Wood in Basingstoke and Dean over the last two years. The project has also been integral in creating essential space, feeding and egg laying opportunities for species such as the White Admiral and the Grizzled Skipper.
Jay Doyle, Ecologist for the Forestry Commission said: "Basing Wood is much valued by the adjoining community of Popley and this project seeks to provide benefit for both people and wildlife by expanding wildlife habitat, enhancing public access and improving engagement with wildlife conservation. We will soon be installing signage to show visitors where best to see a variety of butterflies in the wood. Early indications are promising with many species seen flying in Basing Wood this summer and we appreciate the continued commitment from Forest Holidays to this important project."
Early indications following recent enhancement works to the area, suggest woodland and edge habitat butterfly species are responding well, with species such as the Small Blue, Meadow Brown and Silver Washed Fritillary appearing in good numbers.
Loss of unimproved grassland in the wider countryside has fragmented and reduced butterfly habitats in previous years. By opening up woodland corridors and linking them with a forest meadow located in the heart of Basing Wood, the project has restored the connectivity between sites, a crucial step in ongoing efforts to help species adapt to climate change.
Alison Seymour, the Forest Ranger for Forest Holidays at nearby Blackwood Forest location, participated in the Basing Wood count adds: "At Blackwood Forest we have spotted two Purple Emperor butterflies already this year which is really exciting news. It proves that the landscape management that we are doing is working and providing suitable habitat for them to thrive."
As well as creating an ideal habitat for many species of butterfly, the scrubby grassland margins with patches of bare earth support a broader variety of wildlife including barn owls, dormice and grass snakes.
Simon Holloway, Wildlife Ranger for the Forestry Commission comments: "This is a great example of how a local project designed to enhance habitat for a particular type of species actually has wider benefits for other species, the woodland and the local community. Iâ€™m impressed by the variety of butterflies we saw on this one count day and look forward to working with others to continually improve the habitat for butterflies here, and to monitor their populations."
The Basing Wood Butterfly Conservation Project was one of the first to be funded by Forest Holidaysâ€™ 'Conservation Fund', a long-term annual scheme which supports the Forestry Commissionâ€™s sustainable forest management and wildlife conservation programme across the country.