Make 2017 the year of the tree

Brown Hairstreak

The UK’s woodlands provide vital habitats for many species of butterfly and moth and this year Butterfly Conservation is involved in a campaign to help protect our trees and the wildlife that depend on them.

In November, The Tree Charter, a campaign to protect the UK’s woodlands, will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the influential 1217 Charter of the Forest, a contract that re-established people’s access rights to areas of woodland and forest.

The group is launching a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People to recognise, celebrate and protect the rights of people in the UK to the benefits brought by the trees and woods in their lives.

For the past year The Tree Charter has been inviting people to speak out about what trees and woods mean to them, to help demonstrate the important role that trees play in the lives of people across the UK.

Woodlands in winter may seem cold, dreary and lifeless but even in January the early signs of spring can be discovered. We are now experiencing far milder winters and signs of spring that were once usually encountered in late February can sometimes be seen much earlier, such as the emergence of Snowdrops and Hazel catkins.

A winter walk along woodland rides, glades and woodland edges can occasionally be rewarded with an early sighting of a Red Admiral butterfly or one of the other hibernating Nymphalids, tempted out by the weak winter sunshine.

With a bit of luck and determination it’s even possible to search oak tree trunks for Winter Moths or Spring Ushers, two moth species which emerge during the day in January and February before being active when dusk falls, searching for the wingless females to mate with. It’s not just the adult stages of Lepidoptera that can be found and locations with Blackthorn growing along rides and sunny woodland edges can be the perfect place for finding the pinhead-sized white eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly, conspicuous against the dark bark of blackthorn twigs.

If you have a story to tell about winter wildlife encounters in our woodlands or why woodlands matter to you then the The Tree Charter would love to hear from you. Add your voice here before February 28th 2017

By Dr Caroline Bulman, Head of Species Ecology

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