The Small Blue butterfly continues to be an important focus of survey and conservation work for the branch, with activities based mainly in coastal areas. This is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan which has suffered a significant contraction in range over recent decades. Looking back in time it once had colonies in many places on the Scottish coast; all of those on the west have been lost, together with a good number on the east.
Initially projects were centred on the Angus and Berwickshire coasts, and in 2013 work started in Moray and Aberdeenshire. A lot of progress was made with surveys during 2012 and 2013, when both the butterfly and its sole larval foodplant Kidney Vetch were searched for. While the Kidney Vetch was often found in abundance, sightings of butterflies were worryingly scarce, although periods of poor weather, particularly during 2012 would have interfered with both the butterfly flight period and the surveyors. Many of the findings to date are in reports which you can find on the Publications page.
Along with BC East Scotland branch members there are many other groups who are contributing to these projects, including Tayside Biodiversity Partnership, Angus Council Ranger Service, NE Scotland Biodiversity Partnership, Scottish Wildlife Trust, National Trust for Scotland and the Berwick Wildlife Group, but we still need to recruit more volunteers to carry out the survey work during the period May to July. You don’t need to be an expert to help as guidance will be provided from the teams running the projects. Kidney Vetch is easy to identify when it’s in flower and the Small Blues are not an ID problem, but locating them often is.
Opportunities to help the butterfly are being explored in the coastal areas where much apparently suitable habitat exists and also along some disused inland railway lines where the butterflies appear to be only just hanging on. Practical conservation measures such as scrub removal and planting more Kidney Vetch may be planned for some sites.
In Angus there will be a survey postcard produced to encourage records to be sent in; details will also be available via www.taysidebiodiversity.co.uk
To find out more and to get involved with the projects you can contact:
Berwickshire – Iain Cowe, Butterfly Conservation East Scotland Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Moray & Aberdeenshire – Rose Toney, NE Scotland Biodiversity PartnershipEmail: Rose.Toney@@hutton.ac.uk
This butterfly captures some important aspects of what Butterfly Conservation is all about. It lives in wild, uncultivated places, is often reluctant to stray far from its origin, can easily be overlooked, doesn’t come into gardens (so people just don’t see it much) and so it is threatened by changes to the countryside which may unwittingly destroy the habitats it needs. At the same time, there are real opportunities to raise awareness of this beautiful little butterfly and to reverse its decline through projects such as these