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Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire - Branch Logo featuring the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.Butterfly Conservation.

Projects - The Small Blue Project

The Small Blue Project was launched in March 2009. As its name suggests, the Small Blue butterfly is the smallest of the UK's blue butterflies. Numbers have plummeted in recent years due to the loss of chalk grassland habitats. In Warwickshire it is clinging to survival at three sites around Southam, all of which are active or former quarries. The creation of new habitat within flying distance of existing butterfly colonies is the only way to help the dwindling population of butterflies spread, expand and survive.

The caterpillars of the Small Blue butterfly only feed on Kidney Vetch plants, which only grow on poor nutrient, alkaline (limey) soils.

Small Blue Action Group

It is important to plan for long term future to enable the whole landscape to continue to improve for wildlife and in particular, the Small Blue. In order to be able to plan for the future it is intended to establish a Small Blue Action Group involving all key partners and interested parties. The group will keep in contact mainly by regular e-mails, but will meet formally every six months to collate progress reports and to ratify further aims and actions.

Aims of Group
• To provide advice and guidance to landowners or managers
• To share how successes have been achieved and other lessons learned
• To share the results of research and experiments
• To develop new projects to establish or restore wildlife habitats

Mike Slater (Small Blue Project Officer) 01788 335881

Introduction and project information

The Small Blue ProjectThe Small Blue Project aims to restore flower-rich grassland, where the Small Blue caterpillar will be able to thrive on Kidney Vetch plants. The three year project has major funding from SITA Trust, the Stratford Community Fund, Network Rail and CEMEX, with many smaller contributions from local companies and Parish Councils.

At the time of the project launch, Jane Ellis, Butterfly Conservation's regional officer, said: "It is tremendously exciting - over the next three years restoration works will help many rare insects, butterflies and moths as well as the Small Blue itself. The habitats around Southam are some of the richest places for wildlife in the West Midlands. Many local wildlife experts have been trying to get help for these important sites for many years. Our project will provide new homes for wildlife and give local people the opportunity to enjoy them."

As well as the Small Blue, the three year programme of restoration works will also help many other rare insects including butterflies such as the Dingy and Grizzled Skippers well as the Chalk Carpet moth, bumblebees and the dotted bee-fly.

In late 2009, Mike Slater became the Small Blue Project Officer and continues the excellent work which Jane Ellis started in 2009.

Volunteers Wanted

Keen volunteers are needed to help with site works such as clearing scrub, planting wildflowers and helping to monitor the Small Blue butterfly population. Full training will be provided.

For more information about the Small Blue and how you can become involved please contact Mike Slater on 01788 335881

21/12/2011 Habitat works completed at Stockton Cutting SSSI

Newly created south-facing blue lias clay mounds at Gaydon. Photo copyright Jane Ellis.

Work has now been completed which will allow for the restoration of rare grassland habitat at Stockton Cutting SSSI following 3 years of scrub removal. This work will allow the site to return to its former glory a a premier grassland site for regionally rare butterflies and wild flowers.

Left: View of Stockton Cutting looking SE from the top of the steps at the site entrance on the A426.

Newly created south-facing blue lias clay mounds at Gaydon. Photo copyright Jane Ellis.


Left: View of Stockton Cutting looking NW towards the site entrance and the A426.

 

 

 

18/05/2011 Butterfly Conservation on the Gaydon Proving Ground*

On 12th May 2011 Mike Slater from Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation Organisation visited the Gaydon Proving Ground to sow kidney vetch seeds. Kidney vetch is the sole larval food plant of the Small Blue Cupido minimus butterfly. The small blue is a rare butterfly that needs the kidney
vetch plant for its larvae to feed on.

The 4x4 test area on the proving ground provides ideal conditions for the plant to establish itself; the regular disturbance by 4x4s actually aids the plant. It is hoped that the small blue will naturally
colonise the PG, similar planting has taken place on neighboring farms. The proving ground is home to other rare butterflies and during his visit Mike was able to confirm that we have breeding
colonies of the Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae and the Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages. Both species are listed on the local authorities BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan). It is also highly likely
that we have other rare species of butterfly. Mike was also able to advise on aspects of our grounds maintenance work that will aid butterflies.

*This article appeared in the internal VEV Team Talk Magazine by Jim Nash, PAV & SS Manager at Jaguar in 17-05-2011 - Issue 19.

Newly created south-facing blue lias clay mounds at Gaydon. Photo copyright Jane Ellis.At one of the Small Blues sites near Gaydon, Six community service volunteers led by the Probation Service planted 500 Kidney Vetch on some newly created south-facing blue lias clay mounds.

Left: Newly created south-facing blue lias clay mounds at Gaydon. Photo copyright Jane Ellis.

Each mounds has been divided into 5 sections by bunds to create a mixed topography which will provide different micro-climates and protecting some plants during drought weather. Two section have been planted and one seeded so plots can be monitored to determine what technique works the best.

23/01/2011 Project Update

A view of Stockton Cutting after scrub clearance. Photo by Steven Cheshire.
Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire is curently working alongside conservation partners and contractors to clear scrub from various sites in the Southam Area.

Left: A view of Stockton Cutting after scrub clearance. Photo by Steven Cheshire.

Work is currently taking place at Nelsons Quarry, Stockton Cutting (WWT Reserve), Harbury Spoilbank (WWT Reserve) and along the disused Draycote to Offchuch disused railway (sustrans).

04/08/2009 Small Blue Kidney Vetch Planting

Four intrepid volunteers joined Jane Ellis at Southam Quarry on Tuesday 4th August to take part in the next project to help the Small Blue. After a quick health and safety in put the party set off to collect Kidney Vetch seed. On our arrival at the collection point the party was rewarded with a sighting of a male Clouded Yellow and seven other butterfly species of rain despite the constant drizzle. After a brief coffee break to avoid a heavy rain shower the party collected more seed before moving to the area that was cleared last year.

It was great to see this area. A great many seeds had germinated and had put on good growth. Further areas were seeded we then moved onto to the experimental bund area. Here the 5 bunds were seeded in different way.

Bund A made of field earth seeded on top and the scrape in front
Bund B made of field earth seeded just on top
Bund C made of field earth left un-seeded
Bund D bund topped with Blue Lias Clay seeded on top and scrape in front
Bund E bund topped with Blue Lias Clay seeded on top

Three of the party then moved onto Nelson’s Quarry where the long bund and two scrapes were seeded. Again the group were rewarded by finding Jurassic fossils, the first a Gryphia (Devils toe nail) a type of mollusc but the best find was part of a vertebrate of giant fish possibly an Ichthyosaurus.

08/07/2009 Help from Warwickshire Highways proves successful

In 2006 the Warwickshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation and Warwickshire County Council Highways Department entered into a unique partnership to conserve Britain’s smallest butterfly, the Small Blue.

The Small Blue has declined dramatically in range; nationally by 30% and in Warwickshire by 83%. Now only 3 colonies remain in the whole of the 6 counties that make up the West Midlands. All of these remaining colonies are found in the Southam area of Warwickshire.

In an attempt to reverse this decline volunteers from the Warwickshire Branch, supported by Barclays Bank, planted 200 kidney vetch plant plugs on both sides of the Southam bypass in the spring of 2006. Kidney vetch is the only plant that the Small Blue caterpillar will eat. To further complicate things, the adult butterfly will only lay its eggs on the kidney vetch flowers because the caterpillars only eat the more nutritious flower seeds.

Since the planting took place the number of flowering kidney vetch plants have been monitored on the bypass. Unfortunately, due to drought and rabbits it appeared that only a few plants survived. However, it takes 2 years before the young kidney vetch plants flower and the number of flowering plants has gradually increased. This year a mass of over 400 flowering kidney vetch plants were found. It is now believed that the Southam bypass is suitable for the Small Blue to colonise and it is predicted that it will do so within the next year or two. If this prediction proves correct then this will be a fantastic achievement and will be a living testimony to a successful working partnership.

Andrew Savage, County Highways Contract & Policy Manager said “It is very satisfying to help on this local ecology project which has proved successful in such a short time. Highway verges provide a lot of habitat for flora and fauna. It seems the local conditions were idea for very specific plants and butterflies to prosper".

29/06/2009 SITA Trust saving the Small Blue

SITA TrustBritain's smallest butterfly is in drastic decline due to the loss of its chalk and limestone grassland habitat. The Small Blue can only be found at three sites in the West Midlands; all of which are active or former quarries near Southam.

Butterfly Conservation launched its Bringing Back the Small Blue project at CEMEX's Southam Quarry site in June. The project aims to restore flower-rich grassland for this beautiful butterfly at 15 sites, helping dwindling populations to spread and expand.

To date 3.5 hectares of scrub has been cleared and 2000 Kidney Vetch have been planted, transforming four sites into butterfly havens.

19/06/2009 Small Blue Project - Official Launch

The sun shone, the butterflies danced and over 30 guests had a fascinating and fun time at the launch of a major new project to help the Small Blue butterfly flourish once more in Warwickshire.

Britain's smallest butterfly, the Small Blue is in drastic decline due to the loss of its chalk and limestone grassland habitat. Warwickshire (and the West Midlands now only hang on to this beautiful butterfly at 3 sites around Southam, all of which are active or former quarries.

CemexButterfly Conservation launched its Bringing Back the Small Blue project at Southam Quarry owned by CEMEX on Thursday 18th June.

Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation the national charity for conserving butterflies and moths said "I am amazed by the fantastic habitats that I have seen at Southam Quarry, it really is an oasis for rare species. It has been heart-warming to see such a lot of positive action taking place on the ground and to speak to so many enthusiastic people, from CEMEX, the County Council, Natural England (English Nature and DEFRA), Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and local volunteers who are so keen to work with Butterfly Conservation to help the Small Blue. We have an exciting three years ahead in which we should start to see increases in Small Blue numbers and other rare butterflies and moths."

David Lowe, Principle Ecologist for Warwickshire County Council said "Butterfly Conservation should be applauded for its very practical approach to nature conservation in the County. Its local volunteers have been gathering data for many years in advance of this project and it is great to finally see this partnership project coming together to create large-scale habitat improvements for some of the County's rarest species."
Speakers at the launch were, from left to right: Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive Butterfly Conservation, Jane Ellis, Butterfly Conservation, Andrew Spencer, UK Sustainability Director, CEMEX and David Lowe, Principal Ecologist, Warwickshire County Council. Photo by Maurice Avent, Butterfly Conservation.
Left: Speakers at the launch were, from left to right: Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive Butterfly Conservation, Jane Ellis, Butterfly Conservation, Andrew Spencer, UK Sustainability Director, CEMEX and David Lowe, Principal Ecologist, Warwickshire County Council. Photo by Maurice Avent, Butterfly Conservation.
Ian Southcott, Community Affairs Manager at CEMEX said "CEMEX are delighted to support this project and to have hosted the launch at Southam Quarry. It is really gratifying to receive the compliments and surprise of people who are unaware of how closely companies like CEMEX work with organisations such as Butterfly Conservation. This project is vital to the preservation of the Small Blue and we are committed to providing our continuing support."

The project aims to restore habitat for the Small Blue butterfly at 15 local sites in an area containing some of the richest habitat in the West Midlands for butterflies and other insects. The three year project has major funding from SITA Trust, the Stratford Community Fund, Network Rail and CEMEX, with many smaller contributions from local companies and Parish Councils.
Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive Butterfly Conservation photographs a Small Blue Butterfly. Photo by Keith Warmington, Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire.
Left: Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive Butterfly Conservation photographs a Small Blue Butterfly. Photo by Keith Warmington, Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire.
As well as the Small Blue, the three year programme of restoration works will also help many other rare insects including butterflies such as the Dingy and Grizzled Skippers well as the Chalk Carpet moth, bumblebees and the dotted bee-fly.

Find out more by reading our press release.

23/04/2009 Harbury Spoilbank gets a Kidney (Vetch) Transplant

Volunteers planting Kidney Vetch plants at Harbury Spoilbank.
On Tuesday 21st April, 5 members of Butterfly Conservation planted 500 Kidney Vetch plants at Harbury Spoilbank South on a newly cleared area as part of the Small Blue Project.

Left: Volunteers planting Kidney Vetch plants at Harbury Spoilbank.

 

16/03/2009 Work starts on 'Bringing Back the Small Blue'

Before the scrub is removed.

The last two weeks of March 2009 saw the commencement of habitat management work designed to restore and enhance the limestone grasslands of the quarries and spoilheaps in the Southam area.

Left: Before the scrub is removed.

After the scrub is removed.
The work, involving the removal of dense scrub, is aimed at increasing the population of the threatened Small Blue butterfly (currently confined to just 4 sites in Warwickshire) and will also benefit many other species of butterflies, moths and bees.

Left: After the scrub is removed.

 

Working in Partnership

This work has been made possible thanks to support from SITA Trust, the Stratford Community Fund, Sustrans and Cemex, with many smaller contributions from local companies and Parish Councils.

SITA TrustCemexSustrans

Natural EnglandButterfly ConservationStratford-on-Avon District Council

Network Rail

The Team

Dr Jenny Joy - Senior Regional Officer
Mike Slater - Small Blue Project Officer
Jane Ellis - Small Blue Project Officer (until autumn 2009)

Small Blue Action Group Newsletters

Newsletter 1 View online - FlashPaper viewer Download pdf (99kb)
Newsletter 2 - available soon
Newsletter 3 - available soon
Newsletter 4 View online - FlashPaper viewer Download pdf (90kb)

Small Blue Action Group Remit View online - FlashPaper viewer Download pdf (126kb)

Project Progress

Preliminary Update 2010 View online - FlashPaper viewer Download pdf (1,318kb)
Progress Report 03-2009 View online - FlashPaper viewer Download pdf (126kb)

A pair of male Small Blues on the lookout for passing females. Photo copyright Keith Warmington.A pair of male Small Blues on the lookout for passing females. Photo copyright Keith Warmington.

Project Links

The Yellow Land - www.bishopsitchington-pc.gov.uk
Sita Trust - www.sitatrust.org.uk
Wildlife Extra - www.wildlifeextra.com
NFU Countryside - www.countrysideonline.co.uk
The Landscaper - www.landscapermagazine.com