A gatekeeper butterfly, with orange and brown wings featuring dark spots.
Gatekeeper Butterfly

A total of 36 species of butterflies have been recorded in Warwickshire, with 35 of those species appearing at Ryton Pools Country Park.

In partnership with Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire, the country parks rangers work to maintain and enhance habitats to make them a haven for these unique creatures.

Butterflies and moths are both regularly recorded at Ryton Pools, not just because they are fascinating insects, but because they are superb bioindicators of the health of an ecosystem, as they are mobile enough to move around the landscape and will respond very quickly to changes in their environment. Analysing populations of these species allows Warwickshire County Council’s country park rangers to assess the quality and success of conservation projects.

These traits, alongside recording data, help to closely track the effects of climate change. Park rangers, feeding their records directly into the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, are able to clearly see the northern movement of species across the country as the climate warms.

The recording of butterfly transects, in which a recorder walks along the same fixed path regularly, counting butterflies and moths along the way and making a note of their species, is now in its twelfth year at Ryton Pools. Using these long-term data sets, rangers have observed strong populations of several species. These strong populations help to provide a buffer against annual population decreases caused by weather, predation and disease, and give a boost to the resilience of species against future climate change.

Monitoring and maintaining butterfly and populations is a long-term project, with a new butterfly transect recently established on-site to monitor the habitat improvement work over the next 30 years.

A Brown Hairstreak butterfly, with brown/orange wings.

Brown Hairstreak Butterfly (image kindly provided by Gillian Thompson, the Warwickshire Brown Hairstreak Champion from Butterfly Conservation).

Ryton Pools is now the only site in the county, alongside the adjacent Ryton Wood Meadows, where all four species of Warwickshire Hairstreak Butterfly can be seen. Work is being done to strengthen populations of the rare Brown Hairstreak, which has seen its numbers plummet recently due to hedge flailing. Country Park rangers now have a four-year cutting rotation in place across the site to maximise egg-laying, and have also boosted the habitat by planting 10,000 blackthorn trees into hedges across two sites. The effects are already showing, with a population increases of 700% at one site and 980% at the other.

A Brown Hairstreak butterfly egg. The egg is white and round, on a treetrunk.

Brown Hairstreak Butterfly Egg (image kindly provided by Gillian Thompson, the Warwickshire Brown Hairstreak Champion from Butterfly Conservation).

 

Councillor Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Climate and Culture at Warwickshire County Council, said: “Butterflies are beautiful creatures that contribute a great deal to our natural environment. As both prey and predators, they help maintain the careful balance of our food chain.

“What’s more, observing their changing behaviour provides a practical demonstration that we must take action on climate change. The fantastic work of the park rangers at our stunning country parks helps support an incredible number of moth and butterfly species.

“It isn’t just rangers who can make a difference in supporting these wonderful insects. We can all take steps such as planting butterfly-friendly plants and providing shallow water sources.”

For more information about Warwickshire’s Country Parks, visit: www.countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk

To find out more about the work of Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire, visit: https://www.warwickshire-butterflies.org.uk/

Published: 20th June 2022