Although it may seem hard to believe as I write this on a wild, wet and windy day in the middle of March, the start of April marks the beginning of the butterfly survey season, which seems an appropriate time to reflect on last year.
Out of the 120 sites in Surrey where weekly transects were walked between April and September I’m pleased to report that, in 2018, Clandon Wood came joint sixth in terms of the number of species recorded. A total of thirty species were recorded including the first confirmed site records of Dingy Skipper and Dark Green Fritillary.
In addition, we were one of only eleven transect sites in the county where White-letter Hairstreaks were recorded. The rarest of the four Hairstreak species found in the UK, we are very lucky to have White-letters here at Clandon Wood and are doing our best to help them by planting Elm trees around the site; the tree of choice for these butterflies to lay their eggs on, with the caterpillars then emerging in early spring to feed on the flower buds. The Elms we have planted are all Dutch Elm disease-resistant varieties such as ‘Lutece’, unlike the English Elms around our boundaries which sadly now only grow to around 5-10 metres before they succumb to the disease.
The 2019 butterfly season got off to an unusually early start due to the unprecedented warm spell in the second half of February but, as the weather has turned rather more inclement, the hibernating species have returned to their winter hiding places for now. It won’t be long though before they re-emerge along with the first generations of early hatching species such as Orange-tip and Speckled Wood. As the different habitat structures at Clandon Wood develop over the years and with careful management, including introducing larval foodplants for specialist species, we are hopeful we will see the number of butterflies here increase.