Fit for fritillaries

Common Wood: part 3

The work continues to encourage fritillary butterflies to breed on my patch of common land, at Common Wood, near Horndon, Dartmoor.

On 10 February 14 volunteers from the Dartmoor Preservation Association and Butterfly Conservation were back on the slopes of Common Wood.  This was the third conservation day here.  We had planned one last November but had to cancel because of the weather, so it was a year since the last workday (see blog).

Jenny explains what we need to do

Jenny explains what we need to do

Under the guidance of Butterfly Conservation’s enthusiastic Jenny Plackett we got going, with bowsaws and loppers, and Keith Ryan on the chainsaw.

Hard at work

Hard at work

We removed gorse, small trees and brambles and piled them to make a windrow (hedge) which was anchored with firm, straight hazel branches.

The start of the windrow, with a hazel branch (left)

The start of the windrow, with a hazel branch (left)

The aim is to create habitat where violets, the food of the Pearl-bordered fritillaries, will thrive under a light covering of bracken. This is a south-east facing slope with plenty of sun which makes it a lovely warm habitat for Pearl-bordered and Small Pearl-bordered fritillaries when the caterpillars emerge in the spring.

Pearl-bordered fritillary. Photo: Jim Asher

Pearl-bordered fritillary. Photo: Jim Asher

By mid afternoon we had cleared a significant area.  Jenny reckons we have one more day’s work to do clearing this slope, which we hope will be in the autumn.

The result of our efforts, with windrow on left

The result of our efforts, with windrow on left

Some fritillaries were seen at Common Wood last year, but we have no evidence yet that they are breeding here.   However, thanks to all the hard work, we are giving them a good chance.

As we were packing up I saw a woodcock flying away down the valley.  A fitting end to the day.

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in butterflies, common land, Common Wood, Dartmoor, Natural history and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fit for fritillaries

  1. ossjay says:

    The gorse doesn’t look as though it is in flower – here in south Wales there is lots of yellow shing in the rain.

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