Butterfly Banks are go!
Sarah Bird, Senior Project Officer for the North Coast, Plantlife
On my last working day before Christmas, the exciting news I had been waiting for came through…
At the end of the first year of Species on the Edge, we (North Coast People Engagement Officer Louise and I) were overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and wisdom, enthusiasm and dedication shared with us during 2023. Plans to help our species are coming together and local views and voices are helping to develop appropriate actions for the next three years of the project.
Small blue butterflies were the focus of a ‘task force’ meeting in October. We gathered suggestions for a Small Blue Rally day, new places to look for butterflies, and ideas for habitat management at Castlehill and Dunnet Forest in Caithness, building on previous work for this species in the area by Caithness Environment Volunteers.
As project officer I took responsibility for moving forward with habitat management activities, including an especially innovative idea to build butterfly banks at Dunnet Forest. Small blues are seen in small numbers on the edge of the forest and observations from local people indicate that the butterflies might be encouraged to breed if we could provide a sheltered bank with their food plant - kidney vetch - present. There is a breeding colony of small blues in the sand dunes around 200m from the forest, within easy reach for a butterfly on a calm day.
The partnership approach that Species on the Edge is championing was particularly useful here, as I was able to discuss designs for butterfly banks with colleagues at Butterfly Conservation, and their guidance document was most useful.
With indispensable input from Caithness Environment Volunteers and Dunnet Community Forest, I pulled a plan together. It was most helpful to have an image made by Duncan McLachlan to show what a bank will actually look like in place, and species records for the potential locations from local wildlife recorders.
By the end of November all was ready and I sent the plan over to NatureScot for approval. We need their permission to build a structure like this at Dunnet Forest as it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and we need to be certain we aren’t damaging any other important wildlife or special feature of the site.
And so, on 20 December 2023, the email arrived… We have permission to build two butterfly banks in the meadow area at Dunnet Forest. I can’t wait for work to get started!
The banks should be built in 2024 and 2025, with the help of Caithness Environment Volunteers and Dunnet Community Forest volunteers. Do stop by and see what’s going on if you are passing. And if you see any butterflies, please record your sighting here: Submit a Sighting Record - North Sutherland Wildlife Group (nswg.org.uk), or email [email protected].