came to Shabden Park Farm in 2003, she brought with her a passionate
interest in butterflies. Having been active within her local branch
in Cheshire, Kirstie was very excited at the prospect of contributing
to wildlife conservation at Shabden Park Farm by monitoring the
butterfly species and populations on the farm.
Through advice and cooperation with the local branch
Conservation, a national conservation society dedicated to saving
butterflies, moths and their habitats, we are managing areas of
the farm particularly for butterflies and moths, and even for individual
species. This is not at the expense of other wildlife, as butterflies
and moths, along with all other living things, can only survive
within a sustainable ecosystem made up of plants, insects, birds
and mammals. Butterfies, however, are excellent indicators of how
healthy an environment is, and healthy populations and a wide range
of species of butterfly indicates that the surrounding countryside
sustains an ecosystem within which many other plants, invertebrates,
birds and mammals live.
The ecosystem at Shabden Park Farm, and the specific wildlife habitats
within it, is maintained by selective grazing with cattle and sheep
and both benefit the other.
Find out more about our environmentally
sustainable farming methods.
Latest Sightings and Notes
Grizzled Skipper confirmed breeding on SSSI, Long Plantation
The Surrey & SW
London branch of Butterfly Conservation works with local landowners
and conservation organisations to help save butterflies, moths and
their habitats. We have a county butterfly reserve at Oaken Wood,
near Dunsfold, and we organise the Surrey Butterfly Garden Show
at Juniper Hall, Boxhill, every other year. Our branch volunteer
members carry out practical 'scrub-bashing', promote butterflies,
moths and conservation locally, and attend shows and events.
For more information on the branch, visit the Surrey
The transect method of monitoring butterfly species
involves the establishment of a fixed route across a site. This
route is divided into a number of sections, which usually vary in
length, habitat type and management.
Each week, between April and September, walks are carried out along
the transect, where the number of individuals of each butterfly
species counted in each section are entered onto a standardised
form. This information will then be collated and sent to the County
Recorder and to the Research
into Farmland Butterflies project coordinator at Butterfly Conservation.
Park Farm Transect
Kirstie walks a transect on the farm, split into
sections according to habitat i.e. woodland, pasture or open field,
scrub and so on, every week, weather permitting. The results of
these are compiled and shared with our Wildlife Trust ranger Bob
Crompton, and the County Recorder.
At the end of each year, we will publish the overall results for
the year on this page. See also Butterflies on the Species
page for an overall list for the farm.
Latest sightings of butterflies on the farm, and
field notes will be posted above throughout the year.
If you have seen a butterfly on the farm and need help identifying
it, or you would like to share a sighting, please email Kirstie.
The Shabden Elm Project
When Dutch Elm disease struck in the early 1970s,
the vast majority of elms in south England were affected and had
died in a matter of two or three years. Many of the insects dependent
on elm were severely affected, especially the White-letter Hairstreak
butterfly, whose caterpillar larvae live off the elm plant. The
White-letter Hairstreak is a small butterfly with a flight which
spirals upwards towards the tree tops. It is distinguished by a
bold white 'W' mark across the under wing and short ‘tails’
to the lower wings. The dark upper wings are seen only in flight
as the butterflies always settle with their wings closed. Adults
are difficult to see because they spend so much time high up in
the tree canopy, although they occasionally come to ground level
to nectar on flowers near elm trees or saplings.
Against all expectations the butterfly has
survived in reduced numbers by living off the sucker growth which
many dead elms are able to regenerate. Because of the cyclical nature
of this regrowth, there are years when the butterfly is hardly seen.
Often the good years are followed closely by another wave of infection.Dutch
Elm disease is a fungus which is spread by bark beetles. These beetles
feed in the upper branches of the tree and introduce the fungal
spores to exposed tissue. Once infected the disease spreads rapidly
and unless treated at the early stages the tree will not survive.
In the late 1960s an aggressive strain of the disease, originating
from North America, was imported into this country via diseased
timber. It spread rapidly across southern England, and by 1977 was
estimated to have killed 50% of the elms in the area. The disease
shows no signs of waning in Britain. In summer 2005 it attacked
ancient elms in the centre of Brighton resulting in the felling
of 370 prime specimens. Horticulturalists have been trialling many
different elm hybrids in search of an elm tree which is totally
resistant to the fungus. One of the successful hybrids, named Lutece,
is being used by the French government in a massive planting programme
to restore elms to the French landscape.
On 16th February 2006, three whips of elm Lutece
were planted at Shabden Park Farm by Kirstie and Mark Banham, as
part of a project by the Surrey & SW London branch of Butterfly
Conservation. The project has planted 30 whips across South London
and Surrey commons and country parks and has recorded the exact
location by GPS in order to locate and monitor the young trees.
The three young elms at Shabden are within ten metres of each other
on the edge of one of the woodland shaws. In summer, the whips are
surrounded by waist-high brambles and nettles which give the root
some shade and shelter. All three are in leaf and are strong and
healthy. Hopefully, all three elms will grow to maturity, but they
could be grown as coppiced elms if more appropriate, and this would
also allow the butterflies to breed. The elm Lutece is in its infancy,
but elsewhere, caterpillars of the Comma butterfly and the Grey
Dagger moth have been found on young bush elms, so there is a great
deal of hope and potential for the White-letter Hairstreaks.
With thanks to Malcolm Bridge, County Butterfly Recorder, Butterfly
Conservation Surrey & SW London, for help with this article.
species id, photos, field trips, information and fun for kids!
Conservation national website of the conservation organisation for butterflies,
moths and thier habitats
photo guide and info