The arrival of spring at Wimbleball Lake brings a whole host of changes to the site’s habitats and the wildlife that reside within them. The wildflower meadows are abloom with a variety of colours and smells, the woodlands are thick with leafy green trees and vegetation, whilst ducklings paddle in the shallows of the reservoir and our diverse grasses come alive with the clicks, chirps and buzzing of insects.

One particular group of insects, that to me, symbolise spring are the butterflies. Their elegant wingbeats and gliding motions coupled with intricate patterns fill the skies as temperatures warm and the days become longer and lighter.

Due to their differences in life cycle and developmental stages, different butterfly species have varying adult flight periods and emergence times. Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines), Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) and Small White (Pieris rapae) butterflies have been among the first species to be sighted around Wimbleball with many more appearing as spring continues.

At the end of May, South West Lakes Trust hosted a butterfly identification and survey skills workshop led by Megan Lowe from Butterfly Conservation’s brilliant “All the Moor Butterflies” project. The day gave volunteers, local landowners and butterfly enthusiasts alike the opportunity to learn more about our native butterflies, gain confidence in identifying them and the chance to practise surveying.

The workshop started with Megan introducing us to a selection of the 59 UK species of butterfly and the species that were most likely to be observed on Exmoor. We looked at the distinguishing features of each butterfly to help tell species apart, as well as the habitat types we would expect to find certain species in, life history traits and the ecology of butterflies. We then explored the different methods used to survey butterflies and how the information collated from these could help to protect butterfly population health in the future.

After heading out to Hurscombe Nature Reserve, situated at the northern arm of Wimbleball Lake, it was time to put our skills to the test!

Hurscombe Nature Reserve is a known favourable habitat for the nationally important Small Pearl-boarded Fritillary (Boloria selene) and a species that much of the conservation work completed at Hurscombe is focused around. You can find out more about our past winter work at Hurscombe here.

A timed count was completed in order to gain an understanding of the abundance of Small Pearl-boarded Fritillary at Hurscombe. We spread out in a long line and walked from one end of the known favourable habitat to the other, counting all the Small Pearl-boarded Fritillary that we came across on our way. And we were not disappointed! An incredible number of Small Pearl-boarded Fritillary were counted and although records on Exmoor are patchy, it is believed that Hurscombe is now a strong-hold for the species across the national park.

Our management at Hurscombe will continue to conserve this threatened butterfly species in the coming months, including threading paths through the bracken habitat to ensure enough light reaches the larval foodplant, Common Dog-violet.

The workshop was enjoyed by all who attended, and it enabled us to learn and develop our butterfly skills to use in the future.

 If you would like to get involved with butterfly surveys and monitoring, Wimbleball will be taking part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count which is held from 19th July-11th August 2019; pop along to the Activity Centre and pick up a recording form.  

Lucy Alford

Countryside Warden - Exmoor