Butterfly Conservation ‘birthday bash’ helps iconic Suffolk insect

Voluntary warden of Blaxhall Common Terry Peake, right, with volunteers at the Butterfly Conservatio

Voluntary warden of Blaxhall Common Terry Peake, right, with volunteers at the Butterfly Conservation birthday 'bash' habitat enhancement, from left, Val Sherwen, Maggie Grenham, Peter Maddison and Julian Dowding. Picture: JOHN GRANT - Credit: Archant

Blaxhall Common enhanced as a home for silver-studded blue butterflies

A silver-studded blue butterfly - a highly specialised species that is found on the Suffolk Sandling

A silver-studded blue butterfly - a highly specialised species that is found on the Suffolk Sandling heaths. Picture: STEVE AYLWARD - Credit: Archant

There weren’t any birthday cake candles to blow out, but there was plenty of huffing and puffing during a butterfly charity’s anniversary celebrations on a Suffolk heath.

The Suffolk branch of Butterfly Conservation marked the national organisation’s 50th birthday by enhancing habitat for the silver-studded blue - a nationally scarce species that is so closely associated with the Suffolk Sandling heaths that it has become something of an icon for them.

Members of the branch joined Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s regular work party team on Blaxhall Common, near Snape, for several hours of young pine tree removal - a physically demanding but ultimately essential and rewarding activity that will benefit the butterfly by providing its favoured open heath habitat.

The volunteers had answered the call from Britain’s favourite naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, who is Butterfly Conservation’s president.

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The popular veteran broadcaster had urged people across Britain to take part in a national day of action for butterflies to help the charity mark its 50th anniversary milestone.

Many events such as the one at Blaxhall Common were staged across Britain to improve and create habitats for a host of butterfly and moth species. The insects clearly need all the help they can get - Butterfly Conservation said more than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies and two-thirds of its larger moths have declined in the last 40 years.

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Sir David said: “Half a century ago a small group of naturalists became so concerned about the plight of the UK’s butterflies that they decided to join forces to protect them. That organisation became Butterfly Conservation and 50 years later the need for people who care about our butterflies and moths is greater than ever before.”

About 20 people responded by attending the event at Blaxhall.

Branch chairman Peter Maddison said: “The area in which we worked is surrounded by Scots pines that have seeded profusely into the heather. On the second Saturday of every month Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s voluntary warden for Blaxhall Common, Terry Peake, leads work parties to carry out conservation work and this one was a special birthday celebration for Butterfly Conservation.

“We’ve had to remove the young Scots pines because they would shade out the heather - it’s work we have done to enhance the heath primarily for the silver-studded blues.”

Branch conservation officer Rob Parker said Blaxhall Common was the site of a silver-studded blue translocation from heathland at Hollesley and RSPB Minsmere in 2007, which has been licenced by Natural England. The butterflies had originally been located on heathland to the north-west of the B1069 road that ran through the common but for the last four years they had predominantly been found to the south-east of the road. It was hoped the species would expand its range on Blaxhall Common by making use of the area enhanced by the “birthday bash” conservation work, he said.

Mr Peake is a conservation stalwart who has worked voluntarily at Blaxhall Common for 36 years. He said a total of 61 volunteer-hours had been spent on the site since September by work parties of up to 16 people. “It’s mainly been pine-pulling and cutting back and the removal of birch,” he said. “If you add up all the hours our parties have spent here voluntarily just in that time the work they’ve done is the equivalent of a lot of money’s worth. The volunteers are doing a worthwhile job for nature conservation and we have a good time doing it too,” he added.

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