Archives for posts with tag: silver studded blue

Some of you may remember last year we reintroduced the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly onto Black Down. Since the start of the flight season for the butterfly a week or two ago we have been waiting with baited breath to see if the reintroduction worked. The butterfly has a short flight season, the species spends the rest of the year in other phases of its life cycle, as an egg, larva and pupa. Much of this time is spent with ants hidden away in the litter layer of the heath. Consequently the first chance to see whether the reintroduction had worked was this summer.

Yesterday whilst out checking the cattle on Black Down Jono, one of our Long Term Volunteers spotted something very exciting… A single Male Silver Studded Blue…

ssb on bl

The species has made it through the winter and out the other side, it is such great news. Reintroducing species doesn’t happen very often, and it is a fantastic thing to be part of.

Obviously there is still a very long way to go, one swallow doesn’t make a summer as the saying goes, and one male certainly doesn’t make a viable population! But hopefully over the next week or two more butterflies will start to emerge. In the meantime we will also be carrying out further releases of butterflies from donor sites to boost the population and hopefully get the new colony properly established.

So glad it looks like it is starting to work though, these are the moments that make all the hard word worthwhile.

Regular readers will know how important I think it is to look after our countryside and the things that live in it. This year on Black Down a very important project has been taking place. We have reintroduced a species. The species in question is the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly. This kind of thing doesn’t come along every day. It is only the second time I have seen it in my career. In fact it is only the second time the National Trust has ever reintroduced a butterfly to site where it has disappeared, and I am a little bit excited about it.

Male 2 low res

The Silver Studded Blue is a proper little marvel. It makes its home on heathland, but it needs heathland in really good condition in order to be able to survive. Heaths have been disappearing at an alarming rate for more than a hundred years. The type of varied age structure within the heather that this butterfly needs is even rarer. The Black Down countryside team have been working hard for over 15 years restoring the heathland in this special little corner of West Sussex. What was then a landscape swamped in Rhododendron and Pine is now an open, grazed heathland full of wildlife with incredible views out across the South Downs National Park and beyond.


Despite heathland being a wonderful place, it has to be said that sometimes in June and July before most of the heather comes into flower it can sometimes be a little brown. The butterfly in question is a lightning bolt of blue for your eyes within the brown heathers. It is tiny, about the size of your thumbnail, but it has enough colour packed into its delicate wings for a species 5 times the size. The male is a wonderful blue, the female has to make do with a more everyday brown. She shares with him though the characteristic silvery blue studs that can just be seen inside the black dots at the back of the wings of this mating pair.

Mating pair low res

Over the past few weeks the Ranger team, working in close partnership with Butterfly Conservation, Natural England and the MOD have been visiting donor sites, collecting butterflies and taking them up to an area of specially managed heath on Black Down for release. This is the first of a planned 3 years of reintroductions which we hope will see the butterfly make a sustainable return to a very special place.

Male and female low res

Over the coming years we will be fine tuning our management of the heath hoping to ensure we continue to provide the ideal conditions for our new inhabitants. Of course there are no guarantees it will all work, but we will certainly be doing our best.

Seeing something like this is a real icing on the cake kind of moment, only possible because so many people have worked so hard to make everything that was required come into alignment. Huge thanks are due to so many people for all this work, easy to forget on a peaceful summers stroll across the hill when a wonderful blue butterfly flits across your path and takes your breath away.

Male low res



Testing times weather wise at the moment certainly, the constant storms have brought down countless trees for us to have to deal with, but our cattle had to endure some tests this week too. TB tests that is. We are fortunate in this part of the country that TB in cattle is uncommon, we still have to test for it at regular intervals though. The vet comes and injects the cattle, the return visit a couple of days later to check the injection site provides the results, always a bit nerve wracking even if it is unlikely to be bad news.

cows in pen

First job is too round up all the cattle and get them in the pen. Black Down is a big place, hunting for a dozen cattle up there can take a while. Our tactic is to keep them voice trained. Every day when we check on them we call them, and give them a few handfuls of cattle feed when they arrive. After a while they get the idea and come trotting over when called (most days anyway!) Calling for the cattle creates a bit of extra amusement for our visitors, especially when they think you are looking for a lost dog and a herd of cows comes over the horizon!

On a good day the cows all come trotting neatly into the pen behind you, on a bad day they take one look and refuse point blank. Fortunately when the vet was waiting they were reasonably well behaved and did what was asked of them.

Next they have to be persuaded one at a time through the race and into the crush. This holds them still while the vet does what is required.

cow in crush

Our luck was in and they were given the all clear. Our cattle do such a fantastic job for us, without them we just couldn’t keep the scrub at bay, we do our best for them in return and try to keep them healthy, it is always a relief when the results from the vet are favourable.

Visitors to the hill this week might also have noticed a mini digger creating some strange looking bare areas amongst the heather.

finnished scrape

This is part of our Silver Studded Blue Butterfly reintroduction project.

Creating scrapes diversifies the age structure amongst the heather, young heather grows on the bare areas and provides the habitat conditions required by this beautifull and rare butterfly. It used to be found frequently on heaths around the South East, but as its habitat dissapeared and ceased to be managed it started to dissapeer. It is now pretty rare, we have been managing the heath for the past couple of years hoping to get it into the right condition for the butterfly to be reintroduced.


As well as creating scrapes we have also been scrub clearing, mowing and creating small burnt patches. The heath has been responding really well and we are hoping to be able to release butterflies this summer. It is going to be really exciting, just one more reason to look forward to the summer! More updates to follow later in the year.

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