Cowslip on Butser Hill

The recent spell of cold and wet weather has reversed the positive effects of the early Spring, with the Park’s reptiles and butterflies disappearing from view. Even the tadpoles in the visitor centre pond have sunk to the bottom feeling the temperature drop with the last frost which occurred on Friday night/Saturday morning.

The wildflowers however have benefitted from much-needed rain and can cope a little better with the cold. Across the site, both on Butser and in the Forest there are many species currently in flower. At this time of year blue and yellow are the most common colours.

The centre shop sells simple identification guides and there are regular walks and talks in the events programme to help visitors to learn more about the huge number of plants growing in the Park. For more information see the Park Pages on the web-site at www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

To see the slopes of Butser covered in Cowslip at this time of year it can be difficult to see the obvious need for habitat management. But without the grazing animals and assorted tractor mounted cutting machinery (see earlier posts), at key times of the year, these wonderful wildflowers would be swamped by more vigorous species. Shrubs and bramble would soon take over and the grassland would revert to scrub and eventually woodland.

The Cowslip and Primrose are food plants for the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, for which Butser Hill is a key stronghold for a population that is under pressure on a national scale  due to habitat loss and climate change. Early sightings of the DoB have stopped all together due to the poor weather and the early season generation will not have a good breeding year as a result.

Primrose growing in the Forest

   Butterfly Conservation a national charity committed to ‘saving butterflies, moths and our environment’. They are currently running a 3 year project which is called ‘Dukes on the Edge’ which is trying to halt the decline of the DoB across an area of S.E England.

 The project funded some Winter habitat management on Butser, specifically on Little Butser and Wascombe Valley.

This Saturday Butterfly Conservation are running a training day about the DoB. This is taking place in the Park theatre, and weather permitting one of these fascinating butterflies will put in an appearance on the hill. Pre-booking is required for this event.

More details can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org

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