Good British bittern, butterfly news

This video is about a bittern male singing.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Swallowtail butterflies and bitterns mark national park success

Friday 8th December 2017

PETER FROST reports some excellent news from the Broads national park

SINCE 2010 Britain’s family of national parks have experienced cut upon cut in funding from a Tory government that made the hollow pledge to be “the greenest government ever”.

Now Michael Gove has been given the post of environment secretary it is unlikely that we will see any better treatment of these bastions of excellent environmental practice in our green and pleasant land.

Gove’s previous voting record suggests he is not very green at all. He has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change, protect wildlife and reduce emissions.

We know he would be happy to sell off our state-owned woodland. He voted in 2011 in favour of selling off all 635,000 acres of public woodlands and forest preserved by the Forestry Commission.

Two years later, he voted against setting a target range for the amount of greenhouse gases produced per generated unit of electricity.

He supports fracking, having voted in 2015 against requiring an environmental permit for hydraulic fracking activities. He also voted against a review of the impact of fracking on climate change and the environment.

He supports both the badger cull and the reintroduction of fox hunting with dogs.

All this bad news from Defra and its Minister Gove hasn’t stopped our wonderful national parks doing what they can from a fast-reducing funding purse.

One really good bit of news is that in the Broads national park it has been a record year for two iconic wetland species.

The first is the bittern (Botaurus stellaris), Britain’s rarest and shyest heron which was hunted almost to extinction by Victorian taxidermists, so-called sportsmen and gourmands. Not for nothing was the shy but delicious bird known as the buttery bittern.

Bittern numbers are increasing dramatically now and nowhere more so than on the broads, rivers and reed beds of Norfolk and Suffolk.

This video shows a swallowtail butterfly, from egg to adult.

A significant increase was noted in recorded numbers of the iconic swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon, pictured right) in 2017 — this rare and Broads-specific species has seen its highest population levels since 2011.

The swallowtail species is dependent on milk parsley. This is the plant upon which they lay their eggs and eat as their sole food source when caterpillars. The Broads national park is a sanctuary for milk parsley, a tall umbrella shaped plant that loves wetlands supplied with chalky water. It depends on open fen as well as the correct water level and management to prevent scrub growth.

The successes of bitterns and butterflies and a number of other threatened wetland species are the result of efforts by the Broads Authority working with biodiversity partners like the RSPB and local landowners.

Together they have successfully increased the area of restored open fen to a figure last seen as long ago as 1946.

Weather conditions too have played a crucial role in the case of the swallowtail. The growth of the milk parsley, the flight pattern of the swallowtails and the swallowtail pupae lying attached to the base of reed stems can all be affected by wet and dull weather conditions.

The good weather of 2016 and 2017 has given the butterflies an opportunity to thrive without the threat of harsh conditions.

They used to appear in late May and June, but, in recent years, a sizable second brood in late summer has given them a added chance at increasing their numbers.

National Park senior ecologist Andrea Kelly told us: “This summer provided good weather conditions for flying butterflies and some days you could see literally hundreds of these big yellow and black butterflies zooming over the rich fen vegetation finding mates and searching for a drink of nectar.

“With the continuation of vital fen management and landowners creating favourable wetland habitats across the marshes, rich in milk parsley, the Broads Authority hopes to ensure that the swallowtail butterfly population will be resilient to a changing climate.”

So it seems we have good news despite, not because of, Gove’s work as environment minister.

Peter Frost served on the Broads Authority for a decade before his retirement some years ago.

6 thoughts on “Good British bittern, butterfly news

  1. Pingback: Ackerdijkse plassen Dutch nature reserve | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  4. Pingback: Butterflies, lobsters threatened by climate change | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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