New guide to Heartwood Forest’s wildlife published
PUBLISHED: 17:21 12 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:32 12 August 2020
Conservationists have published a detailed and lavishly-illustrated guide to the wealth of butterflies now living in newly planted woodland on the fringe of St Albans.
Visitors to Heartwood Forest will now have the help of a 44-page booklet to identify up to 30 butterfly species.
The forest was created by the Woodland Trust, which transformed the arable field near Sandridge into the huge native forest in 2009.
Heartwood Butterflies, produced by a four-strong team of experts and enthusiasts, features photographs showing key identification features, and explains with the help of a detailed map how to find species like the spectacular purple emperor.
Lead author Brian Legg, who lives near Wheathampstead, has been a volunteer at the 350-hectare maturing for 10 years and helped to plant the 600,000 trees and shrubs there.
He said: “I am not really a butterfly specialist, but the book is a tribute to the amazing surveys done by Andrew Steel and Jim Paterson. They have been surveying the butterflies every week for the last ten years. That has shown how butterflies have increased four-fold over that time in response to management.”
Researchers have been recording the colourful insects meticulously by walking two regular survey routes from April to mid-October every year since 2009, when tree-planting started.
The book explains how the wood’s butterfly population has boomed in response to conservation measures agreed between the Woodland Trust and the charity Butterfly Conservation.
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For example, records of marbled whites, almost unknown in Hertfordshire until the late 1990s, have exploded to more than 600 in 2019, from just 10 in 2010.
The book explains the different lifestyles of each species, detailing how particular foodplants are crucial to ensure the caterpillars can blossom into the colourful adults that visitors enjoy seeing.
It includes illustrations of some of the more obvious day-flying moths that can be found at Heartwood Forest, and a few butterfly species that may arrive as the woodland matures in the near future.
Experts from Butterfly Conservation’s Hertfordshire and Middlesex branch last month led a socially-distanced tour of the area, showing two groups not only at least two charismatic purple emperors, but also such local scarcities as small blues and a clouded yellow.
Branch chair Malcolm Hull said: “Heartwood Forest would be an excellent place to help us in our Big Butterfly Count, which runs until August 9.
“We are asking you to spend just 15 minutes in your garden, local park or another sunny spot to record the butterflies you see. Last year over 100,000 people took part and we are hoping for more this year. The results provide really useful information to help us to track how the different species are doing.
“To take part visit our website, Bigbutterflycount.org or download the ap.”
The book is on sale for just £4, with all profits split between Butterfly Conservation and the Woodland Trust. It can be ordered online at www.hertsmidx-butterflies.org.uk, where the charity also publishes details of its guided walks around Heartwood Forest and other local hotspots. Alternatively, email email@example.com pick up a copy at Carpenters Nursery, Sandridge.
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