Recording Charlecote's butterflies
Take a stroll through the gardens and parkland from spring until the last warm days of autumn and look out for butterflies dancing from flower to flower. We take more than a passing glance at them though.
Three years ago it was decided to set up a volunteer group who would formally monitor the butterflies in Charlecote Park on a regular basis.
The Warwickshire representative of the British Butterfly Trust was instrumental in setting up appropriate transects (wide walking routes) in different areas of the parkland. It was important that each transect included different habitats for the surveys.
We now have three transects in West Park, Hill Park and Front Park, as well as in the gardens. The team walks each of these routes weekly from April to October. The weather is recorded and the number and species of butterflies that we see is noted within the 5-metre-wide corridor as the recorder walks at a slow pace along the route.
We now have two years of detailed records, but three years of data are required before reliable trends can be identified. Before our volunteer group was established we had only carried out the occasional, rather informal, recording of the butterflies in the parkland.
What might you see?
Twenty-two different butterfly species have been spotted and there have been reports of Purple Hairstreaks in West Park, no doubt due to our oak trees, their natural habitat.
When the Charlecote data is compared with similar sites, last year saw a big increase in Marbled Whites, Small Tortoiseshells, Meadow Browns, Large Whites and Ringlets.
However, the familiar Peacocks and the Green-veined Whites saw a drop in numbers. We're hoping that the large number of caterpillars we've spotted indicate a better year for them.
If you are walking in the gardens, the most likely butterflies that you will see are Skippers – both Small and Large species, Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Commas, Whites (Small, Large and Green-veined), Red Admirals, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. Early on in the year, you may also see Yellow Brimstones (often the first in flight in spring) and Orange Tips.
If you are out in the parkland, look out for Marbled Whites, Speckled Woods, Holly Blues, Common Blues, and Ringlets.
Flowers for nectar
Out in the parkland, our ongoing wildflower planting will increase plant diversity and benefit all the insects in this habitat. The caterpillars of butterflies feed on many of the plants in the parkland, such as the Common Blue on bird’s-foot trefoil.
We leave patches of nettles too, as the foliage and flowers support moths, butterflies and many other insects. Dandelions are also left to flower as an important source of nectar early in the year.
Matt our gardener ensures that there is something in flower throughout the year for all our insects from the earliest spring bulbs and scented shrubs to nectar-rich sedums and dahlias in the autumn.
Our data is sent off to the British Butterfly Trust to add to their national records. Charlecote is now registered as a recording site for butterflies and our data contributes to the overall status of butterflies throughout the country.
We’d love to know what you see when you visit – why not take a picture and send it to us on social media.