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Observations of the habitats of the Small Heath Butterfly

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 7:29 pm
by Perseus

Small Heath
Coenonympha pamphilus ... ll%20Heath

The main foodplants are Bents (various) (Agrostis spp.), Fescues (various) (Festuca spp.) and Meadow-grasses (various) (Poa spp.).

For the foodplants reason this is another candidate for a species of butterfly that might prefer pastures over meadows.
This butterfly is to be found on the short sward rather than long sward meadows.

Adur observations:
This is an occasional to very frequent butterfly on the downs in the Adur area, Sussex.

Lancing Ring long sward wildlife meadows: not known
Lancing Ring fringes of shorter sward: records supplied by Brenda Collins
Pastures near Lancing Ring: no records held of this butterfly
Wasteland near Lancing Ring: at least one report
Mill Hill upper long sward meadows: occurs with the first brood early in the year when the sward is shorter
Mill Hill middle slopes with scrub: occurs regularly
Mill Hill lower slopes, original chalkhill: best location, frequent
Anchor Bottom conservation pastures: occurs occasionally to frequently but not as high densities as Mill Hill, but widespread over a large area
Slonk Hill Cutting road bank: occurs sparsely
Adur Levels verges (resemble wildlife meadows): scarce
Southwick Hill cattle pasture at lower densities than commercially: absent or scarce

Summary from Adur:
This butterfly is one that will be found on pastures in greater numbers than on meadows. The wide range of natural grasses listed as food plants makes this widespread in occurrence where suitable.
However, the prime habitat is ungrazed wasteland, heaths and downs e.g. Mill Hill is best.
Occurs in lesser densities on conservation pastures
Tends to be absent on wildlife meadows (may lose out to other insects, %/or choice of grasses favour less fertile habitats).

Again, I surmise that grazing confers no advantages and this butterfly persists despite low intensity grazing. Rabbits may help though by cropping grassy areas on wasteland.

Nature Notes for Lancing Ring
Anchor Bottom
Mill Hill 2007
Shoreham Bank 2007

Andy Horton
Adur Valley Nature Notes

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 10:09 pm
by Matsukaze
An outright rarity near to me which occurs regularly at just two or three places, strangely all associated with disused coal mines. The sites in many ways are quite different but share a very low, sparse sward, with areas of bare ground, and a reasonable quantity of nectaring plants. None, to my knowledge, are grazed.

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 10:31 pm
by Perseus
Limited observations indicate that Small Heaths need a bit of scrub for their mating. More so than other butterflies of the chalk downs. But even Chalkhill Blues appreciate a little bit of scrub. Shelter.

Posted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 12:36 am
by eccles
I found small heath in Somerset last year at an un-named SSSI near Hatch Hill on the East Polden reserves, also on the lower slopes of Crook Peak. The latter site is also good for wall and grayling near the top of the hill.

Posted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 9:10 am
by Dave McCormick
I found 1 small heath not that far away from me in a disused lead mine that was turned into a country park. Only saw in one light grassy/flowery area. Going back next year to see if I can find them again.