Author Jess Price
With the Big Butterfly Count happening this month its a terrific chance to get out in the sunshine and enjoy the wonderful butterflies on display. Sussex is a great county for butterflies and July is a particularly good time to see many of them. I must admit that butterflies are not exactly my forte, however since I started working for Sussex Wildlife Trust my identification skills have improved. Working in a place like Woods Mill everyday does give me bit of an advantage, but you dont have to go onto a nature reserve to see butterflies; large white, holly blue and small tortoiseshell butterflies are all common in urban locations in July. Basically anywhere with an abundance of nectar producing flowers and some sunshine is a potential butterfly spot.
No matter what type of habitat you find yourself in during July, you might see a butterfly. White admirals, speckled wood and comma butterflies can all be found flitting about in sunny glades of woodlands at this time of year, whilst small blue butterflies are often seen in costal habitats. Any area of unimproved grassland is likely to support many species including meadow browns, gatekeepers and marbled whites. Of course some butterfly species are harder to catch sight of than others. The brown hairstreak for example is a particularly elusive butterfly. The adults spend most of their lives high up in trees or hidden in blackthorn hedgerows and unfortunately the large amount of hedgerow removal that has occurred over the last century has caused a big decline in their numbers.
Identifying and recording the species we see is an interesting and rewarding past-time and you really do not have to be an expert to get involved. In fact butterflies are a great starting point for anybody interested in improving their identification skills. There are fewer than 60 species of butterfly regularly found in the UK compared to over 500 species of bird and around 2500 species of moth! Also butterflies can tell us a lot about whats going on in an area. They seem to be very sensitive to changes in habitat and climate, so many scientists use them as an indicator of how our native wildlife will respond to factors such as climate change and increased urban development. This means that the better we get at identifying and recording species, the more we know about the affects humans have on the environment. Hopefully we can then use this information to conserve the habitats and species we have left.