Duke of Burgundy in the News
A nature conservation charity has bought land in Winchester to protect its wildlife habitat.
Deacon Hill, a 25-acre (10-hectare) site of scrub and chalk grassland, is home to the area's only stronghold of Duke of Burgundy butterflies.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust raised £130,000 from a public appeal to put towards the purchase.
The charity plans to restore the site, which is also home to a variety of birdlife, harvest mice and glow worms.
The charity launched a public appeal to raise the £130,000 needed to buy the land
Debbie Tann, from the charity, said "we are delighted" and thanked those who had finally made a "dream a reality".
The trust said it bought the land - for an undisclosed price - using money from the public appeal together with grants from Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park and a gift in the will of two local residents.
The wildlife trust competed the purchase on Friday.
Deacon Hill NNR near Winchester
Rare butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, wins MP’s vote
Not specifically Isle of Wight related, but given our MP, Bob Seely’s interest in wildlife, perhaps he’ll become species champion for the Isle of Wight butterfly, the Glanville fritillary.
Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, has ‘adopted’ one of the UK’s most threatened butterflies in a bid to boost its numbers.
The Duke of Burgundy has declined by 40% since the 1970s, but wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) has helped landowners across Hampshire to turn the county into a stronghold for the butterfly.
Ms Nokes has agreed to work with BC as a ‘Species Champion’ for the Duke of Burgundy.
Butterfly Conservation Officer, Rachel Jones, said:
“The Species Champion project is about MPs promoting species, habitats and positive management within their constituency and in Parliament.
“There are now 42 MP Species Champions across England and we’re really grateful that Ms Nokes has chosen to support BC and in particular, raise awareness of this declining butterfly.”
MP: “Thrilled to be working with BC”
The Hampshire MP recently joined BC staff on a visit to a Duke of Burgundy site near Stockbridge which is being looked after by woodland management company Tilhill Forestry.
“I’m thrilled to be working with BC to raise the profile of this rare butterfly and I’m hoping that by being a ‘Species Champion’ I can contribute to securing its future in Hampshire.
“We’re very lucky to be the national stronghold for this lovely butterfly and it was eye-opening to see how important it is for woodland managers like Tilhill Forestry to work together with others – not just on their land, but across an entire landscape – to conserve some of our rarest wildlife.”
Helping owner improve the woodland
Tilhill Forestry Senior Forest Manager, Stephen Taylor, said:
“We’ve been helping the owner of this particular woodland to maintain and improve conditions for the Duke of Burgundy and it was a pleasure to show Ms Nokes the work that has been carried out here.”
The Duke of Burgundy can be found across Hampshire throughout May and June with some of the best sites on the South Downs between Winchester and Petersfield.
The butterfly is fiercely territorial and despite measuring less than three centimetres across, will attack any flying insect that crosses its path.
The Duke’s upper wings are orange and brown, overlaid with a network of dark bars and stripes, while its underwing is a mix of burnt-orange and pale ochre with distinctive flashes of white.
Females are elusive and spend much of their time resting or flying low to the ground looking for suitable egg-laying sites. Eggs are laid on the caterpillar foodplants, either Cowslip or Primrose.
Wildlife-friendly UK farms help Duke of Burgundy butterfly numbers take flight
Formerly fluttering towards extinction, the species population has soared by 25% in a decade
In spring 2020, one of the biggest colonies of Duke of Burgundy butterflies was discovered in Dorset.
This is the time of year when the Duke of Burgundy, a small jewel of a butterfly named after an unknown aristocrat, takes to the wing.
Last spring, one of the biggest colony of Dukes in the country was discovered by Martin Warren, the author of Butterflies: A Natural History. This was a chance find but the thriving population on chalk downland in Dorset is no accident.
The Duke of Burgundy butterfly has made unexpected gains in recent years.
The hill is farmed by John Hiscock, an organic dairy farmer who supplies Waitrose, which requires farmers to devote at least 10% of their land to wildlife.
Supported by government payments for wildlife-friendly farming, Hiscock fenced the hill and lightly grazed it with cattle, creating perfect conditions – scrub and cowslips – for Duke caterpillars and butterflies.
Like many farmers, Hiscock is “thrilled” that he is reviving wildlife. “We have farmed organically for more than 20 years, with no pesticides, sprays or chemical fertilisers, allowing the wildlife habitat to improve and these rare butterflies to thrive along with many other species,” he says.
The United Kingdom loves its butterflies: Its Butterfly Conservation is the world’s largest insect-focused conservation organization, and it’s just helped yet another species recover from dangerously low numbers.
Ten years ago the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, named after an aristocrat from a faraway land, was found only in the southern Lake District and the North York Moors. At that point it was Britain’s rarest butterfly.
In the two decades prior, its numbers had fallen 46%. Now its population, of which the newly emerged adults will be preparing to take flight on May winds, has grown 25% between 2010 and 2020.
The Dukes on the Edge conservation program by the Butterfly Conservation was launched in 2011 in response to the dismal population surveys, and included 23 hectares of habitat restoration, management advice for 147 different sites where the Dukes were present, and rallying 1,000 volunteers ranging from landowners to concerned local citizens.
The Duke’s recovery was well-summarized when last spring a butterfly enthusiast and writer stumbled upon the largest single colony in the country.
The colony was found, according to the Guardian, on the hills of a Dorset organic dairy farm, whose owner has proudly supported habitat for butterflies, including the Duke, in his fields for 20 years.
A force for good
The Butterfly Conservation has championed the cause of hundreds of different species in decline. They convinced the UK government to use moths and butterflies as official biodiversity indicators, and manage 190 nature reserves in the country while conducting 1,600 events yearly to promote awareness of such insects and what they need to thrive in and around human civilization.
Flight corridors through the counties....
I know this website is all about Hampshires Butterflies, but it is important to remember that butterflies in adjoining counties have a part to play in what happens in our own county. The Sussex Downs are part of the South Downs National Park and so it is important to make sure the Duke of Burgundy and other species are in good shape there so if there is any possible breeding habitat in Hampshires range then they can 'naturally' breed there over time, and this will enable the species to have natural corridors between the counties. This is certainly the way forward for the species. West Harting Down bordering Hampshire has had a lot of conservation work, and the species has been seen on Harting Downs, so hopefully this will naurally drift over to fill in any gaps in the breeding range.
Neil looks on as a mating pair of Duke of Burgundy's make sure there is more to see in Sussex next season
Duke of Burgundy butterfly 'saviour' awarded
Published 16 June 2017
A butterfly enthusiast who almost single-handedly saved a rare species from extinction in Sussex has been awarded a British Empire Medal.
Neil Hulme, 56, from Worthing, West Sussex, spent 20 years volunteering to protect butterflies and moths.
The charity Butterfly Conservation said he saved the rare Duke of Burgundy by improving its local habitat on every known site.
Mr Hulme said: "It is a great honour to be recognised in this manner."
He added: "But the conservation of butterflies is always a team effort, so it is equally a recognition of my colleagues and particularly the volunteers of Butterfly Conservation Sussex Branch.
"This is also for my parents - my passion for butterflies and dedication to helping them is entirely their fault."
He worked with landowners and the South Downs National Park Authority to help improve the environment for butterflies.
Now some colonies have expanded in Sussex to become amongst the largest in the UK, including the Duke.
Butterfly Conservation chief executive Julie Williams said: "I am absolutely delighted Neil is being recognised for his dedication and amazing effort in conserving butterflies and moths over the last 20 years.
"His work on the Duke of Burgundy means this wonderful butterfly now has a future in Sussex."
Mr Hulme now leads a Heritage Lottery Funded project, Fritillaries For The Future, to conserve highly threatened fritillary butterflies across Sussex.
For a few weeks in July, Mr Hulme joins groups of people wandering English woods carrying strange produce, including rotting fish, Stinking Bishop cheese and dirty nappies, to bait the Purple Emperor, one of Britain's most elusive and beautiful butterflies.