Nature lovers in a flap over rare butterfly
A RARE butterfly, last seen in North Somerset in the 1990s, has been spotted at a Congresbury nature reserve.
The butterfly, the Essex skipper, was seen at the nature reserve managed by Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group (YACWAG) at its nature reserve at Congresbury Moor.
There is only one record of the species being seen in the district at Walton Common in the 1990s.
The orangey brown butterfly, which looks more like a moth, is normally found in the South East and is similar to the small skipper.
YACWAG has been managing its Congresbury nature reserve in a butterfly friendly way for the last 12 years, encouraging the breeding of grassland butterflies.
The group has seen an increase in the number of butterflies at its reserve, despite a national picture of decline.
Many butterflies have been lost due to intensive farming and what has been called "the tidying up of the countryside".
YACWAG has deliberately left areas of grass uncut so that insects can complete their life-cycles.
YACWAG chairman Tony Moulin said: "Of the butterflies that used to be common in the countryside they lay their eggs in fields and the caterpillars eat specific types of grass.
"If the grass is cut or grazed all the time there is no opportunity for those caterpillars to turn into butterflies.
"By chance I was leaving the field at dusk and looked closely at what I thought was a small skipper.
"I noticed the distinctive black tips to the antennae which is the give-away difference between the Essex and the small skipper.
"It could have been breeding in the field unnoticed for a few years."
The new discovery comes just at the time when the charity Butterfly Conservation launches its Big Butterfly Count.
People are being encouraged to spend 15 minutes on a sunny day between now and July 31 recording all the butterflies they see in their garden, park or countryside.
Last year 10,000 people took part.
Tony added: "The Big Butterfly Count is providing crucial information on common butterflies suffering steep declines, including the small tortoiseshell and the meadow brown.
"We would like local people to take part and see if they can find any more Essex skippers on their own local nature reserve."
To take part go to www.bigbutterflycount.org.