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17 September 2014
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Grasslands - Slad and Stroud

Butterflies and Badgers

Cotswolds c/o Natural England anfd Paul Glendells

The Cotswolds are the largest of Britain's 36 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Crammed with gentle valleys, pretty villages and undulating hills, they're a tourist hotspot during the summer months, not least of all because of the rolling grasslands around Stroud and Slad.

Slad and Stroud Valleys - stunning scenery and rare creatures

The Slad and Stroud Valleys are amongst the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas of the Cotswolds.

It's where Laurie Lee wrote his famous novel, Cider with Rosie, and it retains much of its historic character.

Among its interesting wildlife are two creatures that are elusive and much sought-after.

The Adonis Blue butterfly can be spotted flitting around the valleys during the summer months.

Whilst the area is also a magnet for Badgers which are easier to see than you might expect - providing you join a local Badger safari.

Adonis Blue

Adonis Blue c/o Natural England and Peter WakelyDespite its small size, the Adonis Blue butterfly can be easily spotted due to its striking blue, iridescent colour.

This stunning butterfly is on the conservation priority list, having struggled to survive changes in farming and land use over the last few decades.

It went into a huge decline across its Southern grassland haunts and became extinct from the slopes of the Stroud valleys in the Cotswolds about 50 years ago.

A big reason for their decline was the collapse of the rabbit population when mixymatosis came to Britain.

The rabbits kept the grassland grazed and at the right level for the butterfly and plants to flourish, but when they disappeared, the right habitat structure for the butterflies was lost.

The nearest surviving colony is believed to be have been in the middle of the roundabout at the junction of the M4.

Conservation in action

Adonis BlueThanks to conservation and land management, the Adonis Blue is now making a comeback.

One of the reasons why it is flourishing could be to do with a motorway junction on the M4!

A motorway seems an unlikely place to find a rare butterfly but it provides a perfectly protected nature reserve.

During the good summer of 2003 the species suddenly reappeared in the Cotswolds.

The only adult butterflies that were near enough to fly to the area and re-colonise it were from the population at Junction 18 on the M4.

The National Trust has introduced cows to graze on the grassland at the right time of year.

The vegetation is kept at just the right height, much as it was when there was a large rabbit population.

As a result of this, when the butterflies turned up from the M4, they had a ready made habitat to colonise.

It's now possible to watch these stunning butterflies every summer.

Butterfly wings

Rodborough c/o Natural England and Peter WakelyAdonis Blues love lowland Jurassic limestone grasslands, over 80% of which are found in the Cotswolds.

The limestone is rich in calcium and plants love it, resulting in a great diversity of species plus a bountiful mix of insects and butterflies.

If you want to enjoy the Adonis Blue in a relaxing setting, Rodborough Common is a place to spot them.

The butterflies have a peak flight period when a maximum number of adults are on the wing - this actually happens twice every summer as two broods hatch.

The first brood appear in May with the second in August.

The male butterflies are blue whilst the females are a dowdier brown/black.

When they mate, they lay their eggs on a plant called Horse Shoe Vetch which lies very close to the ground, which allows for a strange but symbiotic relationship between the larvae and ants.

The larvae secrete a sugary substance that the ants like to feed on whilst the ants protect the caterpillar and chrysalis from predators.

Both sides benefit - the ants get food whilst the pupae are given protection.

Badger safari

BadgerBadgers have been a constant presence in the Slad and Stroud valleys.

Usually watching these animals involves a lot of waiting around, careful camouflaging and very often, disappointment.

But local Badger watching events provide a unique way of showing the public these shy animals.

Look out for tell-tale signs such as Badger poo and latrines or toilets.

Badgers are very clean and will dig a latrine away from the sett and only poo in this area.

It keeps their living area clean and also acts a boundary marker to other rival groups who may be tempted to stray into their territory.

Photo credits

Photograph of Adonis Blue and Rodborough courtesy and copyright of Natural England and Peter Wakely.

Image of the Cotswolds copyright of Paul Glendell and Natural England.



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