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Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 14:31 UK
Lambourn butterfly conservation
By Emma Midgley
BBC Berkshire

Marsh Fritillary
The Marsh Fritillary lays its eggs on Devilsbit Scabious

Butterfly fans can come along to a special conservation project taking place at Sheepdrove Farm in Lambourn on Tuesday 22 September 2009.

On the the autumn equinox, when day and night are equal in length, volunteers will be planting Devilsbit Scabious plants to attract the Marsh Fritillary.

Lambourn is close to the last known Berkshire colony of the rare butterfly.

Volunteers will also be planting 120 Horseshoe Vetch plants to attract Chalkhill Blue butterflies.

In April 2009, volunteers at Sheepdrove Farm planted 400 Devilsbit Scabious in order to attract Marsh Fritillary butterflies to lay their eggs on the plants.

Since then, the area has been grazed lightly with cattle to conserve the right conditions for the butterfly and its host plant.

"All it takes is a few Marsh Fritillary females to find us and lay eggs on these plants and a new colony can begin," says Jason Ball, who devised the Sheepdrove Rare Butterfly Project.

"We aim to establish the second colony known in Berkshire."

The Lambourn Valley is an important part of the country for rare butterflies, as the habitat needed by many butterflies have been nudged to the periphery of towns and industrialised farmland.

The Rare Butterfly Project at Sheepdrove Organic Farm may be able to increase the populations of species such as the Marsh Fritillary, Small Blue and Chalkhill Blue.

"The Marsh Fritillary is a threatened species in dire need of help," said farm owner Peter Kindersley.

Sheepdrove Organic Farm is strongly involved with wildlife conservation and this is the latest example of the farm's biodiversity work to be approved by Natural England.

The Butterfly Conservation Project will be held on Tuesday 22 September, from 14.00 to 17.00 at the farm office, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn.

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