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Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 15:04 UK
Boost for butterflies at reserve
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Pearl bordered fritillary
Numbers of the pearl-bordered fritillary have increased at Marsland

Conservationists in Devon are delighted with the re-emergence of two species of butterfly which are struggling for survival in other parts of the country.

Populations of pearl-bordered and small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies at the Devon Wildlife Trust's Marsland nature reserve have been monitored.

Numbers at the 190-hectare reserve on the North Devon coast have increased dramatically in the summer of 2009.

The recovery is being attributed to careful habitat management practices.

Further habitat improvements are now to be made at other parts of the reserve, following a grant of almost £5,000 from the Pennon Environmental Fund.

The work will concentrate on scrub management and coppicing. Gorse and scrub will be cleared on the steep south-facing valley sides to provide perfect egg-laying conditions for the female butterflies.

Marsland nature reserve
The 190-hectare Marsland nature reserve is on the coast

Bracken will also be cut and then raked to encourage violets - the food plant of the fritillary larvae.

The increase in numbers at Marsland comes at a time of major decline for both species nationally.

The pearl-bordered fritillary is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

The small pearl-bordered is more widespread but has undergone a serious decline in recent years.

Senior nature reserves officer at the Devon Wildlife Trust, Gary Pilkington said: "We have worked hard over the last two decades to improve the habitat for these beautiful and rare insects.

"It is great to see such positive improvements compared to the 50% decline nationally for both species.

"This grant will enable our work to continue to help these amazing butterflies to expand here at Marsland and we look forward to next summer's count to see if we have further increases in numbers."

Other species which will benefit from the cash injection include the grizzled and dingy skipper butterflies, birds such as linnets and spotted flycatchers, and mammals such as the dormouse.


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