Park Corner Heath in East Sussex is a postage stamp of acid grassland, heath and coppiced birch within a mixed woodland of planted pines and ancient beeches. The small reserve is managed for its butterflies and moths by Butterfly Conservation. The winter management by teams of volunteers maintains the clearings; this supports a range of butterflies but especially a reintroduced population of pearl-bordered fritillaries Boloria euphrosyne. These were once widespread in Eastern England but declined rapidly after the cessation of regular, rotational clearance of young woodlands for charcoal and timber; conservation efforts in Sussex therefore recreate the coppice in a handful of selected woodlands where large enough populations may once again become self sustaining; it is gardening for wildlife but undertaken for a most beautiful if unassuming little butterfly.
On a rare day of warmth but great grey clouds and fleeting sun, the butterflies are difficult to find but a basking female with a notch in the wing is followed by freshly emerged one; then fleeting views of fast-moving males zigging and zagging fast and low over the heath and stopping to feed on bugle Ajuga reptans. Finally, a male finds a waiting female and we find the mating pair stuck together and stock still on a low bramble sprig; the pair show off their bright orange, yellow and pearly white, filigreed undersides.
The heathland is filled with the sound of birds; blackcaps and garden warblers, song thrushes and blackbirds. It is a fine backdrop of spring song to the brilliant butterflies.
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BC bought Park Corner Heath when I was Conservation Officer for the Sussex Branch. It was a bit of a gamble at the time but it’s good to know that it’s thriving. Old Lodge was another site I knew well back then and these glimpses of East Sussex localities bring lots of memories back.