This first summer has seen a host of corncockles in flower on Lark Meadow, as well as the establishment of dove’s foot geranium and traditional meadow grass species like the wonderfully-named common bent, sweet vernal grass, crested dogstail, sheep’s fescue, red fescue, and even some quaking grass.
People often forget how important grasses are for butterflies so see our post Don't Forget The Very Hungry Caterpillar to find out more. But, of course, as they say, the proof of the pudding is the eating. So how did our local wildlife respond to our fledgling meadow creation?
The butterflies of Lark Meadow
On 7th August 2022, two of our trustees carried out a survey in the meadow for Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count and counted 23 common blue butterflies along with 9 gatekeepers and 4 brown argus. Out of some 70 sites surveyed in Long Ashton, South Bristol and Barrow Gurney, this newly sown meadow had the most common blues recorded on one day. Additionally, there was only one other record of a brown argus. A little bit of research shows us that dove’s foot geranium is a food source for the caterpillars of the brown argus butterfly. Top result!
However, overall, the results of 2022’s Big Butterfly Count showed a worrying decline in numbers. The message is clear – we need more habitat for butterflies and caterpillars to thrive in.
A helping hand with plug plants
So, for Lark Meadow’s second year, we are keen to add in some plug plants next spring. For this, we hope people can find a corner of their garden to help us germinate trays of seeds of yellow rattle and meadow scabious over the winter. (We distributed these at the village open day). Yellow rattle needs cold, damp weather to germinate successfully. So both are undemanding plants. Once germinated, they’d just need a bit of watering every now and then if there’s a dry spell.
And maybe next spring, you can help us plant the plugs in the meadow and enjoy the feeling of encouraging habitat restoration and watching the butterflies respond.