Bicester 2020 funded by Butterfly conservation

by | Jan 4, 2021 |

This site is excellent for wildlife and is especially good for birds and butterflies and in particular species that rely to a lesser or greater extent on scrub which means we have a wide variety of warblers on site as well as Nightingales and at least four of the five Hairstreaks. The site is closed off from the public and its deer population is heavily controlled therefore the wildlife has limited disturbance and the scrub itself doesn’t have the distinct browse line that you can see at most sites throughout the UK.


Thanks to Butterfly conservation we were able to continue our conservation work at St. George’s Barracks, Bicester in October when we took a group of volunteers to create a blackthorn hedge for two of our rare hairstreak butterflies.  We started by clearing the front edge of the blackthorn down to ground level, we then laid the blackthorn behind this and left the thorn behind this as it is. In addition we went to the opposite side of the blackthorn (behind the thorn we had left standing) and coppiced a large amount of the willow that was growing there.

Next year the front section will produce fresh new shoots, the laid thorn will also sprout new shoots and continue to grow (any eggs will hopefully still be on the plants) and the thorn at the back should still be good habitat for the Black Hairstreak and if anything a bit better because it will get more sunshine due to the coppicing of the trees and the Blackthorn.

As a little bonus the work also allowed enough space for a digger to get through and clear a patch of a very overgrown pond where Great Crested Newts have been found, a little side project that is also going on to improve the site for aquatic species too.

Our final session of the year in December was with the help of volunteers from Atkins on a team building day.  Having been apart and stuck indoors working from home for months, it was great for them all to be outdoors in the fresh air, together but apart, having fun and forgetting about the pressures of work.     (If your organisation would like to join us on a team building day email
Hairstreaks are a group of butterflies of which the UK has 5 species. They very rarely visit gardens and therefore most people are unaware of their existence.  All of the hairstreaks have suffered declines in recent years primarily through either loss of habitat or poor management of their habitat and this is particularly true for the Brown and Black Hairstreaks. Both of these species feed on Blackthorn, a scrub species that can be found everywhere and in many places is so prevalent that it needs to be controlled, so it is surprising they are not seen more often but there could be a number of reasons for this. Black Hairstreaks enjoy sheltered, sunny (preferably south facing) thick stands of mature blackthorn, often on woodland edges or rides. The Brown Hairstreak on the other hand lays its eggs on young blackthorn growth and one of the big problems here is that when the farmer comes along and flails his hedge but also flails the Hairstreak eggs too.

Brown Hairstreak Male 

Brown Hairstreak female