He’s a very fussy butterfly – Ceredigion’s pearl-bordered fritillary

The pearl-bordered fritillary is a surprisingly discriminating little creature, and at Cwm Soden near Newquay on the Ceredigion coast, it’s work taking place during the winter which enables this flying ‘fuss-pot’ to live happily come the spring.

Pearl Bordered Fritillary at Ceredigion National Trust / Corrinne Manning

Pearl Bordered Fritillary at Ceredigion
National Trust / Corrinne Manning

This is the last site in this part of Wales where this increasingly rare butterfly can be found and it needs a variety of habitats to support it during its life cycle.  As Gwen Potter, Head Ranger for Llanerchaeron explained: “The scrub clearance will provide the clear areas the butterflies need to fly through.  The caterpillar feeds on spring flowers – common dog-violets in particular – so these need to be encouraged.”

Adults need access to dandelions in particular, in recently coppiced or clear-felled woodland with short, sparse vegetation.  As Gwen Potter said: “He’s one of the fussiest butterflies” – and it is our consistent and considered conservation work across Wales and across all seasons which enables this and many other threatened species of flora and fauna to survive.


Meet a Countryside Ranger

Did you know that there are forty local countryside rangers looking after our outdoor sites in Wales? We asked Gwen Potter to reflect on a summer’s work looking after our beautiful Ceredigion coast.

Ceredigion Ranger, Gwen Potter, with local schoolchildren

Ceredigion Ranger, Gwen Potter, with local schoolchildren

The best thing about this summer was taking our team of local long-term volunteers to enjoy the fruits of last winter’s labour at Cwm Sodden, near Cwmtudu. Through one of the worst winters in living memory, this dedicated group worked incredibly hard to clear scrub from old woodland meadows and coastal heath. It was a real pleasure to see their amazement at how the wild flowers had returned to the meadows and the heathland plants were thriving – the whole place was buzzing with insects and birdlife.

We’ve also had a lot of help from visiting volunteer groups and individuals. These included student groups from Swansea, doing their Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and from as far afield as the Basque country. I’ve also been greatly helped by having a full time volunteer, Kristina, and our Passport To Your Future Apprentice, Richard, both of whom are better rangers than me by now!

We’ve been working hard at eradicating invasive Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam at several of our sites. The areas that were done last year needed very little work this year and because we managed to get rid of it all before it flowered, it should become less of a problem in the future.

It’s also been a fantastic for spotting wildlife as we went about our work.  As well as the usual seals, we saw dolphins galore and even a basking shark visiting Mwnt.  It was especially good for invertebrates. We saw far more silver washed fritillary, dingy skipper and pearl bordered fritillary butterflies than last year, as well as moss carder bees and elm feeding moths. Two highlights stand out: an unexpected marbled white butterfly and a migrant hawker dragonfly.

I’m really pleased with how our events went this summer. The bush-craft and beach fun day went well and I’m currently getting ready for a wild foraging walk on the 24th of September at Cwmtudu. I’m also working on a coastal wildlife tracker-pack which will be available for families to use next summer. All in all, it’s been a great summer; but now, as winter approaches, the real work starts.