English-born chequered skipper butterflies are flying for the first time in more than 40 years, following an ambitious conservation project from Back from the Brink.
Chequered skipper butterflies first became extinct in England in 1976 as a result of habitat loss due to a change in woodland management.
The butterflies currently on the wing are the offspring of adults originating from Fagne-Famenne region of Belgium, which were released into a secret location in Rockingham Forest in Northamptonshire last year. Read about last year’s reintroduction.
Another batch of butterflies have been translocated from Belgium to England this year.
“Seeing my first ever English-born chequered skipper, just as we were about to release the ones, we had bought back from Belgium was an incredible moment, as a scientist I was surprised by the sheer emotion of the moment,” says Dr Nigel Bourn from Butterfly Conservation.
The reintroduction forms part of the larger Roots of Rockingharm project, which aims to restore the forest to its former glory to the benefit of many species including willow tit, lesser spotted woodpecker and barbastelle bat.
Conservationists hope that this population will become the foundation of a new English population of chequered skipper butterflies.
“Reintroducing a species is not a quick fix, and the challenge now is to make sure that woodland management across the landscape can provide the habitats the chequered skipper needs into the future,” says Bourn.
It is hoped that once the butterfly population is secure, the public will be able to visit and enjoy seeing chequered skippers fly in England again.
The species has a limited distribution in Scotland. Conservationists choose to use Belgian butterflies for the reintroduction due to similarities in the habitats and plants between the Fagne-Famenne region and Rockingham Forest.
Main image: Chequered skipper. © Andrew Cooper