In the hands of Mother Nature

The Northern Brown Argus
The Northern Brown Argus

In mid-winter you might expect butterflies to be the last thing on my mind, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

However, conservation is all about planning ahead.

Torness Nuclear Power Station sits on its own estate, taking in over a mile of coastline and a ribbon of land comprising various habitats. Much monitoring of wildlife is carried out to inform land management practices. For instance, 16 species of butterfly have been recorded.

It seemed the only way we could increase that number was to plant specifically for butterfly species we knew to be in the area.

One such is the Northern Brown Argus, a hardy subalpine butterfly of northern Europe, which is only found in a few areas of Scotland and northern England where wild rock rose grows.

Northern Brown Argus will only lay its eggs on rock rose, so I have been busy planting it in carefully selected spots across the estate. Now I nervously watch my young plants in the depth of their first winter. This is long-term conservation with no guarantee of success.

The priority for the first few years will be to monitor the sites in which the plant does best. Once the rock rose has decided which aspects and habitats it likes, we may see some natural spread.

Then one summer day, maybe two, three or more years from now, a female Northern Brown Argus might stray from one of the three colonies we know to lie within a three miles or so of the estate.

She will be looking for rock rose. She will find it.

The rest is in the hands of Mother Nature.