Sep 08 2021

Purple Emperor makes a royal visit to Heartwood

Heartwood volunteers have taken part in a guided walk this summer to look out for the Purple Emperor butterfly. On 17th July the volunteers teamed up with the Hertfordshire and Middlesex butterfly conservation group, with the aim of spotting the Purple Emperor butterfly at Heartwood and recording other butterfly species along the way. The visit was a success as the Purple Emperor was spotted and the walk was well attended with two groups forming led by Heartwood volunteer Andrew Steele and Malcolm Hull, chairman of the Herts and Middlesex butterfly conservation. The highlight of the walk was the group having several sightings of Purple Emperors on the ground as well as some spotted high up in the trees.


During the walk many species were spotted including marbled whites and small / Essex skippers, these being the most numerous species recorded. Skippers are notoriously difficult to identify owning to their busy demeanour, but the volunteers where able to make positive identifications once the opportunity allowed!



Other butterfly species recorded on the day included meadow brown, ringlet, gatekeeper, brimstone, large white, small whites, green-veined white, and small tortoiseshell.


The Woodland Trust is extremely fortunate to have a number of volunteer wildlife monitors on site at Heartwood. Split into smaller groups the monitors survey a number of different types of wildlife, including small mammals, bats, invertebrates and birds.


The volunteers team up throughout the year in their specialist groups to record various species seen on site, and interpret the results, reporting back to the group during regular meetings. The results are used to inform how the site is managed for the benefit of wildlife. The data collected is sent to the local biological records centre for use by all.



To find out more about the work of the Herts and Middlesex butterfly conversation group please visit their website Butterfly Conservation Hertfordshire and Middlesex Branch Sightings page ( You can also learn more about Butterfly Conservation’s new project ‘Big City Butterflies’ Big City Butterflies ( which encourages people living in London and the surrounding areas to spot and record butterfly species.


Volunteer Brian Legg has written a book all about the butterfly species found at Heartwood. Heartwood Butterflies – for £4.50.  So far they have sold over 50 copies this year, with proceeds shared between the St Albans WT Support Group and Hertfordshire Butterfly Conservation.  Copies are available at Carpenters’ Nursery on the St Albans road, Sandridge and can be posted out by email, there is an additional £2 for p&p.



Amanda Brookes: Volunteering Development Officer (Central region)

Feature image and image 1 Purple Emperor photographs:  Iain H Leach

Image 2 Marbled White Butterfly, John Bridges / WTML

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