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Angus Biodiversity Project Wins Two National Awards

It’s been a very jolly awards season for the biodiversity community in Angus, with the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership earning a brace of national accolades.

This month, the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership’s project “Back from the Brink – Saving our Small Blue” won the much-coveted RSPB Nature of Scotland “Community Initiative Award”.

And then a few days ago in London, the same project achieved the Association of Local Government Ecologists’ 25th anniversary “Local Government Biodiversity Project” Award.

Angus Council Leader, Cllr David Fairweather, who is also the Small Blue Champion for Angus, said: “These are both tremendous achievements and a fitting reward for the sterling work of all those involved in the Partnership. The TBP brings people of all ages together to work with a shared pride and purpose – the conservation of our natural environment. I am very grateful for the selfless work they do and the many hours they volunteer to this important project.”

The Small blue (Cupido minimus) project was established as a five-year project in 2011 by TBP and Angus Council in an effort to conserve the UK’s smallest butterfly’s dwindling population. Working closely with the East Scotland Butterfly Conservation Branch, interest from local communities is increasing rather than decreasing and, as a result the project is now in its eighth year.

Its success means there is no end date in sight.

The Saving the Small Blue Project showcases how collaborative, community-focused conservation can succeed. Everyone plays their their part –local business Scotia Seeds provides Kidney Vetch seed to Celtica Wildflowers to grow on for planting along the coast; East Haven Together members have created a Kidney Vetch Trail; and Food is Free Carnoustie members nurture Kidney Vetch for Woodlands Primary School children to plant at Carnoustie Links.

Laura Ferguson, Principal Teacher at Woodlands Primary School in Carnoustie said: “We became aware of the Small Blue Butterfly around three years ago when we were asked to help plant Kidney Vetch down at Easthaven. Since then we have been involved in regularly planting Kidney Vetch, designing a poster for the Scottish Small Blue Week, a logo competition, hiding rocks painted with the Small Blue to raise awareness, and making bunting with the children’s pictures of the Small Blue. Our school is a Small Blue Champion school and we are committed to continuing to conserve this beautiful little butterfly.”

More than 85 volunteers have been trained to survey the butterfly and the extent of Kidney Vetch along the coast and ten landowners are actively engaged in habitat management to safeguard the butterfly. Since 2015 over 500 specially-grown Kidney Vetch plants have been planted at over 10 sites by some 100 community volunteers. This is increasing the extent of the important Kidney Vetch “corridors” much needed as food for the Small Blue caterpillars.

In 2016, the TBP and Butterfly Conservation (Scotland) set up the annual Scottish Small Blue Week (held in early June) to help publicise the urgency for surveying known Small Blue Butterfly sites and checking sites where the butterfly may expand to. Woodland Primary School once again championed the species by designing a logo, still in use to this day.

Angus is a very important east coast site for this endangered species, while there are other population remnants in Caithness, Moray, the Borders and Ayrshire.

During the project hundreds of people, of all ages, have shared their enthusiasm and knowledge with many other unknown champions. Winning two national awards in the space of just one week shows the project can be used as an exemplar to help conserve many more Scottish species.

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