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John Clarkson

NatureSpot trustee

Head of Conservation, Leicestershire &   Rutland Wildlife Trust

Small Copper

Lycaena phlaeas

Why did you choose this species?

For me, one of the finest treasures of summer is the colony of small coppers basking in the rough grassy pastures next to home. The late July-August second broods in particular remind me of the fruitfulness of summer, and that beauty doesn't have to be rare, exotic or carnivorous. The countryside would not be the same without these feisty little defenders of their favourite patch.

What are the threats that it faces?

Whilst perhaps not particularly threatened - their status is considered to be medium priority - the abundance of small copper butterflies has declined by about 45% over the last 45 years and it is not entirely clear why. The loss of rough open grassy spaces rich with sorrels and docks is clearly an issue but it may be that climate change is the bigger threat: as the summers get warmer and drier the shrivelling foodplants may no longer be capable of supporting the caterpillars, particularly in the last/third generation pre-wintering broods.

What can we do to help this species and others like it?

Help protect the rough patches of sorrels and docks in grassy areas, seeking to ensure that they remain so and don't either become too tall or too short (or cleared by herbicides). And do whatever you can to help reduce our impacts on the climate.

What are your wider interests in nature?

I'm a generalist, really, with an interest in every taxonomic group (except perhaps viruses and bacteria!). I've been lucky enough to work on the conservation of all sorts of species, from badgers and dormice, lesser horseshoe bats and great crested newts, to small white orchids and large blue butterflies. I'm also an ecocentric, with an interest in concepts of re-wilding, ecological justice and telos.

Where is your favourite place for enjoying nature?

There are too many to choose! There are over 300 different species of moths which visit my garden (and that's only counting those I can identify!), the ospreys of Rutland a joy, the wildlife trust's nature reserves are fab, etc., etc. Further afield, the otters and eagles of the west coast of Scotland are awesome, the whales off Vancouver Island a world-apart, the forests of Costa Rica incredible, etc., etc.! Probably simply being at home and enjoying the wildlife I see here every day and on occasion.

What are your top tips for helping wildlife?

Keep it messy and wild - let nature do its thing. Lighten your ecological footprint as far as you can, for the sake of future generations. Join a conservation charity, and enjoy the company of like-minded people. Do one (small) thing for wildlife every day. And have a go at random acts of introducing other people to the joys of appreciating the wildlife that we share the planet with.