Butterfly Surveyors

Our team of Butterfly Surveyors are led by SDS volunteer, Sarah Quantrill. New recruits are always welcome! If you’d like to join in, just complete our New Volunteer’ form and we’ll be in touch.

The Steyning Downland Scheme is a really special place to see butterflies.  Located in the dip slope of the South Downs, we have a rich community of classic chalk downland species, together with others from the farmed landscape of the western Low Weald.

Adonis Blue, a chalk grassland specialist

Our chalk butterflies include the scarce Adonis Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper. In good years, we have a strong population of Small Tortoiseshell (a farmland butterfly) that breed on our nettle beds. But perhaps our claim to fame is being the best site in the UK to see the Brown Hairstreak. Its foodplants are shrubs of the genus Prunus, chiefly Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), a common hedgerow plant. Our team of Conservation Volunteers manage our clumps of Blackthorn specially for the butterfly. In late summer we are visited by butterfly enthusiasts from across southern England and beyond, hoping to see this elusive butterfly.

Brown Hairstreak

Our Butterfly Surveyor team started as part of the Steyning Dukes and Downland Project in 2014. This was a partnership project between the Steyning Downland Scheme, South Downs National Park Authority, Butterfly Conservation South East and Wakehurst Place, Kew, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The aim of the project was to create conditions suitable for the rare and threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly to return to the Steyning Downland but we also started to monitor all the butterflies on the land.

SDS Volunteers and South Downs Rangers plant locally grown Cowslip and Primrose as part of the Steyning Dukes and Downland Project

Amazingly, The Duke began to re-colonise the Steyning Downland in 2020! Meanwhile we’ve also collected lots of useful information on the other butterflies which make their home here.

The Butterfly Surveyors are led by SDS volunteer, Sarah Quantrill and we’re very grateful for advice and support from butterfly expert, Neil Hulme. The surveyors are given full training in butterfly identification and follow three predetermined walks, or ‘butterfly transects’, so the monitoring data is comparable year on year. You can see the data collected so far on our Biodiversity Records page.