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Project information

Protecting the Five Hairstreaks

The Oxford and Ampthill Clays are the only place in the UK where all five of the hairstreak family of butterflies can be found. We need to protect this unique location and ensure all of these beautiful butterflies have a safe future.

2 years

Charity information: Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation logo
  • Need


    There are 5 species of hairstreak butterfly in the UK. Of all butterflies, this group is particularly at risk of habitat destruction, especially from development and changes in farming practices. The Black Hairstreak and Brown Hairstreak have faced losses due to inappropriate hedgerow and woodland edge management. The White-letter Hairstreak has suffered due to Dutch elm disease since the 1970s. Even the more common Purple Hairstreak and Green Hairstreak have suffered declines in recent years.


    This project will protect the Black Hairstreak and Brown Hairstreak in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire area, working with local land-managers to enhance the networks of hedgerows they rely on. It will also promote the planting of native elms for White-letter Hairstreak. The project will raise the profile of hairstreak butterflies encouraging people to find out more about them and submit their sightings, providing us with valuable information on the behaviour of these important butterflies.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Increase and enhance the available habitat for the Black Hairstreak and Brown Hairstreak.


    » Identify specific areas with scope for enhancement of hedgerow habitat.
    » Work with partners and landowners to improve and enhance the network of high quality hedgerows in the landscape.
    » Monitor butterfly numbers before and after work is undertaken.

    What success will look like

    Black and Brown Hairstreaks will flourish in their new and improved hedgerow habitats. More people will enjoy seeing them and their sightings will help map the butterflies progress

    Aim 2

    Increase and enhance the available habitat for the White-letter Hairstreak.


    » Identify specific areas with scope for enhancement of planting of native Elm trees.
    » Encourage the planting of Elm trees to provide foodplants for the White-letter Hairstreak.
    » Monitor butterfly numbers before and after work is undertaken.

    What success will look like

    White-letter Hairstreaks will thrive as more elms will be present in the landscape. More people will be able to see them, learn about them and get involved in conserving them.

    Aim 3

    Recruit volunteers to conserve and monitor hairstreak butterflies in the landscape.


    » Engage with people in the local area to reach those interested in volunteering to protect local wildlife.
    » Provide training and hold events for volunteers to learn about identifying butterflies and the activity to conserve them.

    What success will look like

    More people will be engaged in recording butterflies over a wider area and experiencing the benefits of conservation volunteering for their health, wellbeing and enjoyment.

    Aim 4

    Celebrate the presence of hairstreak butterflies within the landscape.


    » Attend high profile local public events to engage people and encourage them to learn more about hairstreaks and other butterflies they might see.
    » Use media and social media to promote the importance of the area for butterflies.
    » Arrange events and activities for local people to find the five hairstreaks.

    What success will look like

    The value of this ‘five hairstreaks landscape’ will be more widely known and appreciated. Conservation action to protect hairstreaks and their habitats will be better supported.

  • Impact


    This project will improve the habitat, not only for hairstreak butterflies, named after the thin white line they all bear on their underside, but for a wide variety of other butterflies, moths and other species such as Nightingale, Song Thrush and Bank Vole. It will encourage the local community to appreciate the importance of this special landscape and will increase conservation volunteering capacity in this region, not just for this project but for other vital work now and in the future.


    Cooperation of landowners/managers - mitigated by using our extensive experience of advising land managers in a way that is sensitive to their needs.
    Failure to engage wider public as anticipated - mitigated by deploying our media resources and extensive social media reach in particular.
    Butterfly numbers not responding as hoped e.g. due to poor weather - mitigated by our science and evidence based approach, informing conservation action to give the best chance of success.


    We will report to donors in a number of ways, we will provide updates on the project work through our website and social media, we will also provide information in our monthly email newsletter, and we will include information in our membership magazine.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £60,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £40,000 Part time Project Officer Overseeing the entire project, working alongside key project partners and managing volunteers.
      £14,000 Land management Land-management costs to enhance demonstration sites and improve access.
      £3,000 Engagement Costs for engaging and training volunteers
      £1,000 Equipment Field equipment for project officer and volunteers
      £1,000 Educational materials Butterfly identification charts and hairstreak spotting sheets for school children
      £1,000 Events Costs to run landowner engagement events to promote the importance of this landscape

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Upper Thames branch £20,000 Conditional
  • Background


    The Upper Thames Clay Vales is a broad belt of lowland farmland near Oxford. It is part of the only place in the UK where the five hairstreaks occur naturally. This landscape covers 58,000 hectares of predominantly farmland. The area has been identified as a priority landscape in Butterfly Conservation’s National Conservation Strategy. Around 400,000 people live within this landscape. We have identified 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in this area which could be included.


    This project will not only benefit the five hairsteak butterflies, it will also help a wide range of other wildlife that relies on similar habitat. The project will benefit the local community by providing training, events and increasing opportunities to engage with nature. This project will encourage more people to get involved with monitoring, and spending more time outside, which has numerous health benefits.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies and moths, with an established record of reversing declines. The data gathered in our world-renowned monitoring schemes is used by the Government to indicate the health of the environment at national, UK and European levels and to assess the effects of environment pressures on biodiversity.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Part Time Project Officer

    A Project Officer will oversee this work, alongside our expert staff. They will manage volunteers, supervise conservation work and monitor results.