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School kids get up close and personal with the purple copper butterfly

School students from Meadow Flat Public have had a close encounter with one of our region’s rarest creatures on a special purple copper butterfly field trip organised by Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“September is prime time for the purple copper butterfly and we wanted to give the kids from Meadow Flat the opportunity to see this unique species in flight,” explained Land Services Officer, Allan Wray.

On Monday 18 September, Local Land Services bussed more than 40 students from Meadow Flat Public School to a travelling stock reserve south of Rydal, which is one of a handful of known habitat sites for the purple copper butterfly.

The purple copper butterfly is only found in the Central Tablelands region in a few small pockets of native vegetation at elevations above 900 metres. The larvae feed on just one type of shrub, the native blackthorn (Bursaria spinose ssp. Lasiophylla), and depend on an unusual symbiotic relationship with a species of native ant.

Ecologist, Ray Mjadwesch, and NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service Ranger, Gavin Newton were the guides on the day providing the school students with insights into the complex life cycle of the butterfly and the ongoing threats to the species’ survival.

Meadow Flat Public teachers Mrs Robyn Tidswell and Relieving Principal, Christine Wren, also took part in the excursion.

“Our Year 3-6 class has been working on a unit about insects this term so this was a fabulous way of extending their classroom work on science and general knowledge,” said Christine Wren.

In fact, the students of Meadow Flat Public are so enthusiastic about the purple copper butterfly they even published a book about this rare local insect back in 2013.

“The children were very excited about getting out into the bush and doing hands-on experiments and activities on actual purple copper butterfly habitat,” Christine said.

“In other schools where I’ve worked we’ve had to travel long distances to interact with the environment.

"One of the advantages of a rural area like Meadow Flat is that our school is so close to nature.

"This field trip was a really lovely educational opportunity for the children to build on their knowledge of local ecology and native species.”

In recent years, Central Tablelands Local Land Services has organised purple copper butterfly community events and information days each spring to highlight the significance of this threatened species.

“The butterflies take flight between September and early November and we are always keen to help people find out more about this species and how to protect its unique habitat,” Allan Wray said.

This year’s Meadow Flat Public purple copper butterfly excursion has been funded through support from Catchment Action NSW.

For more information about native habitat management and preserving the purple copper butterfly, contact Allan Wray on 0447 278 308.