This weekend’s warm and sunny Sunday was the ideal time to kick-off our Big Butterfly Count for 2014. We made our first count on a patch of reclaimed industrial land right on the edge of our village.
In the past this land was part of the mineral railway line that carried coal from local mines. Now it is a grassy walkway bordered by trees on one side and on the other, a field area, part of which is kept mown by the local council and part of which includes a large patch of Rosebay Willowherb interspersed with several species of grass, the common Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, Broad-leaved Dock Rumex obtusifolius, Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium and some brambles.
Our fifteen minutes of sunny surveying netted us a reasonably healthy number of butterflies in this spot.
This year’s Big Butterfly Count runs from Saturday 19th July to Sunday 10th August. Many of the UK’s butterflies are declining in numbers and around a third of species are threatened with extinction. They need our help.
“… butterflies are a key indicator species of the health of our natural environment -if they are struggling, then many other species are struggling also. Every single person taking part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer can produce a statistic that is of real value as their records help build a picture of how butterflies are faring and how we can best conserve them.” David Attenborough
What is the Big Butterfly Count?
Anyone and everyone, old and young, can join in this easy-to-do survey of butterflies and day-flying moths here in the UK over the next two weeks. The Big Butterfly Count is an annual survey organised by Butterfly Conservation and supported by Marks & Spencer. The reason for choosing butterflies as the survey species is that they are very sensitive to changes in their environment and so are a really good indicator when changes occur.
Butterfly Conservation describe this annual butterfly survey as –
“taking Nature’s pulse”.
How do I take part?
We have been taking part in the Big Butterfly Count for a few years now and it really is a fun family activity but also a very worthwhile citizen science project.
You only need to spend 15 minutes watching butterflies in your garden, local park or other green space. You can either stay in one place and count the highest number of each species of butterfly you see during the 15 minutes. Or if you take a walk, just add up how many of each species you see during the 15 minutes.
Carry out your survey in bright or sunny weather – just like most of us, butterflies prefer to go out when the sun is shining, so if it’s sunny you’ll get a more accurate snapshot of the butterflies that live in your survey spot.
… and if, like me, you’re batty about butterflies – you can do as many 15 minute surveys as you wish during the two weeks of the Big Butterfly Count 🙂
Identifying your butterflies
If you need help with identifying the butterflies you see, Butterfly Conservation have a handy free Butterfly ID Chart to download from their webpage. There’s also a free App for iOS and Android that you can use for the Big Butterfly Count. You can take a look on the interactive map to see what butterflies other people in your area and across the country have found too.
What did you see?
After you’ve counted your butterflies don’t forget to log your sightings online, either on the website or directly via the App.
Why not give it a try? … help to take Nature’s pulse this Summer!