Tag Archives: citizen science

Peacock butterfly resting on a warm stony path

Join in – it’s the Big Butterfly Count!

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

Comma butterfly on thistles
Comma butterfly on thistles

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.

Ringlet butterfly on a bramble leaf
Ringlet butterfly on a bramble leaf

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!

The Big Butterfly Count – 19th July to 10th August 2014

J Peggy Taylor

Red-tailed Bumblebee on Common Knapweed

The Big Bumblebee Discovery Project

In my post earlier today I was enthusing about the importance of introducing our children to nature and helping them to learn more about it.

By chance I received my regular email newsletter from the British Science Association today and one of the articles was about encouraging schools and individual children to become involved in a really important citizen science project this Summer –

“The Big Bumblebee Discovery”

Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Marmalade Hoverfly on Common Knapweed
Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Marmalade Hoverfly on Common Knapweed

This project runs from June 2014 and aims to

“observe the diversity of bumblebees in the UK”

By observing bumblebees and their behaviour, the project is trying to find out more about the numbers of bumblebees and the spread of different bumblebee species across the UK, particularly considering the impact bumblebees have on crop pollination. The project is being supported by the energy company EDF.

We have heard so much sad news about bees and there have been so many bee deaths in recent years, taking an active part in ‘doing something to help’ seems like a good step forward!

I understand the project age-range is 4-14 years. If you have a budding citizen scientist who might be interested in taking part, you can find out more from the Join the Pod website
http://jointhepod.org/experiment-zone/big-bumblebee-experiment-register

We have done quite a few citizen science projects over the years with our children – “Real Science!” as our youngest son calls it! (The bee photos you see in this post are his!)

It really does feel good knowing that what you are discovering or observing is then going to be added to the body of knowledge on that subject. I read recently on a Woodland Trust newsletter that records we and many, many other people have logged as part of the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project provided some of the data for two research papers that formed part of the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Sadly that report made extremely gloomy reading too. But when we work together we can be very powerful so it’s important for us all to keep caring about the planet we share with such amazing nature!

J Peggy Taylor