Keep On Counting

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Despite some dodgy weather, this summer’s Big Butterfly Count is going really well. Take part this weekend and help us make it the biggest ever!

It does seem that butterfly numbers have improved a bit this summer, after a very poor 2016, but we’ll only know for certain if people go out and count. Just 15 minutes in any place, garden, park, or out in the countryside, is all that’s needed to take part in Big Butterfly Count. It can be 15 minutes of relaxation in a deck chair with a cup of tea, 15 minutes of your morning dog walk or 15 minutes of excitement and enthusiasm with the children or grandchildren. Or do one of each on different days or in different places. There have even been counts submitted from horseback.

Red Admiral on SedumNow that we are into August, butterflies are increasingly visiting gardens looking for nectar, the flight fuel they need to stay airborne. The Buddleia bushes at Butterfly Conservation HQ in Dorset have been alive with Red Admirals over recent days, along with a scattering of Peacocks and Painted Ladies. Red Admiral appears to be having a good summer, as it did last year too. Commas seem to be around in good numbers too, particularly the brighter orange hutchinsoni form that will breed now and give rise to a new generation of Commas in the autumn.

In my own garden, the Oregano is in full bloom and is drawing in Gatekeepers, who seem to prize this flower over all others. Gatekeeper had a very bad year in 2016, its worst since Big Butterfly Count began and, worryingly, its UK population has now decreased by 44% since the 1970s. Some participants have reported good numbers of Gatekeeper in this year’s Count, so hopefully there is a bit of a recovery underway.

Holly BlueHowever, other Big Butterfly Count species do not seem to be faring so well. All three of the common white butterflies (Large, Small and Green-veined) appear to be having a poor year, while many people taking part in the count have commented on the scarcity of Peacock and Holly Blue this summer.

Big Butterfly Count continues until the end of this weekend (although you have until the end of August to submit your sightings) so now’s the time to dodge those showers and take part. If you have already done a Count please feel free to do more. The more data we have from your sightings, the better we can assess how our common and widespread butterflies are faring. And remember, even if you only see a few butterflies in your 15 minute, or even none at all, please still submit the count – it is just as valuable as a large count.

Richard Fox

Head of Recording

Follow me on Twitter: @RichardFoxBC