Mairi volunteers on conservation work parties for Butterfly Conservation’s Urban Butterfly Project in Central Scotland. Motivated by a desire to help conserve biodiversity, she says that doing something practical and meeting others who share her concerns give her hope that we can turn things around.

How did you come to be involved in volunteering for BC?

Mairi McIntosh

I came across the iRecord app on social media and used it to send in a record for a Small Skipper.  It turned out to be the first ever record for the Small Skipper in Holyrood Park!  That was what got me hooked on butterflies.  Soon afterwards I joined Butterfly Conservation and attended a Members’ Day where I found out about the Urban Butterfly Project.

What kinds of activities have you been involved in?

The work parties for the Urban Butterfly project have been habitat work in various locations across the city of Edinburgh.  I’ve helped create a strip of meadow at a public park by planting yellow rattle and putting in plug plants.  Edinburgh is lucky to have a couple of great sites for Graylings.  One is at Holyrood Park and the other is at Calton Hill.  At both of those sites I’ve helped with gorse clearance and at Calton Hill we also added some plug plants.

What are the ingredients for the perfect work party experience?

A group of enthusiastic volunteers, a knowledgeable leader willing to share their knowledge and expertise and some chocolate at break time!  Every work party I’ve been on so far has ticked all of those boxes.  The only box it hasn’t always ticked has been the weather, but Butterfly Conservation volunteers are a very enthusiastic lot, and even if it is raining, if there are plug plants to go in or gorse needing cut back, then rain will not stop that!

What motivates you to volunteer?

For me the motivation mainly comes from wanting to do something practical to help conserve biodiversity.  It’s easy to get really despondent about the state of the planet, climate change and so many species becoming extinct, but doing something practical and meeting others who are also keen to help gives me hope that it might be possible to turn things around. 

Which aspects do you enjoy the most?

I think I most enjoy those work parties that include planting plug plants.  I am a gardener with a growing interest in wildflowers and the experience of being involved with planting wildflowers for butterflies has definitely encouraged this.  Last autumn I asked if I could do some wildflower growing at the hospital community garden where I volunteer.  This spring we started to do this on a small scale by planting up a bed with various wildflower seeds. We have since had a grant from Butterfly Conservation Scotland East Branch to help with purchasing the plants and the border will be getting planted up gradually over the coming year.

What have you gained from volunteering and would you recommend it to others?

I would definitely recommend volunteering to others as I’ve met so many lovely people through volunteering for Butterfly Conservation and learned so much more than I would have if I’d just continued taking an interest in butterflies by myself.

Do you have a favourite species?

That still changes every time I see a new one!  Graylings are certainly up there as watching them in flight on a really bright summer’s day as they flutter up in numbers over a craggy rock face is a wonderful site.  The Small Skipper will of course always be special to me though, since it was responsible for getting me hooked on butterflies!