A father and son team are embarking on an island odyssey to count butterflies at one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks – Strangford Lough.
Independent Downpatrick county councillor Cadogan Enright and his son Cad Og, aged eight, will spend a week canoeing around the lough - the largest inlet in Britain - with the goal of counting as many butterflies on as many islands as possible.
They will brave blisters, unpredictable weather and hungry horseflies as they attempt to count butterflies for the Big Butterfly Count on around 50 of the lough’s many islands.
The Big Butterfly Count, organised by Butterfly Conservation, is the largest insect citizen science project in the world.
Councillor Enright, 50, who sets off on 1 August explained: “We are aiming to visit about six islands per day, camping on a different island each night.
“Strangford Lough is one of the most important wildlife sites in Ireland and its islands are a fantastic place to look for butterflies. Healthy places should have lots of butterflies. This year, with the warm weather, there should be considerably more butterflies to see.”
The idea of the odyssey was hatched after the duo canoed around several of the lough’s islands last summer.
Butterfly Conservation’s Northern Ireland Senior Regional Officer Catherine Bertrand said: “I’m really looking forward to hearing of Cadogan’s exploits and those of anyone else having wildlife adventures as a result of taking part in the Count.
“There are so many places to explore in Northern Ireland: the heights of the Sperrins, Slieve Gullion, the Mournes and the Belfast Hills; our wonderful woodlands in the Glens of Antrim; our dramatic coast and glorious flower-filled dune systems; the lakelands of Fermanagh. It’s such a great year that, wherever you are, you should find there are lots of things to spot, even when just sitting relaxing in the garden.”
The Big Butterfly Count runs until 10 August. Taking part is easy. Jot down which butterflies you see during a sunny 15-minute period and send your sightings to the Big Butterfly Count website.
Many counts have taken place so far in the east of Northern Ireland but more records are needed in the west.
Last year more than 46,000 people took part, counting more than 800,000 butterflies and day-flying moths in their gardens, parks and local countryside.
Butterfly Conservation President Sir David Attenborough is encouraging nature lovers to embrace the UK’s long heritage of amateur natural history by counting Commas, Peacocks, Small Coppers, Meadow Browns and other common butterflies.
He said: “The UK is a nation of amateur naturalists and we have a proud tradition of celebrating and studying our wildlife. By taking part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer you can contribute to this heritage and discover the fantastic butterflies and other wildlife that share your garden, parks and countryside.
“The spectacle of Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells flitting around buddleia bushes is one of the classic sights of British summertime.
“Butterflies fought back last year after a terrible 2012 but despite this, butterfly numbers were still below average. Three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies are in decline and one-third are in danger of extinction.
“This is bad news for butterflies and it is bad news for the UK’s birds, bees, bats and other wildlife. This is because butterflies are a key indicator species of the health of our environment – if they are struggling, then many other species are struggling also.”
For the fifth year running, the Big Butterfly Count is taking place in partnership with Marks & Spencer as part of its Plan A commitment to be the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015.
Mike Barry, M&S Director of Plan A, said: “This is our fifth year of partnering with Butterfly Conservation and we are working hard with our farmers to improve habitats for butterflies. We continue to encourage customers and employees to take part in the Big Butterfly Count too, which is now even easier thanks to the new app.”