Futures Forum: Butterflies behaviour and ecology...... Prof Philip Howse @ the Sidmouth Science Festival
Last year saw positive results from Butterfly Conservation, despite the poor summer:
This year, the count went very well:
The results are just out:
All Aflutter – Amazing Autumn Appearances
big butterfly count
The Big Butterfly Count Results Out
Thursday 25 September 2014, 14:17
Young guest blogger Elizabeth Guntrip celebrates the work of Butterfly Conservation.
I always find it interesting to see the consolidated results of a wildlife survey I have taken part in. Once we have handed in our records, it is very easy to move on in the rush of our busy modern lives, but I feel it is important to stop and take note of the conclusions we have helped produce. Springwatch 2014 encouraged thousands of people to take a keener interest in the state of our natural world, as well as contributing to the increasing number of participants in various citizen science projects.
First up this year BBC Springwatch promoted Butterfly Conservation and their iRecord Butterfly app. Downloads of the app increased by 1775% from 40 a day to 750 a day following a mention on BBCSpringwatch, but the main focus was the Big Butterfly Count, which ran from 19th July - 10th August. Participants were asked to record the number of individuals of each of 21 target species for fifteen minutes on any day within those dates.
One of the great things about this study is its flexibility: you could choose the location for your study, with suggestions ranging from parks and school grounds, to forests and fields all across the UK. In my case, I was able to take part simply from the comfort of my home, by looking out over the garden. It was inspiring to be able to sit there and still be included in the largest study of its kind in the world. I saw online, too, a number of others with mobility impairments who were grateful to be able to join in with this exciting piece of citizen science. Its inclusivity should really be celebrated.
The efforts of Springwatch’s viewers and everyone who joined in helped Butterfly Conservation achieve 44,000 participants to the Big Butterfly Count – from seven-year-olds, to teenagers, adults and grandparents – counting over 560,000 individual butterflies and moths! A staggering 94,000 people visited the Butterfly Conservation website . So what of the results?
Overall Butterfly Conservation concludes that it has been a mixed year for Britain’s common and widespread butterflies. A few species have done well: the Small Tortoiseshell, for example, was shown to have increased by 22% compared to last year, making it the fourth most commonly seen species. The Small Tortoiseshell actually had a good year in 2013 too, and this has been deemed as being a sort of “springboard” to even larger numbers in 2014.
The Peacock butterfly was, for the first time since the Big Butterfly Count began in 2010, the most frequently seen species, despite numbers being down 30% on last year. Other species that have done well include the Common Blue, up 55% on last year; Red Admiral, up 43%; and Speckled Wood, up 28%.
Despite this, the mean number of butterflies seen per count actually decreased – from 23 in 2013 to 15 in 2014 – with 71% of species seeing a decline compared to the higher numbers of 2013. All three of the common white butterflies, for example, have decreased – the Large White, the Small White (the top two positions in 2013) and Green-veined White are all down on numbers from last year. The migrant species, too, have shown a year on year decrease – the Painted Lady and Silver Y moth were down 28% and 89% respectively.
The details and numbers of each species have now been published on the Big Butterfly Count website here: http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/2014mainresults and I would definitely recommend taking a look.
Also on the Butterfly Conservation website are links to download the iRecord Butterfly app, which is still available to use throughout the autumn. Though the Big Butterfly Count may be over for this year, you can still submit your sightings over the coming weeks and months. Butterflies and moths are still out in the crisp autumn days and evenings. I know I’ve been lucky enough to still see the Small White, and particularly the Speckled Wood in my garden (only the other day my godparents narrowly avoid steaming one at the window in the making of Sunday lunch!). The app, available for iOS and Android devices, has been made for users to count butterflies wherever they go and at any time of year. So if you haven’t already, download the app to enjoy the fun and science of butterfly counting.
Elizabeth Guntrip is a young naturalist, journalist and writer. She trained as a classical ballerina, but, inspired by Springwatch over a decade ago, loves spending her down time resting and wildlife watching in her own back garden.