"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Friday, 26 July 2013

A Fifteen Minute Butterfly Survey

Each Summer Butterfly Conservation, in association with Marks and Spencer, organises "The Big Butterfly Count" - a nationwide butterfly survey. This year its being held between 20th July and 11th August and all you have to do is spend 15 minutes in your garden, or park, or woodland etc., and count the butterflies or certain species of day flying moths that you see in a fifteen minute period.

The survey was launched in 2010 and last year 27,000 people participated spotting 223,000 butterflies. Butterflies react quickly to environmental changes and are, therefore, excellent biodiversity indicators and can provide a warning also of other possible wildlife losses. The survey will also help the charity to spot butterfly trends and identify any declining species.

For more information please visit the website www.bigbutterflycount.org which gives details on how to take part and you can also download an id chart. You can repeat the survey as many times as you like and submitting results is really easy and only takes minutes.

I spent 15 minutes looking for butterflies in my garden on Tuesday, 23rd, seeing one Large White and one Small White.

Unfortunately its a bit like the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch when half the species you normally see refuse to visit the garden during the hour you are doing the survey - only to appear a minute after the hour has finished!!! So the Holly Blues and Comma seen the same day remained absent during the 15 minutes!!! This doesn't matter though and nil results are also important.

I tried again today and managed 2 Gatekeepers, 2 Large White and 1 Small White.

If you get the time give it a go because its good fun and you are helping science at the same time and it would be a great activity for young children in the school holidays.

I haven't had much luck so far this year in taking photos of garden butterflies so have to admit that the Gatekeeper below was taken in 2010.

I've managed some butterfly photos at Brandon Marsh in the past but most of the better ones seem to have been taken at National Trust gardens where there are that many flowers the butterflies just seem to get "drunk" on the nectar and are quite happy to pose!

We are starting to see more hoverflies in the garden and lots of Red-tailed, White-Tailed and Buff-tailed bumble bees plus the Common Carder Bee as in the photo below nectaring on bramble flowers.

We finally have a decent clock in the garden so it was easy to keep track of the 15 minutes - a birthday present for Brian from David.

And a reminder that there is a BBC Springwatch Special on Butterflies tonight at 9.00.


Margaret Adamson said...

Yes I know what you mean about the survey and nothing turning up. that happens to me on the RSPB one. I was going to tell you about the programme tonight but I see you know, Have a great weekend.

Chris Rohrer said...

I remember you writing about this last year. It's such a great idea. I think we have 3 butterflies that visit our garden at El Presidio but it's never consistent! I count the birds though:)
PS. I am thinking of you tomorrow as we search for moths in a canyon. A bug lover is coming to see what we find......I'm not sure how I feel about that:)

Bovey Belle said...

The only prevalent butterfly all summer has been small whites. PLENTY of them. My biggest Buddleia is in full bloom but not a butterfly on it, nor any bees, although there have been a goodly amount of various bees in the main garden, where I try and grow as many bee-attractive plants as possible.

I have seen a Fritillary hurtling past - they are fast fliers - and I am hoping it is the Dark Green Fritillary which is (unusually as I think they normally prefer coastal sites) hefted to this area.

ONE Comma in the garden, Meadow Browns, Spotted Woods, and earlier in the year a Brimstone (which are as rare as hen's teeth even in a good year in these parts, as no Alder Buckthorn which they like to feed on). BUT the good weather should encourage what IS about to mate successfully, so let's hope next year is a better year (and another good summer wouldn't go amiss too).

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thank you. It always seems to happen to everyone with surveys!! Hope you enjoyed the programme I thought it was excellent :) Have a good weekend too!

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris - the survey is a great example of citizen science and, I think, a great way to get children interested! Yes, I count birds too - do 2 garden bird surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology.

I'll be thinking of you too on your bug and moth hunt!!!! Look forward to a post :)

Bovey Belle - Thanks. Large and Small Whites dominate my garden too - usually get quite a few Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood and the occasional Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Painted Lady plus Brimstone and Green-veined White. But nowhere near as many species as 10 years ago :(

Our Buddleias are not flowering yet but these days seems to attract more bees than butterflies. In fact, garden does better for bees and hoverflies than butterflies. Still any sort of insect is good news really.

Hope your Fritillary was the Dark Green. Join you in hoping for good weather for the butterflies and a better year for them next year !

Countryside Tales said...

Thanks for the info, I'll do one here too, although 15 mins isn't long for flying people to turn up is it? :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - It is quite a short time span perhaps its to encourage people to take part who don't mind 15 mins but wouldn't want to do longer!!! Not sure. But I could quite happily do an hour - so will do several separate ones :) Good luck with yours :)

SeagullSuzie said...

I had better take part as I think this is the best year for them, but 15 minutes isn't long. It's raining here today so no butterflies, but thanks for the info and we've still got quite a few days left until 11th, for good weather.

David Turner said...

Great stuff Caroline (I hope you don't mind me using your first name), I really must do this myself some time. However this year has been poor for butterflies in our garden, though numbers in the countryside seem somewhat better.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thank you and hope you enjoy taking part - all for a good cause :) It is a short period of time and am not sure why unless its for the reason I mentioned to CT.

David Turner - Thanks :) Of course, I don't mind you calling me Caroline :) The last 2 years have been poor in our garden too and not too good even with sunnier weather this year although there were lots of whites about today. I think that BC find low counts or even no butterflies seen useful as its all about spotting trends and helping them to see how different species are doing and to spot early signs of decline or even increases in species.

Wendy said...

I did the count two years ago and I can just remember what I saw, so that I could compare with the survey last week. Like you, not all the expected butterflies turned up, and the day after my buddleia was full of butterflies, especially Peacocks (not seen at all during the count!)

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - I try and do it each year but without delving through all my diaries I can' really remember what I saw although I do know last year was awful for garden butterflies. As you say its so typical that the butterflies fail to descend during the 15 mins!!!! Glad you are getting so many Peacocks though on your buddleias - ours are yet to flower!