Sunday, 22 July 2012

22nd of July: A desperate cry... for a butterfly

A desperate warden on Blakeney Point makes a final cry for a butterfly. So far 2012 has been the worst year for butterflies since the National Trust began recording them for the Butterfly Conservation Society (BCS). The Blakeney Point transect was set up in 2008 with the help of Chris Dawson, Region Organiser for BCS. Every week between April and October a set route is walked and butterflies are recorded within a 4-metre radius. Transects must be undertaken in conditions over 16 degrees or with 100% sunshine. BCS use transect data to analyse and monitor the UK's butterfly populations.

This year our transects have recorded a disappointingly low number of butterflies. None were recorded in the first 5 weeks. To date a maximum of only three individual butterflies have been recorded on a single transect and a total of just 15 to date (seven species). This is not just confined to the point; numbers are also low on the mainland.

Most people over a certain age (50) can remember when butterflies were far more common than they are today. This certainly is the case for some species such as Small Tortoiseshell. However, butterfly populations do go through natural cycles linked to parasites. Also, once rare butterflies such as Speckled Wood, Comma and Essex Skipper are increasing and expanding their range, often spreading northwards.

Although this summer may seem depressing due to low butterfly numbers and bad weather, there is hope for the future. Everybody can help butterflies either by recording them for BCS or encouraging them into your garden. For more information go to the BCS web-site.

Just in case you've forgotten what they look like; here is a photo of a Small Copper on the point:
Photo: Lucy Browne (2005)

- Eddie

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