Chris Corrigan, Policy Coordinator at Butterfly Conservation, is calling all wildlife-friendly farmers to join the 2020 Big Butterfly Count!

Big Butterfly Count
Common Blue ( Polyommatus icarus). Credit: Shelley Abbott/Fair to Nature

Butterflies are one of the most obvious and well-loved sights of the spring and summer months. Not only are they beautiful to see, they are also excellent biodiversity indicators because they respond so quickly to changes in their environment.

In the fine weather we have had so far this spring and summer we have experienced the earliest average emergence of butterflies for the last 20 years. As more and more people have taken a greater interest in the wildlife in their garden and local area during lockdown, we have received thousands of extra enquiries about these unusual butterfly and moth sightings from increasingly enthusiastic members of the public.

Big Butterfly Count
Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris). Credit: Shelley Abbott/Fair to Nature

Over many years, Butterfly Conservation working with an army of volunteers, has built up a comprehensive data set of millions of records which provides both short and long term trends in numbers. Overall, the picture is one of alarming overall decline with 76% of butterfly species having declined in abundance or distribution since the mid-1970s. However, there have been good examples of many successful species recovery projects involving BC staff working alongside enthusiastic farmers and landowners. Examples include All the Moor Butterflies in South West England, which has helped boost numbers of five rare species of fritillary, and Saving the Northern Brown Argus in the Scottish Borders, which aims to protect one of our threatened northern specialists.

Big Butterfly Count
Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) at RSPBs Winterbourne Downs Reserve. Credit: Patrick Cashman (rspb-images.com)

Not all farmers are lucky enough to have rare butterflies like a Northern Brown Argus or Marsh Fritillary on their land. However, all farmers can help with the monitoring by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count 2020, which takes place from Friday 17 July to Sunday 9 August. This will add to the invaluable body of knowledge which helps us identify trends in species and plan how best to prioritise and protect our butterflies, as well as understand the wider impacts of issues such as climate change on wildlife.

The Big Butterfly Count is a UK-wide survey which was launched in 2009 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest butterfly survey! Over 113,000 people took part in 2019 and this year we are hoping more people than ever will join in to help give us an even better picture of the status of our butterflies (and some day-flying moths which can be counted too). Of course, most of the UK’s butterflies are found on land managed by farmers and other landowners, so adding more counts from parts of the wider landscape could add real value.

So it would be wonderful if you could contribute counts from your own farms. It is very easy to do and is a great family activity. Each count takes only 15 minutes and if you enjoy taking part you can repeat the survey as many times as you like.

If you would like to take part, please go to www.bigbutterflycount.org or download our Big Butterfly Count app on iOS and Android to get counting and submit your sightings. Every single count helps!

Thank you!

Chris Corrigan, Butterfly Conservation

Thank you to Chris from us at Fair to Nature. We hope as many of our nature-friendly farmers as possible take part in the Big Butterfly Count.

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