I joined Butterfly Conservation by accident, as a by-product of entering a photography competition called ‘Things with Wings’. If you entered the competition, you got a year’s free membership – I didn’t win the competition, but I did get my year’s free membership, and that was arguably better than the prize on offer anyway.
I always liked butterflies, in a vague, they’re-pretty-and-look-nice-in-my-garden kind of way, but I never really looked at them in detail until I borrowed a macro lens and started taking photos like this one:
As I took more photos, I became more and more interested in identifying what I was seeing, and the Butterfly Conservation guys are extremely helpful for that (especially on Twitter!). But helping inexperienced muppets like me with incessant ID requests is not the only thing Butterfly Conservation do (I know, shocking).
They do a huge amount to raise public awareness of butterflies and moths, and how important they are as indicator species for habitats – if a habitat is struggling or being mismanaged, butterflies and moths are often the first to disappear. One of the most high profile things they do is the Big Butterfly Count, which starts in a couple of weeks – you can find out more about it here. It is a huge citizen science project where thousands of people (over 44,000 in 2014) record the butterflies they see in an hour. The incredible amount of information this produces is invaluable in gauging the population levels of butterflies in the UK.
Another aim of Butterfly Conservation is the conservation of butterflies (obviously!) and their habitats. Having become a committee member for the Wiltshire branch (yes, that escalated quickly), I am really looking forward to getting involved in this conservation, especially on farms.
Farms in this country already have some conservation requirements, some of which I wrote about in an earlier post (Wildlife and Farming). Those farms which are organic, on Higher Level Stewardship Schemes, or being managed to promote a particular species or habitat, will have more detailed and varied requirements. However a lot of the conservation requirements on farms, whether they come from Natural England or the farm’s organic certifying body, are not specific to the farm, or the wildlife that lives there. For example, a farmer may be required to leave a border of wildflowers at the edge of each field, but the type of wildflower is not specified. Any wildflowers are better than none, but if the flowers planted are not the right ones for the butterflies on the farm, then they will not be helping the local population to thrive. If volunteers from Butterfly Conservation did surveys on each farm, and identified the current species, and what would most benefit them, farmers could change the seeds they planted to cater for those species.
This is just one example, and there a dozens of areas where specific advice for farmers could improve the habitat management for wildlife, and increase population levels. I am certainly not claiming to have the depth of knowledge to create this kind of resource, but thanks to Butterfly Conservation, I am now working with people who do have that knowledge. Over the next year I am really hoping that I can make this a possibility, and I will definitely be writing more blog posts on the habitat management of farms. Hopefully my farmers (and readers!) won’t be sick of the sight of me banging on about butterflies by the time I’m done!
Butterfly Conservation website – butterfly-conservation.org
Big Butterfly Count website – www.bigbutterflycount.org
Wiltshire Butterfly Conservation Facebook page – www.facebook.com/WiltshireBC
Wiltshire Butterfly Conservation Twitter – @bc_wiltshire
Butterfly Conservation Twitter – @savebutterflies