Spring into action…for butterflies

At their Scottish Spring Gathering in March Butterfly Conservation put out a call for volunteers and suggested a number of projects people could get involved in.  If you missed it you can watch the gathering on You Tube and find out about some of the butterfly and moth work being done in Scotland.

Small orange and brown butterfly with brown spots on upper wing, perched on a red-coloured grass blade.
Small Copper, Hurlethill, July 2020. Photograph by Kirsty Menzies.

How you can get involved

These are some of the volunteer projects discussed which would be ideal for PNHS members to help with:

Take on a transect

Transect data enables comparison of sites from year to year and to track changes in numbers and distribution of species over time.  The season started on 1 April and every week for the next 26 weeks volunteers will walk along their set route counting the numbers of the different species of butterflies there and recording them on the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) website.

I’ve been walking the Hurlethill transect for 3 years now and all the butterflies I have recorded there are commonly found elsewhere in Renfrewshire*, including Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, Orange-tip and Small Tortoiseshell, and others.  I’ve recorded the occasional Small Copper and Small Heath but there is nothing unusual or rare to see…or so I thought… until last year when I spotted a couple of rarities for Renfrewshire.  One was a single Dark Green Fritillary off-transect and the other was on an evening walk when I spotted over 30 Purple Hairstreak butterflies flying high in the mature oak canopy at Rocks Plantation.  As well as spotting butterflies, the slow pace of walking a transect makes you more aware of the other wildlife around you and I can highly recommend it.

If you would like to take on a transect, take a look at the sites map on the UKBMS website and click on the coloured circles to zoom in to see what transects are available in your area.  By clicking on a yellow transect circle, then the details link, you will be able to see information including the route, when it was surveyed and the number of records for each species seen.  Where the last year surveyed was 2020 or earlier then there is no-one currently monitoring that transect and you might consider taking it on. For those surveyed in 2021 you could offer to help out or, if there is no transect in your area and you have an idea for a good site, you could set one up.  Contact Anthony McCluskey on amccluskey@butterfly-conservation.org if you are interested in taking one on.  He will be happy to hear from you and give you all the support you need. 

Large Heath Survey and Bog Squad work parties

Butterfly Conservation are organising lowland raised bog surveys for the Large Heath butterfly this summer in areas across Scotland, including Renfrewshire. The Large Heath is categorized as Vulnerable in the UK and is a species of conservation concern in southwest Scotland. Drainage and loss of suitable habitats has led to declining numbers and sightings are rare although it is under-recorded as access is difficult in the boggy habitats it prefers.  It would be fantastic to get a number of volunteers across Renfrewshire to join in and help so that we can get a better picture of how the Large Heath is doing.  Full training and guidance will be given for volunteers interested in taking part. Contact Polly Phillpot for more information on pphillpot@butterfly-conservation.org.  Polly also organises Bog Squad volunteer work parties to help improve habitat conditions of the Large Heath butterfly. Check out the Glasgow and SW branch events for details of planned local work parties.

Casual recording
Orange and brown butterfly with white markings on upper wing tips. It is perched on a purple clover flower with its wings opened out.
Painted Lady on Red Clover, Hurlethill, July 2019. Photograph by Kirsty Menzies

While you are out and about take a note of the butterflies you see and the location and record them on the iRecord website.  Or better still use the free iRecord smartphone app to record them as you go.  It will automatically log your grid reference and you can take photos and attach them to your record to confirm your sighting. The species of most interest in Renfrewshire are the Large Heath, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary, Green Hairstreak, Purple Hairstreak, Comma, Small Copper and Common Blue. Definite sightings of these should be recorded. 

Share your stories and photographs

Please keep in touch via our contact page and share photographs and stories of any activities you have been involved in or of any interesting butterflies you have seen around Renfrewshire.  We would love to hear about them and share them on the website to inspire others.

Kirsty Menzies

*Note: Renfrewshire refers to the vice-county for biological recording and not the council area.

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