You can help wildlife just by counting it

31 May 2013

Did you see Springwatch on TV tonight? Great range of species covered, from the hen harrier to the garden snail. They also announced a Garden Bioblitz this weekend, which sounds fun – I shall join in. The idea is that the general public are asked to record the wild plants and animals in their garden over a 24 hour period in the first weekend of June – which is this coming Saturday and Sunday. If you don’t have a garden, you can’t join in this particular Bioblitz, but you can do one at any time in any place. Go to www.bbc.co.uk/springwatch for full details of it all.

Two of the creatures I shall record in my Bioblitz: Newts in the pond. The male is on the left - identifiable by his crest, his red tummy and being generally darker.

Two of the creatures I shall record in my Bioblitz: Newts in the pond. The male is on the left – identifiable by his crest, his red tummy and being generally darker.

When it comes to recording butterflies and moths, the way is led by www.butterflyconservation.co.uk, who gather data from a host of sources, much of which gets to them via their 31 branches throughout the UK, like ours in Dorset. Butterflies are one of the easiest forms of wildlife, certainly of insects, to spot and identify – while some of the more specialist butterfly species are hard to find, there are a lot you will see in your garden or your local park, or if you go out into the country.

What excites me about joining in these recording efforts is that it is citizen science in action, and it really does make a difference. If someone said to you “get out there and save the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly”, the first thing you would ask is “well, where do I find them, and when, and where, and what do they eat and are their numbers going up or down ?”  It’s the same for the expert conservationists: they can only base their efforts on known data, and the more of it, the better.

Small Tortoiseshell on bright pink sweet william

Small Tortoiseshell

To take the Small Tortoiseshell as an example, it is known to have declined by 64% over the last 10 years (State of the UK’s Butterflies Report 2011). This is worked out from data contributed by people, including me, who do regular butterfly walks in certain sites every year, producing the data for the conservationists. If you go out and see a butterfly today, and report it to your local branch of Butterfly Conservation, it will be used to direct conservation efforts. So go out and make a difference – report a butterfly, do the Bioblitz, anything – just help put citizen science into action.

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