Derbyshire people are urged to take part in Big Butterfly Count to protect endangered species

Wildlife lovers have just a few days left to take part in a project to record butterfly sightings in their garden.

By Gay Bolton
Monday, 1st August 2022, 11:42 am
Eric Easom's photo of a Painted Lady at Wessington.
Eric Easom's photo of a Painted Lady at Wessington.

Results of the annual Big Butterfly Count, which is running up to and including August 7, will help experts put in place measures to protect these beautiful insects, half of whose species are threatened or near threatened with extinction.

Butterfly Conservation revealed that last year's Big Butterfly Count saw the lowest ever number of butterflies recorded. As butterflies and moths are an important indicator of the health of our environment, a reduction in their numbers is cause for serious concern.

Climate change has affected the Wall Brown, which is on the endangered species list. In Derbyshire, the Wall Brown can only be found in the Peak District and was sighted at the 'hotspot' of Longstone Edge in July.

Red Admiral is likely to be seen on buddleias (photo: Butterfly Conservation/Mark Searle)

Ken Orpe is the Butterfly Recorder for Derbyshire and will be verifying the results of the Big Butterfly Count submitted by people from around the county.

He said: "The Big Butterfly Count is essentially a Citizen Scientist project whereby the public are invited to submit their butterfly sightings during a 15-minute period from their gardens or other local site of wildlife interest. They can submit as many surveys as they wish up to and including August 7, 2022.

"There is a butterfly chart available for the public to download to assist them in their sightings. So as well as getting sightings from nature reserves across the county the Big Butterfly Count covers important other areas such as gardens, parks etc."

Ken has been Derbyshire's Butterfly Recorder since 1995. He organises weekly surveys at more than 130 sites across the county from Glossop to Swadlincote and verifies the information before it is submitted to Butterfly Conservation.

Comma is another butterfly species which is likely to be seen on buddleias (photo: Butterfly Conservation/Andrew Cooper)

Ken said: "From this information we can find out how species are performing and whether they are extending their range due to climate change - in this respect the Silver Washed Fritillary has moved into Derbyshire from southern England in recent years - this species is coming regularly to buddleias in gardens so the Big Butterfly Count could well indicate to what extent this species has moved into Derbyshire.

"Other species likely to be seen on buddleias include the Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, the Comma, Red Admiral and the Painted Lady, a migrant butterfly from Africa."

All the data submitted to Ken enables him to produce distribution maps for the species. He sends out a weekly report on Derbyshire's butterflies to 1400 volunteers and companies such as Toyota UK, Severn Trent Water and BSAF. He said: "Overall I verify and input approximately 42,000 records each year, ably supported by my wife Pat."

Dr Amir Khan, ambassador for Butterfly Conservation is among the famous faces supporting the Big Butterfly Count. The GP, a regular on Good Morning Britain, said: "Spending time in nature is hugely beneficial to our mental health. Just a short amount of time spent in the natural world can alleviate stress, and connecting with nature can help us feel happier and more energised.

Derbyshire Butterfly Recorder Ken Orpe and his wife Pat who supports him in his work.

"Watching butterflies for just fifteen minutes can be a wonderful and calming experience. It is good for you as well as benefiting butterflies by helping Butterfly Conservation gather the imporant data they need to understand how to better protect these special insects. It is truly a win-win situation for all of us."

To take part in the Big Butterfly Count, go to www.bigbutterflycount.org