Newsletters - "On The Spot"
On the spot - Autumn 2002
The newsletter of the Glasgow and South-West Scotland Branch of the British Butterfly Conservation Society
Dedicated to saving wild butterflies, moths and their habitats
THE BRITISH BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION SOCIETY LTD.
REGISTERED OFFICE: BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION, MANOR YARD, EAST LULWORTH, WAREHAM, BH20 5QP
REGISTERED IN ENGLAND No. 2206468, REGISTERED CHARITY No. 254937
Welcome to this issue of On The Spot especially to new readers of the newsletter. This issue is later than normal as we wanted to report the outcome of the Scottish branches meeting held on 26th October. This meeting is held most years and is when the three Scottish Branch committees get together with the BC staff to discuss common issues.
A large part of this years meeting was taken up with discussions on the Regional Action Plans, and the effects of the increase in BC staff in Scotland, from one to three and a half in number. Julie Stoneman the new Volunteer Development Officer has produced a summary of these changes and the duties of the new staff.
Work on the Regional Action Plans (RAP's) has been slow, the first year was badly affected by the Foot & Mouth outbreak and this year's poor weather further hindered matters. So we find ourselves two years into a five year programme with little to show. In addition there are only 2 more monitoring seasons before the first update to the Millennium Atlas of Butterflies is due to be published.
This means there are a lot of opportunities to carry out monitoring both for the RAP and for the atlas. If anyone is interested in monitoring anywhere (but especially in Kintyre) please contact Keith Futter or any other committee member. Other issues discussed at the Scottish Branches meeting included information regarding Loch Arkaig the first BC reserve in Scotland. The official opening is to be at the end of May 2003, further details in the spring newsletter.
Elsewhere in the newsletter there is a write up of the bird's foot trefoil planting at Mugdock Country Park, unfortunately many of our other summer events suffered from the poor weather. National Moth Night was one exception, in conjunction with SWT and SNH, Sue Agnew arranged for moth trapping to take place on the SWT reserve of Flanders Moss. The day after National Moth Night was National Bog Day when SWT organised guided walks across the bog and had displays of various aspects of the natural history of the bog. Our Branch was asked to show the visitors some of the moths which inhabit the area. The event was very successful with over 100 visitors to the bog and all were interested and surprised at the range of moths caught from the previous night, which included Elephant Hawk Moth, Poplar Hawk Moth, Buff Tip, Peppered Moth, Fox Moth and many others.
Other items in the newsletter include a report on the recent symposium held in Lancaster, an article on why do we monitor butterflies by Richard Fox & Tom Brereton from BC Headquarters. Keith Futter gives an update on the search for the Small Blue butterfly in South West Scotland and also an account of his discovery of a new moth species for Lothian region.
Finally - two dates for your diary
Sunday1st December, there is a Branch outing to view the Lepidoptera collection at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. Graham Irving will be guiding us around the collection. Meet at the Glasgow University gate on Dumbarton Road (next to the Western Infirmary) at 14.00 hrs. Contact Graham for further details.
Sunday 23rd March 2003, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum 14.30 for a talk on the input of the new staff on BC in Scotland and a preview of the summer monitoring. Contact David Welham for further details.
See back page for contact details for committee members
Dear Branch Members:
A number of vacancies have arisen on the Committee over the past two years due to various personal circumstances and people moving on. Sue Agnew, for example, has moved to Somerset and is greatly missed as our Moth Officer. Our thanks go to her for the considerable contribution she has made to our Branch over the past year.
We therefore now urgently need to address this challenge and I urge you to offer a little of your time and help to us.
You do not need to take on a specific post at first, if you would rather just ease yourself in gently.
I will be handing over the Chairmanship of the Branch this year and, in the absence of any surprise applicants, I am most grateful to David Welham for agreeing to take it on for the next two years. He and his wife Anne already produce this Newsletter and are in charge of the Sales Stalls.
This is another area where we can also do with more wo/manpower. We have had to refuse several shows this year, as no one was free to man the stall. This seems a pity as it would be an exciting occasional voluntary occupation for someone retired with a car.
Thank you all for being members of our Branch.
Planting at Mugdock
On 11th May, the Branch ran a trip to Mugdock Country Park, just north of Glasgow. Sue Agnew had set up her moth trap the previous evening on Drumclog Muir and we spent the first half hour examining her catch outside the Visitor Centre. This included such delights as the Streamer, Pebble Prominent and Nut Tree Tussock. Once the trap had been checked and the moths released, we walked down to Craigend Field. This field is grazed by a few Highland cattle, and a few Common Blues had been seen in previous years. Following discussions between the Countryside Rangers and Keith Futter, it had been agreed that we should plant up an area with both Lesser and Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil to try to encourage the butterflies to use the area. Keith had propagated dozens of plants from locally collected seed, and together with Alan McBride (one of the Countryside Rangers) and myself, had selected suitable points in the field to plant them the previous week.
Keith was unable to attend, but between the 5 members (plus dog) and Alan, we soon had the plants in and watered. A later visit confirmed that they were growing well.
After refreshments at the Visitor Centre, we then walked over the road to Dumbrock Loch, in search of Green Hairstreaks. It was a little on the cold side and a bit breezy, and only a few Green-veined Whites were seen here, so after a while we drove down to the 'Hole in the Wall' car park beside Mugdock Reservoir (in the news later in the summer for the Cryptosporidium outbreak). From here we walked a few hundred yards to a clearing near Drumclog Muir, where we soon found half a dozen Green Hairstreaks flying and sitting on blaeberry (their foodplant), for everyone to see. A few Orange Tips and Green-veined Whites and a Small Tortoiseshell were also seen on the Muir to round off an enjoyable day.
Regional Action Plan -Search for the Small Blue
Top priority in our Regional Action Plan is to try to locate the Small, Blue Cupido minimus, in our branch area. Feared extinct and not seen in our branch area for nearly twenty years there remains hope that this butterfly is still out there.
This year, weather permitting, several visits were made to the dunes south of Irvine (NS 31 36). This area was identified during the previous year as a likely spot for Small Blue. Despite thorough searches by myself in July the Small Blue could not be found.
The dunes at Irvine support a very healthy population of Kidney Vetch, the foodplant of the Small Blue. In places the kidney Vetch forms a monoculture and in sheltered hot spots it grows with Birdsfoot Trefoil in a sparse grassland / heathland habitat which is ideal for Small Blue. The habitat is certainly attractive to other Lepidoptera. On the 13th July counts included 30 Common Blues, 50 Meadow Browns, 15 Small Heaths, 200+ Six Spot Burnet moths, 2 Graylings a Small Tortoiseshell, a Large White and a Dark Green Fritillary.
As the Irvine dunes are very close to Shewalton Sand Pits Wildlife Trust reserve, a site where Small Blue had been previously recorded, there remains hope that this elusive butterfly may have survived in the area.
Next year further searches will be undertaken in the Irvine area to look for the Small Blue.
Impressions of the 4th International Symposium
Having attended the Society's first International Symposium at Keele in 1993, I was looking forward to attending the fourth, held from 5th - 8th September at Lancaster University. I was not disappointed.
Registering in the University on the Thursday evening, I received a pack containing abstracts of all the talks and all the other information I would need for the Symposium. It was going to be a busy few days!
About 160 people were listed as attending, but I suspect that there were actually quite a few more who had booked late and were not on the list. As well as Butterfly Conservation members and staff from the UK, there were delegates from Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia - a truly International meeting. Being held in the north of England, meant that a reasonable number of Scottish representatives were able to attend, including branch members John Randall, David Barbour and myself.
The theme for the meeting was 'Landscape and Lepidoptera Conservation'. On the Friday there were talks about metapopulations, mobility and dispersal patterns, together with practical aspects of conserving butterflies at a landscape scale. A few of these involved complicated formulae, but were still very interesting! There was also a poster session at the end of the afternoon and many discussions carried on over dinner and later in the bar!
On the Saturday, the main focus was on implementing Species Action Plans, which was introduced by Tim New from Australia. He pointed out that there are just a handful of lepidopterists in the whole of Australia, and that there have been many legal restrictions on collecting there, making research into species' distributions, and hence conservation extremely difficult. And we thought we sometimes have problems!
Two parallel sessions ran during the Saturday. This meant that delegates had to decide in advance which they wanted to attend, and there was much rushing backwards and forwards between lecture theatres between the talks. Inevitably, there were a few talks which I would have liked to have heard which clashed, so I had to make a few hard decisions!
These sessions were followed by a keynote speech by Baroness Barbara Young (Chief Executive of the Environment Agency). Her laptop computer had crashed en route, but she still managed to give a superb talk, despite the lack of her PowerPoint presentation! She discussed government plans for landscape conservation and agricultural reforms. These included the new entry level agri-environment scheme announced in the recent comprehensive spending review, which could greatly help join up the countryside.
The Saturday afternoon concluded with workshop sessions on a variety of themes. I attended the session on 'Monitoring and recording butterfly populations in Europe'. As a result of this session, it is hoped that some form of message board for the exchange of information and records of European butterflies will be set up, as part of the Butterfly Conservation website. (It is also hoped to have synopses of all the Symposium talks posted on the website fairly soon.)
On the Saturday evening we had the Symposium banquet. The University's catering was extremely good over the entire weekend, although one of the Belgium delegates commented that 'we were having our desert first' when we got a grapefruit and orange cocktail as a starter!
The final sessions were on Sunday morning. These looked at Conserving Lepidoptera in Europe and Lepidoptera and climate change. This included a talk by Jim Asher on the effects of climate change on British butterflies, using data from the Millennium Atlas project. There was so much data collected for the project, there is still a lot of useful research coming out of it!
After lunch, about 60 of the delegates boarded a coach and cars to drive the few miles up the M6 to visit Arnside Knot, a site owned and managed by the National Trust. We were guided by Matthew Oates, Sam Ellis and the local NT warden, who showed us what management practices have been carried out on what must be the premier butterfly site in N.W. England. It turned out to be a glorious afternoon - hot and sunny. We were sadly too late for some of the site's specialities - the High Brown Fritillary and Scotch Argus, which had just finished; but the group I was in saw Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood and Large White. The others also saw Red Admiral, Common Blue and Green-veined White. It was a wonderful way to end what had been a superb weekend.
The standard of the talks was extremely high throughout the weekend. The discussions in the bar in the evenings were often even more informative, and it was wonderful to be able to talk directly to some of the foremost lepidopterists in Europe. It was a chance to renew old acquaintances and make many new ones.
I am very glad I was there. I can't wait for the fifth!
Scottish Staff Team Expands
Substantial funding from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund (through a 'Your Heritage' grant) has enabled Butterfly Conservation to greatly expand its work in Scotland through the creation of a new team of staff. A prime aim will be to recruit many more volunteers for surveys, monitoring and habitat management, working closely with the three Scottish regional branches.
Paul Kirkland, who joined Butterfly Conservation in Dorset in 1994, but for the last six years has been based in Scotland, is now Head of Conservation.
Dr Tom Prescott is Conservation Advisor, and comes to us from RSPB where he has worked at Strumpshaw Fen and on Orkney, and latterly as Site Manager for Insh Marshes. He has already been very much involved in work on Dark Bordered Beauty, and will be providing advice to landowners, training for countryside advisers, and helping to manage survey, monitoring and research projects.
Julie Stoneman is Volunteer Development Officer. Julie has worked for Scottish Wildlife Trust as warden of Handa Island and for RSPB on Islay, and will be recruiting, training and supporting volunteers for help with surveys, monitoring and habitat management. The first year of her work will be focussed on Dumfries and Galloway and Argyll, where she will hold a series of free workshops in monitoring and identification skills.
Shona Greig is part-time Administrative Officer. Shona has previously worked with environmental charities, including a city farm, and is responsible for running the office, helping with IT, providing advice on gardening for butterflies, as well as dealing with general enquiries.
The intention of the new team is to work towards the targets outlined in Butterfly Conservation's three Regional Action Plans for Scotland, which prioritise work for key butterflies and moths. Species to be targeted include for example the pearl-bordered fritillary, marsh fritillary, argent and sable, narrow-bordered bee hawk and dark bordered beauty.
For more information on any part of the project please contact the Stirling Office at
Butterfly Conservation (Scotland)
24 Allan Park
Tel: 01786 447753
Record of Holly Blue at Portpatrick
On the 21st of August George Thomson found one individual of the Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) at Dunskey, Portpatrick (NX 010 556).
With an increasing number of records of Holly Blue being sighted in South -West Scotland there is great hope the Holly Blue is now a Scottish resident.
My Mini Butterfly Meadow
We had a large area of lawn at the front of our home and I had a sudden urge to turn it into a butterfly meadow. Well meadow is rather a misnomer as I did not plant grass, instead I produced two large flower beds. The whole area is approximately 35 square meters enclosed by a low hedge (3ft) of Berberis stenophylla
We removed the turf from two beds about 15 square meters each and left a grass border all around the edges of each bed for access. We dug over the beds and added coarse grit for drainage and poor quality top soil to make the level back up. One bed I wanted to be perennial plants and for this I chose a mixture of cultivated plant such as white Lupin, blue and white Campanula, Michaelmass daisy, Lavender, wild Geraniums, white Achillea, pink Astilbe and Pink Sidalcea for height and also differing flower and leaf shapes. The wild flowers planted included Field Scabious, Melancholy Thistle, Wild Marjoram, Red and White Campion, Ragged Robin, Purple Loosestrife Thyme, Meadow Cransbill and Common Toadflax. This bed had a cool colour theme.
For the annual bed I chose a mixture of cornfield annuals, including Corn Marigold, Corncockle, Corn Camomile, Cornflowers and field Poppies. To this I added Borage, Candytuft, Shirley Poppies and Eschscholzia, The only grass I added was annual Hare's Tail (which did not grow very well). This bed was an absolute riot of colour all season.
I am pleased to report that both the perennial and annual bed flowered prolifically for a long season and I've collected many seeds for next years annual bed. I can not claim clouds of butterflies visiting the flower beds but we did have a modest increase in the numbers that visited, plus an extended season of visitors. (Normally we usually only get butterflies in the garden when the Buddleia bushes in the back garden are in bloom.) There was obviously a lot of nectar as we had bees and various hoverflies in abundance. The butterflies that visited were Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Large White, Small White and Green-Veined White.
I'm hoping for as much success with the flowers next year for they were a delight in themselves, but I am also hoping to introduce more butterfly attractant species, especially earlier and later varieties to support the butterflies when nectar sources are low. Perhaps I may also try for some caterpillar foodplants. At present we have a patch of nettles in a sunny spot in the back garden but they do not seem to be much used by the butterflies. If anyone has any particularly successful butterfly attracting plants I would love to hear from you. If anyone has any spare areas of garden I would recommend trying to supply nectar rich plants to try to support our precious butterfly population.
Narrow-bordered 5-Spot Burnet Moths at Aberlady
On the 3rd of August while walking along the main footpath of the Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve we found two individuals of the Narrow-bordered 5-Spot Burnet Moth (Zygaena lonicerae). This was the first time we had visited the reserve which lies on the east coast between Musselburgh and North Berwick. It was also the first time we had encountered this type of Burnet Moth. We were not sure how significant the record was so we contacted Richard Sutcliffe. Richard passed the record on to Bob Savile of the Lothian Wildlife Information Centre who indicated that it was a new record to the Lothians.
In the publication, Burnet Moths (1996) by Scottish Natural Heritage it is mentioned that the Narrow-bordered 5-Spot Burnet Moth has recently spread its range from England and has begun to invade Scotland's border counties. This is possibly another species that is moving north in response to climate change.
Our record at Aberlady indicated that this particular moth has virtually reached the Central Belt. It would therefore be well worth looking at all Burnet Moths encountered in our branch area, including in Glasgow to see if it has also spread northwards on the West Coast.
We found Aberlady Bay to be a good site for butterflies and moths. Many Six -Spot Burnet Moths were encountered feeding on Ragwort, Thistle and Knapweed. Other moths seen included the Six - Striped Rustic (Xestia sexstrigata) and the cloaked Minor (Mesoligia furuncula).
Freshly emerged male Common Blue butterflies were stunning and Dark Green Fritillaries were seen at the dunes on the reserve.
Keith and Susan Futter
Why monitor butterflies?
Butterfly monitoring is the foundation upon which conservation is built, as it allows us to assess trends, identify priorities and measure the effectiveness of conservation action. It is also one of the areas in which BC's volunteers excel and, therefore, a major strength of the Society. Anyone can help with butterfly monitoring and we need to maintain a thriving community of volunteers to provide vital ongoing information. This article aims to clarify the main monitoring projects undertaken by BC members and explain how the data gathered play an essential role in conservation.
What is monitoring?
By 'monitoring' we mean collecting information that can be used to determine how well butterflies are faring. This might be at the level of an individual colony or site (e.g. using the butterfly transect method) or across counties, regions or countries. Most monitoring carried out by BC members falls into two main activities: walking butterfly transects and general butterfly recording as part of the Butterflies for the New Millennium (BNM) project. Both types of monitoring provide essential, but different, information that enables BC to conserve butterflies effectively. Abundance data from transects and distribution data from BNM recording compliment each other and together provide a much clearer picture of how butterflies are faring than could be gained from either type of monitoring alone.
Butterfly transects are the most accurate way to check how butterfly populations are faring on individual sites. A transect is a walk around a particular area (perhaps a favourite walk near your home) during which all of the butterflies seen are counted. The route remains the same each time and the transect is walked during fine weather every week from April until the end of September. Clearly, this requires commitment from recorders, although transects can be shared by groups of people each walking a certain number of weeks. Some transects are set up to focus on particular rare species. These are quicker to do as only the focus species is recorded and are done for shorter periods of the year (i.e. during the flight period of the species concerned).
The information gained from transect monitoring is immensely useful, especially if the same transect is walked for many years. When data are brought together from a large number of sites, regional and national indices can be generated. The key value of such annual monitoring is that it provides early warnings of species decline, at a time when conservation action can be most effective and before species are lost from whole sites and areas. Transects not only provide accurate assessments of how each species is doing every year, but enable us to investigate many questions about butterfly ecology and how habitat management and the weather affect populations. The BC transect project, which has collated data from over 500 transects involving 2000 volunteer recorders, has already provided important information to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. For example, we now know that the Government's green farming schemes are helping to slow the declines of many butterfly species. Impressed at the quality of BC's monitoring, DEFRA have now extended their funding of this project, specifically to investigate how habitat management affects different butterfly species.
Despite the success of the project so far, more transects are needed, particularly in northern England, Wales and Scotland and in farmland, urban, wetland, upland and coastal habitats. Your butterfly transect records could end up on a Minister's desk and help improve the future of the countryside for butterflies.
Recording butterfly distribution
Butterflies for the New Millennium is BC's project for general butterfly recording. Since 1995, over 1.9 million butterfly sightings have been collected from 10,000 volunteers. As with transect data, butterfly records are important at both the local and national scales. Recording is essential for local conservation, providing the locations of colonies of scarce and declining species to conservation organisations and planning authorities seeking to protect them. Records can also provide national assessments of how species are faring by comparing current distributions to historical ones.
Data from the first five years of BNM were used to produce The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2001), but this book is only the start. The distributions of most species are changing rapidly and it is vital that people continue to record butterflies and that more recorders are recruited. You can make a record any time you see a butterfly that you can identify, anywhere in Britain and Ireland. You don't have to be an expert and even recording in your garden, local park or nature reserve can be a big help. Standard recording forms are used to note down any butterflies that you see, together with the date and name and grid reference of the place where they were. Records are returned to Branch co-ordinators. We are currently working toward the production of new national distribution maps based on the survey period 2000-2004. Many areas remain under-recorded and there are undoubtedly many colonies of scarce species still to be discovered - it is not too late to get involved!
Why is monitoring important?
The data generated by BNM recording and transect monitoring of butterflies underpin almost all conservation work and can be used over and over again to benefit butterflies, both at the local scale (e.g. by improving site management) and nationally. The data are used to determine Government policy, to decide planning applications and to influence the activities of major land-owning organisations such as the Ministry of Defence and Forestry Commission. Ultimately, butterfly data collected by members and submitted through BC's Branches determine which species are the focus of conservation action through Biodiversity Action Plans at the national, regional and local levels. Monitoring data are also important in research and have been used to advise the Government and its conservation agencies on the state of Britain's butterflies, agricultural reform and the impacts of climate change. BC has gained an excellent reputation for providing high quality information on butterfly trends, but your help is vital to ensure that we maintain these standards in the future.
How to get involved?
Everyone can contribute and we really do need your help. Whether you are a new recruit or a long-term member, now is the time to get involved with butterfly monitoring (if you aren't already!). You don't need to give up lots of free time and you don't need to be an expert. Contact your Branch Recorder or Organiser to see how you can help or find out more about transect walking and Butterflies for the New Millennium from the BC web site (www.butterfly-conservation.org). We need both distribution records and transect data to conserve our declining butterflies.
Richard Fox, Surveys Manager & Dr. Tom Brereton, Senior Monitoring Ecologist, Butterfly Conservation
Can your garden make a difference in helping butterflies?
Have you participated in the Garden Butterflies Count organised by Butterfly Conservation and fronted by Alan Titchmarsh?
We have decided to participate and have been completing the form during the summer months. In summary we have recorded ten species in our small garden which measures 10m by 10m. The species we have seen are Green-veined White, Large White, Meadow Brown, Orange-tip, Painted Lady, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White.
Most of the butterflies have made fleeting visits, just passing through. Others have lingered to feed on our garden flowers. Only one, the Orange-tip has bred in our garden. We found nine mature caterpillars with seven feeding on Garlic Mustard, one on Cuckoo flower and one on Dames Violet. A garden can therefore make a difference in assisting with the conservation of some of our butterflies.
Keith and Susan Futter.
A Book to Watch Out For!
Britain's Butterflies by David Tomlinson and Rob Still. (2002).
I find this book an absolute delight to look through. On every facing page there is a photographic plate of a butterfly species in all it's glory. These delicate, fragile yet resilient insects are displayed to the best advantage so that their colour and beauty reaches out and draws you in to discover more and more.
There are short sections at the beginning of the book about the life cycle and life styles of butterflies and their relationship with plants and various habitats. The text is then presented on each species and contains a concise description of the adult butterfly detailing key identification features. Then there is a brief description of the egg, caterpillar and chrysalis. Next follows a summery of the key aspects of the species behaviour and favoured habitat and a resume of the current status in Britain and Ireland. Then comes a list of the vital statistics of the adult wingspan, chrysalis, caterpillar and egg, followed by a life cycle chart, highlighting when the various life cycle stages of the butterfly species occur. There is a distribution map accompanied by information on best locations and specific sites as well as observation tips about finding and watching each species.
The photographic part of the guide has been compiled using modern digital image computer technology depicting the adult butterfly (1.5 x life size) showing typically both the upperside and the underside and both sexes when they differ significantly. In addition the caterpillar and chrysalis are shown along with the foodplant. There is a small section on former breeding, occasional breeding and scarce migrant species, with stunning photographs of species such as Large Copper and Camberwell beauty.
The final section includes a photographic display of eggs, caterpillar and chrisali. Eggs are depicted 10 x life size. The caterpillar and chrysali are those depicted on the species plate but are collated here together for ease of reference. There is also a list of the most important sources of food for both the nectaring adult and the caterpillars.
I know that some people will comment that they have seen a better photograph of something or say it would have been better if criticism of any publication is inevitable but as an interested amateur who had thumbed many butterfly books, in my humble opinion this one meets with approval, I find it very useful and extremely enjoyable. I would advocate purchasing a copy for anyone who has an interest in wildlife. Children, would I think, be enthralled by the beautiful pictures and it is good educational material. It provides a useful reference work for the expert. It makes identification as simple as possible and I'm sure it will inspire many beginners to get more involved in understanding and appreciating these magical insects.