British butterflies

Butterflies are excellent indicator species. That is, butterflies let us know what’s happening on the land.

These delicate creatures are small and their lives are short but we’d be fools to overlook them. They have plenty to tell about long-term trends across landscapes. You might choose to learn more about them at Stephen Cheshire’s British Butterflies.

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) brings several groups of scientists together to learn from British butterflies. This scheme includes the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS). I’m grateful to my fellow bloggers petrel41 and narhvalur for directing attention to WCBS findings about butterflies in the wet summer of 2012. What happened last year will keep affecting our land and its creatures into the future.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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9 Responses to British butterflies

  1. Jenny says:

    I look forward to perusing all of your links. To quote Cheshire, they are truly beautiful “canaries in the coal mine.”

    • argylesock says:

      Thank you. I’m encouraged by your words. My knowledge of invertebrates has plenty of scope for improvement and there are people reading my blog (eg Finn Holding of The Naturephile) who know a million times what I know.

      Now I’m thinking about starting an invertebrate series after my tree series (following the Ogham ‘tree calendar’) ends a few months from now. I could start with ‘lepidopteran of the month’ to narrow down the huge range of invertebrates, and focus on the species most common in Britain.

      • Jenny says:

        That would be wonderful! It would be delightful to learn more of Britain’s butterflies. I know little of invertebrates in general, and am excited to be following lots of blogs that are stretching out my knowledge base.

  2. Finn Holding says:

    I love the idea of a monthly Lepidopteran. Could get tricky from November to March though.

    You’re dead right about ignoring them at our peril. As with other insects, e.g. bumble bees, plummeting numbers are a very dangerous indication of the state of our countryside.

    • argylesock says:

      I’m glad you like my plan for Lepidopteran of the Month. The plan involves pushing myself to face how embarrassingly weak I am at field identification. Whether insects, plants or fish, I often lack knowledge even of the common ones. But now that I come to think of it, I’m confident with identifying common British birds.

      This is about the education system, I think. I learned to identify common birds by admiring visitors to my childhood bird table. My old copy of the Observer’s Book of Birds is well-thumbed and I still use it. I learned to recognise common birds’ calls by Dawn Chorus walks with my local Wildlife Trust when I was about 8. I learned to recognise common livestock breeds from the Observer’s Books too. But for wild vascular plants and wild insects, wild birds’ eggs, wild fungi and lichens, despite having those books and other nature books (all of which I still have) I learned little.

      I still knew little when I started my first University degree (Pure and Applied Biology) and likewise when I started my first Masters degree (Ecology). Each of those involved field trips to various habitats. The weakness, I found, was that whoever was teaching the field class tended to get excited about the rarities before we, the students, had learned the common species. With species-rich groups (vascular plants, insects) that felt overwhelming. It still does.

      I want to use ‘Lepidopteran of the Month’ to improve my own knowledge and skills. Your input is most welcome.

  3. Pingback: Lepidopteran of the month: Small tortoiseshell butterfly | Science on the Land

  4. Pingback: Big Butterfly Count | Science on the Land

  5. Pingback: Butterflies in Britain, summer 2013 | Science on the Land

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