Getting the most from the Big Butterfly Count by Martin Robinson

  • The annual Big Butterfly Count is now underway running from 17 July to 9 August. The count involves staying in one spot for 15 minutes and recording the number of each species of butterfly that you see. We are very fortunate in Marlow that our climate and variety of habitats means that we have a good chance to spot all the butterflies that are featured in the survey, which is organised by Butterfly Conservation. Each person can submit as many 15 minute counts as they want. If you want to add an extra bit of interest it can be fun to do separate counts in different habitats and compare the results. If you have a garden, choose a spot where your chances of seeing butterflies are at the highest. Butterflies spend a lot of their lives feeding, on nectar in particular, so a sunny spot near plenty of flowers is a good idea. Plants such as buddleia, marjoram and verbena should attract plenty of insects. Because butterflies are preoccupied when feeding they are relatively still, and so it is easier to identify them from the downloadable chart or from the Butterfly Conservation website.

    Try another count in a meadow, ideally one with plenty of wild flowers and in a sunny position sheltered from the wind . You will have a better chance of spotting the grassland butterflies such as the Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Marbled White and Ringlet, as well as the Common Blue. Another place to try is a woodland with plenty of open sunny spaces. Buddleia and bramble thickets (provided they are still in flower) are a common sight in many of our woodlands so finding a large plant in a sunny place will also get results.

    Butterflies such as the Large White, Small White and Green Veined White are sometimes difficult to distinguish from each other. Green Veined Whites, as the name suggest, are characterised by having dark veins picked out on the underside of their wings. Large Whites are fairly straightforward to distinguish by their size, particularly when seen with Small and Green Veined Whites.

    The Holly Blue and Common Blue vary subtly in their colour and also their flying habits. Male Common Blues are a vivid blue and tend to fly close to the ground. The females are more drab and darker . Holly Blues are lighter blue in colour than Common Blues. The underside of the Holly Blue is a lovely pale blue which is quite different from that of the Common Blue which is speckled and has a row of small orange spots near the edges of the wings. Holly Blues will often fly relatively high in hedgerows and garden walls, whereas Common Blues tend to stay low.. Here is to plenty of sunny days while the count is on!

    You can find more details about how to take part at

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