The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey and Butterfly Recorders’ Meeting

As I previously mentioned, I was asked to talk about the WCBS at the recent National Butterfly Recorders’ Meeting.  This was a nerve-wracking moment as I don’t do a lot of public speaking and there was a room full of butterfly greats there – Matthew Oates really should have his own accompanying drum roll.  However, I did managed ten minutes with virtually nothing included about butterflies; for me it was about the people who do the surveys.

I started co-ordinating the butterfly survey for Beds and Northants 3 years ago, and inherited 10 surveyed 1km squares which is not very many in an area of 3000 km2.  It had been higher, but the previous co-ordinator had gone off chasing swallowtails in Norfolk (and he did three of the squares).  We are now regularly surveying over 20 sites (over 30 if you include those from the BTO).

My presentation was about how we had increased to more than 20 squares and, with the help of some volunteers from the BTO, had amassed records of nearly 35,000 butterflies (more details on the actual butterflies in another post).

I’ve tried various ways of upping the numbers: Twitter, the local wildlife trust, and local wildlife groups, but only some have had any affect.  Maybe I am targeting the wrong people.  I had a bit of luck at the local AGM – after all these are people who like butterflies enough to spend a Saturday afternoon at a meeting, and I will try this again this year.  I’m also going to try and target local areas with a lot of empty squares and see if we can get some of them covered as well as talking to the local agricultural college and university.

It really is a nice survey to do and is seen as one of the best scientific surveys that Butterfly Conservation carry out – mainly due to the random allocation of the squares.  It also targets the more common butterflies as it is carried out in July and August – just two visits on a sunny afternoon are required so it isn’t a massive time commitment.

I get a lot of good feedback from volunteers about the survey – some really do love it and look forward to it each year.  The question is – how do I persuade more people to come and do their bit for butterflies and for citizen science?  Answers on a postcard please…