Sunday, August 7, 2011

Butterflies now rival birds as objects of passion, says Trust

Butterfly spotting is becoming almost as popular as bird watching, the National Trust said yesterday as it launched its first “love butterflies” weekend.

The organisation is holding the weekend in celebration of British butterflies at the time of the year when the greatest number of species are in flight.

Members of the public are being encouraged to tweet the name of species they spot this weekend and the postcode of where they spotted them to build up a digital butterfly map online.

But the main focus of the weekend is to get outside, whether in cities or landscapes such as woodlands or chalk downs, and enjoy the “spirits of summer hours”, according to conservation adviser Matthew Oates.
He said that butterflies had long been one of the most popular elements of British flora and fauna, and butterfly collecting had once been a favourite pastime.

“What’s happening now is butterfly collecting is coming back massively, not with nets and pins and killing jars, but with digital photography.

“You’ve got the thrill of the chase, it’s a benign country sport and if all goes well you’re left with beautiful pictures and treasured memories.”

This year butterflies got off to a good start with the warm April, with some emerging much earlier than normal, including a white admiral which was spotted at Bookham Common in Surrey at the earliest day of the year since 1893.

The Trust said marbled whites and meadow browns were a week to 10 days early at Denbies in Surrey and Exmoor, while the year’s second generation of Duke of Burgundy and dingy skipper butterflies were spotted at Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire in late July - the earliest date ever.

The species that people should be able to see this weekend include common butterflies such as the cabbage whites, red admirals and peacocks. Rare species that will be on the wing include the silver spotted skipper, found on the chalk downs of southern England, and the brown hairstreak. n People can tweet the name of the species, postcode and #lovebutterflies to help build a digital butterfly map at The website also has information about UK butterflies and a number of downloadable walks detailing the best sites to see butterflies around the country.

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