Cumbria Branch Survey Involvement
The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (July and August, with May and June optional) - can you help in 2016?
Many "common" butterfly species are undergoing serious declines and are in need of greater attention. The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) organised by Butterfly Conservation, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is a national survey of common and widespread butterfly species. Now in its eighth year, it is the first UK-wide survey of butterfly abundance using a random sampling framework. The WCBS will enable the changing abundance of these species in the general countryside to be more effectively monitored. The survey will also help to measure the future impacts of climate change on butterflies and to assess whether environmental grants to farmers and woodland managers are helping to restore butterfly populations across the landscape. WCBS covers the majority of habitat types in the UK, including urban and upland sites; this is in contrast with the long-established transect monitoring system, which tends to focus on nature reserves and sites which are generally better for butterflies. Using new analytical techniques, WCBS and transect data are now combined to produce even more accurate butterfly indicators than hitherto available.
Like the transect method, WCBS relies almost entirely on volunteer effort, and in Cumbria we'd welcome additional surveyors in 2016. Increased volunteer effort in the county in recent years has meant that we're now achieving higher coverage - our sincere thanks to all who have helped! Most 2015 volunteers have agreed to survey their squares again in 2016, but we are still left with the unallocated 1 km squares listed below - would you be prepared to survey one or more of these squares? We can supply maps for each of these, and some already have a survey route plotted on them. The minimum requirement is just two visits to your allotted square, one in each of July and August, and with a minimum of ten days between the two visits. (Optional extra visits in May and June are especially valuable though not essential.) The survey is conducted by walking at a slow, steady pace, identifying and counting all butterflies seen within 2.5m either side of the survey line, up to 5m ahead and 5m from ground level up (effectively a 5x5x5 "moving box"). As with the normal transect method certain minimum weather standards must be met on survey days. The results can be submitted online to BC or on paper forms if the internet is not available. If you'd like to help with this survey, or just learn more about it, do please get in touch. More detailed information on the WCBS can be found on the UKBMS website.
Martin Tordoff - WCBS Coordinator, Cumbria Branch. Tel: 01539 735935. Email: email@example.com.
WCBS random squares available for survey in 2016
*: has been previously surveyed so route already plotted out.
Morecambe Bay Anania funebris Search (April to June)
This beautiful fast-flying little Pyralid moth, with a wing length of only c 10 mm, is a nationally scarce (Nb) UK BAP priority species of conservation concern. A search in 2013 led by Graham Jones targeting the species in the Morecambe Bay limestones resulted in 23 positive records from nine sites. But nil returns were received from 20 sites, nine of which had previous positive records. The moth may still be in decline, but has probably been much overlooked in the past. Though the above project has now been completed, Butterfly Conservation's Cumbria and Lancashire branches ask that you keep an eye open for this species in the Morecambe Bay area, and ensure than any sightings are recorded. Records of the adult moth in the area range from the first week in May to the first week in July, but with the majority of records from late May to late June. (In 2015 the earliest record was from Latterbarrow on 14 May and the latest 23 June at Gait Barrows.)
Despite encouraging results in 2013, knowledge of the distribution and abundance of Anania funebris remains somewhat patchy, particularly in areas away from the Arnside and Silverdale AONB. A more robust dataset is needed to help determine the current status of funebris within the Morecambe Bay area. Results obtained from this survey could be used as a baseline to assess if current woodland management work, aimed primarily at threated fritillary butterflies, is also benefiting species such as funebris. The results will help to determine the direction of any future conservation work aimed at funebris.
Anania funebris is a colourful, day-flying moth that will fly prominently in sunny weather. So please don't be put off in getting involved by thinking that you may not have the necessary expertise. This is most definitely a project that anyone who has an interest in watching butterflies and day-flying moths can make a very positive contribution towards! Illustrated below are the adult moth, and its caterpillar's food plant Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea), both images courtesy of David Benham.
In 2016 we'd particularly like the following nine sites to continue to be targeted - all these were searched unsuccessfully in 2013 and some since, yet had seen positive records from earlier years, so are all worth checking out. However, all records from any site are welcomed. Please remember to record any positive sightings of Anania funebris, whether in the Morecambe Bay area or elsewhere on the "Sightings" page of Butterfly Conservation's Cumbria or Lancashire branch websites, as appropriate.
Nine sites / 1 km squares with negative results for 2013 survey, but with previous positive records:
*: Grid reference SD4588 had positive record in 2015 for Whitbarrow SSSI.
Mountain Ringlet Survey 2016 (June and July)
One element of the RSPB Haweswater Mountain Ringlet Project, piloted in 2015, is investigating a sample of "extinct" Mountain Ringlet sites across the Lake District - these are sites where positive records were received up to 2000, but none have been seen since. In this context "extinction" could mean that the butterfly really has since disappeared from the site, or that no searches have been undertaken since, or simply that searches may have omitted parts of the site where the butterfly is still present. RSPB surveyors will be checking these sites for Mountain Ringlet's presence / absence in 2016, but this task is in addition to conducting habitat surveys on these sites and they may not always have opportunity for thorough searches across the whole site. In 2016 seven sites are being sampled in this way, with probably a further eight in 2017.
This presents an opportunity for volunteer surveyors to assist in the project by undertaking a search of suitable areas in one or more of the seven squares listed below - this need not be done in the company of RSPB personnel and can be done at a time of the volunteer's own convenience. The seven 1km squares allocated for 2016 are:
Where to look With very few exceptions, Lakeland's Mountain Ringlets are found between 500m and 750m altitude and usually where the underlying rocks are of the Borrowdale Volcanics group (this includes all of the above sites). Search on gently or moderately sloping grassy sites where Mat grass is abundant.
What to look for - recognising the species Look for a small dark brown butterfly flying close to the ground; they tend to fly in sunshine and drop into the grass at the first hint of cloud cover, so are easily overlooked. On closer inspection, a butterfly sitting with its wings closed is about 15mm across, has a black furry body and brown / orange tinged wings - see photo left. A butterfly sitting with its wings open is about 30mm across, the dark brown wings having a row of orange blotches around the edges of both the fore and hind wings and the body is black and furry - see photo right.
The only other butterfly species you're likely to encounter in any numbers at these altitudes is the Small Heath - It is slightly smaller than a Mountain Ringlet and is a light orange colour when flying. When resting it always closes its wings and shows a two-tone grey hindwing, where the orange forewing is also sometimes visible - see photo below left.
When to look Search for Mountain Ringlets anytime between early June and late July, but the peak time is late June / early July. You're only likely to see them on warm days with sunshine or at least some sunny periods and without too much wind.
Documentation If you're able to help with this please download and complete a copy of the 2016 Mountain Ringlet Record Form. There's space on the form for up to three squares, but surveying just a single square or part-square thoroughly would be very much appreciated - even this could take two or three hours or so plus of course time getting to and from the site. Please return (email, with scanned or photographed document) to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please get in touch with me on the above email address if you'd like any further information before visiting any of these sites - in some cases we may be able to provide grid references of the most recent of the pre-2000 records.
Thank you very much for your and interest and possible help in this project. Any findings from this could prove invaluable to the RSPB in their project and will be of great interest to BC's Cumbria Branch too.
Note re previous years' volunteer surveys
For several years up to 2014 Butterfly Conservation's Cumbria Branch invited volunteers to survey specified 1km squares for the Mountain Ringlet butterfly during its flight season in June and July. The target squares, across the width of Lakeland, included some with known colonies, some adjacent to these, and others where habitat looked suitable for the species but no records had been received. The response to this was variable and very much weather-dependent, but in a good summer up to 40 volunteers submitted returns. Inevitably these included a number of nil returns, but these were just as valuable as positive records. Whilst no formal report has been produced on the result of all this work, the data have all been fed into Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre's database at Tullie House, Carlisle, and this enables production of distribution maps of the species. These can be produced at 1km, 2km or 10km resolution, and can show among other variables, positive and negative square occupancy, maximum counts per square, and changing distributions over time. Production of these relies on CBDC staff availability but if there are any maps you'd be particularly interested in please let me know and I'll see what can be done. Email: email@example.com.
Netted Carpet Moth - Larval Count (commencing Tuesday 6th September 2016)
The Netted Carpet moth (Eustroma reticulatum) is confined in the UK to the Lake District and two sites in the extreme north of Lancashire (with just a possibility of residual colonies in mid-Wales). Its larvae feed only on Touch-me-not-Balsam (Impatiens noli-tangere), itself a nationally scarce plant. Thus conservation of this moth also involves conservation of its food plant, and the National Trust works with landowners to manage sites for the plant and the moth. There are several scattered and small Netted Carpet colonies in or near the Lake District, concentrated in the main areas of: Coniston; east and west Windermere; east and west Derwent Water; Muncaster; Warton / Yealand. More information can be found on Butterfly Conservation's species fact sheet.
Surveys of the larvae and food plant are conducted annually in late summer. In 2016 the intention again is to cover as many of the known sites as possible in the above areas, and volunteer assistance will be essential if good coverage is to be achieved. Volunteers from Butterfly Conservation's Cumbria and Lancashire branches and other organisations have assisted the National Trust in this annual survey, and additional surveyors would again be welcomed.
In 2016 the intensive larval survey will begin on Tuesday 6th September. The provisional plan for the four days of the survey is as follows but it would be advisable to check with NT (contact below) before setting out:
Tue 6th - East Coniston sites. Meet 9.30am at Brantwood car park
Training is given on site so if you'd like to contribute to the survey for this Lakeland speciality please contact John Hooson at the National Trust, Grasmere 015394 63818 (office), 07825 450527 (mobile) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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