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Butterfly and moth surveys: how you can become involved

The aim of butterfly and moth surveys is not just to record the presence of butterflies or moths but also to learn more about the habitats and ecology of each species and to get information on the condition of the site so that Butterfly Conservation can implement appropriate management if required.

Current surveys and monitoring schemes consist of;

Monitoring Under-recorded Butterfly Populations in the Highlands

The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey

Chequered Skipper Survey 2012 - 2014 (Reports)

Moth Trapping in Under-recorded Areas 2012 - 2014 (Reports)

Garden Moth Scheme, with Highland data 2012 - 2014 (Report)

Please also vist our Events page for details of Field Trips that may be associated with surveys.

Monitoring under-recorded butterfly populations in the Highlands – can you help?

Butterfly Conservation recently reviewed what standardised monitoring of butterflies was taking place across the UK (as opposed to casual sightings) in order to identify possible gaps in coverage at a regional level.

The findings for BC Highland branch area were as follows:

  • More “all species” transects need to be set up under the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS).
  • More 1km squares need to be sampled as part of the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS).

The following priority species are under-monitored:

    Marsh Fritillary

    Chequered Skipper


    Large Heath

    Mountain Ringlet

    Northern Brown Argus

    Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

For these species, recommended monitoring is by single species transects or timed counts. For Marsh Fritillary, counting of larval webs is also an option.

The information on this document (PDF file) will let you know what is involved with transects, timed counts and WCBS squares. If, after reading this, you feel able to help out by setting up a transect (either all-species or targeting one of the above priority species), walking a WCBS square or walking the Inverpolly transect, then please contact:

If you are concerned that your butterfly identification skills are not up to scratch then let me put your mind at rest! There are relatively few species to learn in Highland and for the all-species transects you start in spring when there isn’t much around and gradually work your way up to the busier time in summer, learning as you go.

Pete Moore, Events Organiser, Highland Branch.

To download Pete's original document, including guidance on monitoring methods, please click here (PDF file).


The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS)

The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) is a UK-wide project looking at changes in the populations of the commoner butterfly species. Before the WCBS was set up, systematic butterfly-monitoring was often restricted to nature reserves or other good butterfly areas. While this was very useful for monitoring the rarer species found at these sites, the results of such monitoring did not produce results representative of the countryside as a whole. The WCBS was devised with the intent to rectify this discrepancy, which it does by choosing survey sites at random.

Hundreds of one-kilometre squares have been randomly chosen across the country, each one waiting to be surveyed just twice a year by willing volunteers. Here in Highland Branch (i.e. Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides) we have 80 of these squares... and many have not yet been surveyed at all! Who knows what unusual butterflies might be hiding in these unexplored sites? Could you be the intrepid surveyor willing to go where no butterfly recorder has gone before? Or are you a seasoned WCBS-er wanting to continue with your existing site (or even to try a different one!)? Whichever description suits you best, please get in touch and I will furnish you with more information about the project and give you the locations of squares near you!

Please click here to see a table with a list of the currently available squares as well as information about the accessibility of them.

Kirstie Ross, Highland Branch WCBS Champion, funkyhaywood@yahoo.co.uk


Chequered Skipper Survey 2012 - 2014

The aim of the survey was to target recording at 100 1km squares that were predicted, through computer modeling, to be the most suitable 1km squares for the butterfly in Scotland, but where it had not previously been recorded.

To download a copy of the reports, please click the links.  2012   2013   2014


Moth Trapping in Under-recorded Areas

Under recorded areas in Highland were defined as 10km squares where less than 20 species of macro-moth had been recorded, or squares where one of Scotland’s commonest macro-moths, Large Yellow Underwing, had not been, suggesting that little or no moth trapping had occurred in that square.

Most of these squares were in remote areas, with few or no roads through them, some had no previous records at all.

To download a copy of the annual reports, please click the links.  2012   2013   2014


Garden Moth Scheme (Report)

The Garden Moth Scheme (GMS) runs from the beginning of March to early November, with people recording the numbers of around 300 species of the more common moths in their gardens once a week throughout this period. Further information on the findings of the GMS for the whole of the UK and Ireland, both current and historical, is available in the form of annual reports and quarterly newsletters, which can be found in the Downloads section of the web-site:http://www.gardenmoths.org.uk

To download a copy of the annual reports including Highland data, please click the links.  2012   2013   2014  2015   2016   2017


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