|North East England Branch|
Successful conservation of butterflies and moths is dependent on accurate and up to date information about the distribution and abundance of the species in question. By monitoring moths and butterflies we can, for example, detect when populations go into decline and can therefore begin the process of investigating the causes of the decline and hopefully reversing them. If we know accurately where our rarer or more threatened species occur we can start to ensure that the key sites and habitats are protected. And when we are in the process of implementing measures to protect a butterfly or moth population, monitoring is also important to enable us to determine if the measures are effective. Conversely, in the absence of reliable data on butterfly and moth distribution and abundance we may fail to realise a species is in trouble until it is too late to do anything about it or we may allow a site to be destroyed because we do not recognise its importance for lepidoptera. For all of these reasons it is vitally important that we continue to collect records of butterflies and moths within our region.
This is an activity that anybody can contribute to and every record that is sent in, whether of a common and widespread 'garden' species or of a threatened rarity, is of value in contributing to 'the bigger picture' of the health of our lepidopteran fauna. So whether you are a keen moth trapper, a butterfly expert or someone who just likes to look at the butterflies encountered whilst enjoying a walk in the countryside, please keep a note of the species you see and send in the details to the County Recorders as explained below.
Several different arrangements are in place for the submission of records, depending on whether it is a moth or a butterfly record and whether it relates to Durham or Northumberland:
Three main categories of records of butterflies are collected, namely transects, Butterflies of the Wider Countryside Survey and casual records.
Transects involve the weekly walking of a fixed route throughout the butterfly flight season and recording the numbers of different species encountered. For details of how to set up a transect and where to submit the records please click here.
Butterflies of the Wider Countryside Survey
The method involves making a minimum of two visits to a randomly selected square (squares are selected randomly by the survey managers; recorders can choose from a list of pre-selected squares) between May and August to count butterflies along two 1km survey lines running roughly north-south through the square. The survey is co-ordinated centrally by Butterfly Conservation but with the help of a WCBS Champion in each Branch. The aim is to re-survey all of the squares in the survey, using the same methodology, every year. Further details are given here.
'Casual records' refers to records of butterflies made other than through a transect scheme. Although the information collected in this way is less systematic than that produced from transects it is nevertheless extremely valuable, not least because it tends to produce a much wider coverage of the region than is possible through transects. A single data-base of records is maintained for Durham and Northumberland but, for convenience, there are separate Recorders for each county. Thus if you live in Durham or Cleveland, North of the Tees you should send all your records either to Ian Waller (electronic submissions) or to Steve le Fleming (paper submissions) and if you live in Northumberland (including Newcastle and North Tyneside) you should send all your records to Michael Perkins. Your season's records should be sent in one batch at the end of the season and by 30th November each year. A spreadsheet for recording butterflies can be downloaded here. The spreadsheet includes further details of what information to record and where to send it including postal addresses for pape-based records. We are also grateful to receive details of butterflies seen during the course of the season for posting on the Recent Sightings page of the web-site and these can be sent using the Contact page.
Moth records are held in separate databases for Durham and Northumberland. For County Durham the Recorder is Keith Dover. A spreadsheet for the submission of moth records from County Durham can be downloaded from here. For Northumberland the County Recorder is Tom Tams. Full instructions for submitting moth records from Northumberland can be found here at the Northumberland Moths web-site.
It is important that records are accurate and reliable and one of the responsibilities of the Recorders is to check the validity of all records received. For common, widespread and easily identified species records will normally be accepted without query but in some cases the observer will be asked to provide supporting evidence in the form of detailled written descriptions, photographs or sight of the specimen (moths can be kept captive for a day or two in a pot in a cool place without being harmed). Instances where this is likely to occur are when the species in question has been rarely or never previously recorded in the region, if it has been recorded outside its previously known range or flight period or if it is a difficult to identify species. Butterflies for which supporting evidence will normally be required are Essex Skipper, Brown Argus, Large Tortoiseshell, Camberwell Beauty, Gatekeeper, and Brimstone. Our Recording Committee will review records of these species as well as any records for which there may be any grounds for uncertainty. The committee membership currently comprises: Michael Perkins, Roger Norman, Ian Waller, Steve le Fleming, Peter Webb, David Stebbings and Jonathan Wallace.
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