There’s four days left of the Big Butterfly Count 2014.
The charity Butterfly Conservation hopes that thousands of participants will spend 15 minutes to log 1m butterfly sightings – beating last year’s record of 800,000.
Nature lovers are being asked to count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather. Records are welcome from anywhere, including parks, school grounds, gardens, fields and forests.
If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once.
If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.
The charity said: “Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses.
“The count will also assist us in identifying trends in species that will help us plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.”
You can download a handy identification chart to help you work out which butterflies you have seen and submit separate records for different dates, and for different places that you visit.
You can send in your sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or by using a free smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.
After Big Bang
By tracing nearly 3,000 genes to the earliest common ancestor of butterflies and moths, scientists have created an extensive “Tree of Lepidoptera” in the first study to use large-scale, next-generation DNA sequencing.
Credit: © andrey7777777
Among the study’s more surprising findings: Butterflies are more closely related to small moths than to large ones, which completely changes scientists’ understanding of how butterflies evolved. The study also found that some insects once classified as moths are actually butterflies, increasing the number of butterfly species higher than previously thought.
“This project advances biodiversity research by providing an evolutionary foundation for a very diverse group of insects, with nearly 160,000 described species,” said Akito Kawahara, lead author and assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “With a tree, we can now understand how the majority of butterfly and moth species evolved.”
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Elephant in the River by Radka Kirby, part of Wildlife Artist of The Year exhibition.
The David Shepherd Foundation’s Wildlife Artist of the Year opens at Mall Galleries on Tuesday, 3 June.
Shortlisted works will be available to view and buy at the galleries from 3-7 June, exhibited alongside work by David Shepherd and selected guest artists. All sales go towards raising funds and awareness for endangered wildlife.
The David Shepherd Foundation works on a small number of carefully selected wildlife projects in Africa. See last year’s winning artworks here.
A national survey to assess the population of one of the UK’s rarest birds, the chough, is being launched by conservationists.
The study aims to give a picture of how the birds are faring across the UK after years of decline. In Scotland, choughs are only found in a small area of the south-west, with 90% concentrated on Islay, where numbers have struggled.
A team of surveyors has now begun work to chart the fortunes of the “acrobatic” birds, known for their striking red bill and legs and flamboyant flying style.
Researchers are particularly concerned about the survival rates of young birds in their first year. It is thought that variations in weather and food abundance could be having an impact on the survival rates. Information gathered will help target conservation efforts for the recovery of the species in areas where it is in decline.
The survey is a joint initiative between RSPB, SNH and the Scottish Chough Study Group, which has been monitoring the birds on Islay since the early 1980s.
A still from The Last Catch. Pic: UK Green Film Festival
The UK Green Film Festival 2014 celebrates seven powerful environmental films that will tour the country from 1-8 June.
This year’s line-up includes international award-winning films, and explores some of today’s big environmental issues. The films will be screened in 17 venues in 15 cities across the UK, including Clapham, Greenwich and Hackney Picturehouses.
Seven feature length documentaries – including several UK premieres – from all over the world will be presented at the festival, all of which will be preceded by an accompanying short film. These include:
- The Last Catch. A study of the tuna industry’s impact on both the fish and those who catch them.
- Lost Rivers. An exploration of the subterranean network of rivers beneath London, Montreal, Toronto and Brescia that house the secrets of each city’s past.
- A River Changes Course. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at Sundance 2013, chronicles the influence of rapid urbanisation on three families in Cambodia.
“Our aim is simple,” said the festival’s co-founder, John Long. “We want to help people understand their impact on the environment, and what they can do to reduce it. Film has the power to do that; to provoke thought, to inspire, and to entertain. That’s what the UK Green Film Festival is all about.”