Established in 2007 by the National Biodiversity Data Centre, the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme supports and co-ordinates a network of volunteer recorders across Ireland.  The scheme has monitored butterflies on a weekly basis at almost 90 sites nationally, and these walks generate extremely valuable data to enable us to track butterfly populations from year to year and gain insights into the impact of climate change on butterflies.

This monitoring scheme also accurately tracks the phenology (flight periods of each species and each generation per species) of our butterflies too and our recorders do this my walking their route once a week from 1st of April to the 29th September (week 1, starting April 1st; starting April 8th etc., please download the latest calendar from here).

Why do we need a butterfly monitoring scheme?

In 2010, the Irish Butterfly Red List found that, of the 35 resident and regular migrant species of Irish butterfly, one species is now extinct, six species are threatened with extinction and five species are of ‘Near Threatened’ status. Therefore, 18% of our butterfly species are now under threat, with another 15% heading in the same direction.

In terms of population size, data gathered for the European Grassland Butterfly Indicator from 4,500 Butterfly Monitoring Scheme sites across 22 European countries, including Ireland, show that since 1990 we have lost 30% of our grassland butterfly populations.

Butterflies are extremely important indicators of the state of Ireland’s environment and action is urgently needed to halt their decline and restore an Irish countryside rich in butterflies. Our ongoing monitoring scheme allows us to objectively prioritise conservation action for already endangered species and cost-effectively prevent other species from being driven toward extinction.

The Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is also an ideal tool for individuals, community groups and professional land managers to measure change in their local biodiversity. The ongoing recording of butterfly communities provides a sensitive metric against which changes in land-use and its impact on our biodiversity can be monitored.

What does a monitoring walk ‘look’ like?

Overall, if you have a particular walk you enjoy and have permission to access the area, then wherever you want! As along as it is a minimum of 1 km in length and you can walk the route once a week from April to September. You should divide your walk up into 5-15 smaller sections e.g. from your front door to the start of the hedgerow, section 1; from the start of the hedgerow to the end of the hedgerow, section 2; etc. Per section, as you walk along you record all the butterfly species and numbers of each you see within 2.5 m either side of yourself and 5 m in front (a 5 m3 recording ‘box’).

 

Pollard walk
Recording ‘box’ within which all butterflies are counted as part of the Five Visit Monitoring and Irish Butterfly Monitoring Schemes.

Example transect
An example butterfly monitoring transect walk divided into nine sections. Per section, all butterflies are recorded and the % sunshine noted.

 

Under what conditions should I walk my route?

Recording should be undertaken between 11:00 and 17:00. Clearly, butterflies do fly outside of these times during ideal conditions in the summer, but at other times of year smaller species will be less inclined to fly at cooler morning or evening temperatures and may not be on the wing when you walk.

Only record when weather conditions are suitable for butterfly activity: at temperatures of at least 13°C or above, and at least 60% sunshine (e.g. when 60% of the sky is cloud free). When temperatures are 17°C or above, the % sunshine is no longer a constraint. The wind speed should be less then Beaufort scale 5 (small trees in leaf being to sway).

 

What should I record each time I walk?

Bring along a notebook or downland and print one of our recording sheets and note:

  • date
  • time you started, time you finished
  • average temperature throughout your walk
  • average wind speed throughout your walk (Beaufort scale 0-6)
  • average wind direction throughout your walk (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW)
  • per section of your walk the % sunshine, the species and numbers of butterflies you see

 

Where do I submit the information from my walk?

Please register and set-up your walk online here: http://monitoring.biodiversityireland.ie/

There’s a full tutorial on how to set-up your walk and enter records here: Tutorial for Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme Accounts

Never hesitate to get in touch if you need any help: llysaght@biodiversityireland.ie