Thursday, 12 April 2018

Seventh Worst Butterfly Year...


Yesterday's news reports found room for Butterfly Conservation's annual Jeremiad about declining butterfly populations – and a good thing too, as a broad-brush consciousness-raising exercise: the more aware people are of butterflies, the threats to them and the ways in which we can help them, the better. However, it was something of a stretch to make headline news out of 2017 being the seventh worst butterfly year 'since records began' (i.e. 1976). As was acknowledged further into the story, it was actually the usual mixed picture of some species having a good year, others a bad one, against a background of undeniable long-term population decline caused by a combination of widespread habitat loss, 'climate change' and other environmental factors (e.g. rising nitrogen levels). No prizes for guessing which of those factors got the most attention (clue: it's the one in quotation marks), though it's hard to see how a tendency towards cold, wet springs and warmish winters (interrupted by two or three harsh winters and a couple of sunny springs in recent years) equates to anything more than fluctuating weather.
  As it happens, my own butterfly year bucked the trend to some extent, as in May I quite unexpectedly saw a couple of Grizzled Skippers – one of the fastest declining species – in a place where I had no idea they occurred, and in late summer I enjoyed such numbers of Adonis Blues as I had never before seen. If only this spring would brighten and warm up, 2018 might yet be a good year. We certainly had a properly cold winter, with plenty of frost and snow, and that always helps. If the forecasters are right, things could be warming up by next week. Here's hoping it’s not too late...
  


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