Monday, 16 July 2012

Counting Butterflies

Honestly I didn't have high hopes for a butterfly hunt. We must to be having the worst possible weather for butterflies. But my daughter had got her hands on this identification chart...

...and she was absolutely convinced we were going to find clouds of them, fluttering around the garden.

There were plenty of clouds, but no butterflies.

The chart is part of the Big Butterfly Count that runs from 14th July to 5th August. Anyone can join in - all you have to do is spend 15 minutes in any sunny spot and record how many butterflies you see.

Not easy when there's no sun though. The wet, cold summer we're having is a real worry - rain means less chance to feed and breed for butterflies. There are 58 species in the UK and half of them are threatened with extinction. So really it's more important than ever to help build up a picture of how butterfly populations are faring across the UK. Their numbers are also seen as a strong indicator of the overall health of our countryside. Last year 30,000 people took part and over 300,000 butterflies and moths were recorded.

There are lots of interesting and fun facts for kids on the Butterfly Effects website. You can also download an identification chart like ours and add your count online.

Our count was not going that well - my little butterfly hunter had been distracted by some wild strawberries she found hidden on a grassy bank.
And then joy of joys I spotted one, resting on a leaf. Looking at the chart we think it's a Gatekeeper.
The plan was to try again on a sunny day....
We waited...and waited....
The first glimpse of brightness and out we went again, this time specially dressed for butterflies.
And the warmth and sunshine happily made a difference. We spotted 12 - 3 different species, I think! Have you ever tried chasing butterflies? Not easy but a lot of fun. We think we saw a large white, though it might have been a small white...? Very satisfying when you catch one on camera.
Small Tortoiseshell butterfly
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a favourite book and my daughter's been learning about the lifecycle of butterflies at school. So our count fitted in very well with what she knew. We talked about them feeding on nectar from the flowers in the garden and she asked where they went at night or when it rains. We looked it up and found out they shelter on the underside of leaves. Must be busy places at the moment.
Both of us enjoyed counting butterflies, and 15 minutes was about the right length of time to hold her interest...There was another flurry of excitement when I helped her add our count to the online survey which was very easy to do.
Something about having a chart brings out the spotter in me, so I'm hoping we'll be able to tick a few more off the list before we go away. Just need a bit of sun....

You can join in with the Big Butterfly Count at

I'm linking up with country kids at Coombe Mill.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


  1. What a delightful post. I was a huge butterfly fan as a child relying on the Observer book in those days! they were everywhere, I definitely notice the lack of them these days, especially round a lilac tree. Glad you managed to spot some in your gorgeous looking garden. If I were a butterfly I would be stopping there too! Thank you for linking up.

    1. I remember there being a lot more around too. I haven't seen any of the little bright blue ones for ages or some of the others I remember from my childhood. Thanks for the garden comment - looks ok if you don't get too close! But plenty there for butterflies when the sun comes out (please let it be soon!)

  2. What a lovely way to spend a day :)

    1. Thank you :) It was fun and we both learnt a bit too.

  3. great idea - and 15 mins is a good amount of time. We tried to do the bird count one but you have to watch for an hour and the kids got bored quite quickly. I might look out the chart for this to do over the holidays - if the sun EVER shines again!

    1. They must spend days hanging under leaves when it's like this - just miserable. 15 mins is about right if you're hoping to get the kids to do it more than once! And you can print out a chart from the website x

  4. Just enjoyed a lovely catch up & thank you so much for the award and lovely comment you left. I consider you a very good friend too :-) xxx