Big thank you from

Preventing the demise of the humble butterfly

by Paul Cormacain

THOSE of us who are old enough to remember will be aware that there are fewer butterflies about these years than there were fifty years ago. Those of us who are not old enough will just have to take the word of the oldies, but according to all reports that is an accurate picture. So there are fewer butterflies, and indeed moths, about than there used to be. I am not too happy about this situation, my family and friends are none too happy either. Out there in the big bad good world, most folk who even think about it are not too happy about it either.

Some people approach the situation even more dramatically, and assert that butterflies and moths are in serious decline. It takes research to be able to make a statement like that, so perhaps we need some more research. The older generation assert that the likes of flower-filled meadows are a thing of the past, and indeed I do not remember seeing any recently. In the old days, before my time, of course, you could take a short walk in the country and see many butterflies and moths visiting a host of flowers in a field. You could see many breeds of birds, some of which are now rare. Indeed I have seen corncrakes in the outskirts of Belfast, (oh dear, giving my age away.)

The general thinking about the reasons for change are simple, yet compelling. You have only to look around you, in town or country, to witness the population explosion and the subsequent need for new housing ...... everywhere. More folk means the need for more food, and more timber for houses, and this is reflected in the expansion of commercial forestry.

So urban development, and also rural development, have taken their toll. It is not possible that we will all be static one day, it is enevitable that the human race will continue to adopt and change, and all this will affect our wildlife. Human development and the environment are inextricabilly linked, so we must make an effort to guard our environment. Rest assured that if we ever destroy birds, or butterflies, or animals, we will end up destroying ourselves. Think global warming, think poison introduced into the food chain as happened the other week.

So this article is basically about helping butterflies. Nothing world shattering, but we all have something to contribute.

So if you feel you have time to spare, to get out and about, to get fresh air and exercise, to help butterflies, now is the time, to at least think about it.

To hand is the latest butterfly report from Butterfly Conservation, a local grouping with international connections. I was very impressed with the report, and extremely impressed with the folk I know in this organisation. Their role is to record butterflies they see in their garden, or out on walks, or on organised butterfly walks. This information is then collated so that we can see the full picture of the creatures.

I was very interested in the marsh fritillary. This is a lovely flying insect, not seen everywhere. It is reckoned to be fairly well distributed in Ireland, although local. Its fate is perhaps doubtful, for it is now declining throughout Europe, but we are just not sure what is happening to it locally.

Anyone out there interested in finding out, it takes to the wing in mid May, and any sighting would be greatly appreciated by Butterfly Conservation.

Larval webs of marsh fritillary caterpillars were found in sand dunes near Dundrum in mid February, and this can only be good news. I have to confess that I would be unable to identify same, but if you would like to, why not join Butterfly Conservation?

Contact Trevor Boyd, a fine butterfly man, a man interested in helping butterflies and moths. He would be very interested in hearing from you, and could put you in touch with other folk with similar interests.

You can call Trevor on 028 9185 2276. You might enjoy it!

Coming Events:

Sunday March 6: The Dinosaurs of Colin Glen, an exploration of the geology of the glen, at 11 am, at Colin Glen Forest Park, more from 028 9061 4115

Ballynahone Bog Day Out, at 11 am, practical conservation work, find out more from Malachy on 028 4483 0282, Wildlife Trust.

Friday 11-Sunday March 13: Birdwatch Ireland and the RSPB are holding their Annual Wildlife Conference in the Killyhevlin Hotel outside Enniskillen, information from 028 9069 0843

Wednesday March 16: The future for Divis Mountain, at 7.30pm, at Belfast Castle, phone 028 9060 3466

Sunday March 20: Oxford Island to Castor Bay, a "leisurely dander", they say, contact 028 3832 2205

Monday March 21: Anne-Marie McDevitt will tell the Lisburn RSPB about the Countryside Management Scheme, talk to Peter Galloway on 028 9266 1982

Ulster Star