Welcome to the Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies are not only beautiful and fascinating creatures but are also highly responsive to the environment. David Attenborough described them as 'A thermometer of the health of our natural world' Almost every species of butterfly is in decline and a quarter are facing extinction. We have lost more than 97% of our traditional meadows and woodland in recent times so it is crucial we raise awareness about the threats facing our butterflies, moths, their habitats and our natural environment. Yorkshire Branch work in partnership with land owners, local authorities, conservation bodies, businesses and the local community to achieve this.

Here in Yorkshire the Duke of Burgundy and Pearl Bordered Fritillary are particularly vulnerable due to habitat loss and increasingly susceptible to extinction. Yorkshire also has the only remaining colony of the Dark Bordered Beauty Moth in England, on Strensall Common and is on the brink of extinction.

Become a member today and help us save butterflies, moths and their habitats. There are many rewarding roles volunteering in recording and conservation; you will be surprised to find out what is on your doorstep! We have a real challenge when 60% of children in the UK have never seen a Peacock butterfly according to a YouGov Survey and 78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature. Founded in 1981 Yorkshire branch wil be 40 years old next year and has more than 1800 members.

March Highlights

Picture of the Month

This months best photo goes to Chris Cox taken on the Rail Trail at Keyingham VC61

The 2020 UKBMs results were published this month with Small Tortoiseshell being the stand out winner with some sites showing 300% increase in numbers. The Whites, Brimstones, Holly Blue, Marbled White and Meadow Brown did well but even with this third good butterfly year in a row more species did badly than well. More on Yorkshire results HERE

It's been a long wait for the butterfly season to really start in Yorkshire taking till mid March for some sunny weather. This was followed by a 'Spanish plume' of warm air on 20-21st and then Saharan winds from North Africa on the 29th brought us our best spell with temperatures in the 20's and nearly 70 sighting records coming in during the last 3 days of the month. Its great to have 135 records in March into the new sightings system and over 200 so far this year from 33 recorders; see HERE. Thank you. The picture of the month goes to Chris Cox; see opposite. There have been very good numbers of our hibernators and some fantastic Brimstone counts from Bishop Wood and Brockadale plus a battered Painted Lady in Scarborough and a Hummingbird Hawk moth also seen. The first Holy Blue and Orange Tip have been seen and we can expect Speckled Woods, Wall, Small Heath and Green Hairstreaks any day. Nationally 2021 sees both the Large Tortoiseshell and the Clouded Yellow successfully overwinter on the Dorset coast, yet again indicating that they really want to become UK residents. There have also been reports in the last days of Stripped Hawkmoth which probably have came up from Morocco.

March saw the launch of our interactive Butterfly Atlas for Yorkshire which has won some international admiration as a first of its kind. Its a great tool to explore our countryside. It would be great if we can add our moth records as the next big challenge. Watch the demo video HERE and explore HERE

We also launched our online events and You tube channel to mark our progression to a new medium HERE. It has already allowed so much more interaction with our membership and brought people together throughout the county which was never practical before. We have used the opportunity to reinvigorate our formal recording which lags well behind our tremendous casual recording effort with training on UKBMS and species identification. There will be a number of transect restarting and some new ones this year including two of our best sites at Brockadale and Fordon Banks but we still need more interested volunteers with lots of spare time to repair the damage of the pandemic and staff losses from our charities.

Your Guide to the Website

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If your thinking about becoming a transect recorder or taking on a WCBS square or just need to hone your skills ready for the new season see our latest talk below recorded on 29/3/21 Terry leads you through the fundamentals of the Pollard Walk, judging minimum conditions to walk and species ID's, concentrating on the tricky ones to tell apart. Creating a transect and data entry into UKBMS is also covered.

On April 14th We will be holding a zoom webinar "Journey to and key findings of the Atlas of Britain and Ireland’s Larger Moths" with BC's head of recording Zoë Randle. Zoë describes the journey to the publication of this landmark publication and the key findings of the work. Book HERE

Saving Swallowtails is the title of an online conference on Saturday 12th June Swallowtails include the most spectacular butterflies in the world, but also some of the most threatened. How much has been achieved on the ground? Where are the threats coming from? How are they being addressed? This online conference takes a look at situations in the field, using the work of enthusiasts, scientists and communities from across the world. Join in, listen, watch and contribute as the practical aspects of saving swallowtails, birdwings and their allies are revealed. More HERE


1st April The Coutryside Code has had a overdue makeover to cope with modern threats to our wildlife. see HERE Although not as strong as a few would like it marks a good step in the right direction of the thorny topics of dogs and barbeques

1st April : 2020 was officially a ‘good’ year for butterflies according to the latest results from the annual UKBMS report. The third good year in a row for the UK’s butterflies, ranking 10th best (averaged across all species) since the scheme began in 1976. Nevertheless, almost half of our butterfly species (27 of 58 species) were recorded in below average numbers last year. Brimstone, Orange-tip and Marbled White all had a good year, although their numbers were not at the exceptional levels seen in 2019. Small and Large Whites, Purple Hairstreak and Holy Blue also did well. After a run of four very poor years, Small Tortoiseshell numbers improved, showing an increase of 103% over 2019 although much bigger uptick in northern england . Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary experienced its third worst year on record. Wall, Grayling and Small Skipper all remained at a low ebb. Detailed results HERE

UK Summary of changes Table 2020 (1).pdf

31st March: A new campaign about to be launched called WildCard seeks to rewild 50% of the UK . It calls on our biggest landowners the Church Commissioners, the Royals and Oxbridge. It is primarily challenging the fundamental paradigm that sees land as an extractive resource to profit off. More HERE 'Future of Butterflies in Europe' on Thurs 8th April is 2 day online conference open to all with some impressive speakers see HERE and register HERE

16th March We launch the Yorkshire online Butterfly Atlas. This is a major milestone in the history of the branch and marks a huge achievement. It is the first of its kind in the UK displaying 750,000 records of our Yorkshire butterflies plus it is very easy to use and most importantly extremely fast. Warning though..you can spend hours exploring. You can look at occurance, and abundance at monad level and species richness with species lost or gained at tetrad level. It includes overlays of different maps including satellite, habitat types, lanscape profile, SSSI's and even our BCY transect routes. Watch the demo video HERE and explore HERE . Do let us know what you think?


Science Spotlight: Identifying fine‐scale habitat preferences of threatened butterflies using airborne laser scanning

Jan Peter Reinier de Vries Zsófia Koma Michiel F. WallisDeVries W. Daniel Kissling First published: 03 April 2021 https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13272

Associations of two grassland butterflies with LiDAR metrics. (a) Typical habitats of the Small pearl‐bordered fritillary (Boloria selene; a wet grassland species, left) and the Grayling (Hipparchia semele; a dry grassland species, right). (b) Relative variable importance, showing the contribution of each LiDAR metric to explain butterfly distributions by the mean and standard deviation of 100 model runs (empty rows are metrics discarded from the model). (c) Response curves of included LiDAR metrics, showing how they are associated with the species’ probability of occurrence by the mean and confidence interval of 100 model runs. In (b) and (c), colours indicate LiDAR metrics related to low vegetation (green), medium‐to‐high vegetation (orange) and landscape‐scale habitat structure (purple).

Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) is a promising remote sensing technique for ecological applications because it can quantify vegetation structure at high resolution overlareg areas like a country Using country‐wide airborne laser scanning (ALS) data, we test to what extent fine‐scale LiDAR metrics capturing low vegetation, medium‐to‐high vegetation and landscape‐scale habitat structures can explain the habitat preferences of threatened butterflies at a national extent.

All Species distribution models showed a good to excellent fit, with woodland butterflies performing slightly better than those of grassland butterflies. Grassland butterfly occurrences were best explained by landscape‐scale habitat structures (e.g., open patches, microtopography) and vegetation height. Woodland butterfly occurrences were mainly determined by vegetation density of medium‐to‐high vegetation, open patches and woodland edge extent. The importance of metrics generally differed between wet and dry habitats for both grassland and woodland species.

Vertical variability and horizontal heterogeneity of vegetation structure are key determinants of butterfly species distributions, even in low‐stature habitats such as grasslands, dunes and heathlands. LiDAR thus offers great potential for predictive habitat distribution modelling and other studies on ecological niches and invertebrate–habitat relationships particularly important for difficult to reach, and where habitat assessment like phase 1 are incomplete.