Wider Countryside

Recording Scheme

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, run by Butterfly Conservation (BC), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), developed the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) to measure the changing abundance of widespread species in the general countryside.

There is growing acknowledgement of the importance of biodiversity in the wider countryside. The focus on historically rich locations for butterflies has led to a lack of monitoring in vast areas of the wider countryside. These areas include farmland, plantation woodland, uplands and urban green spaces.

With 70% of the UK's land in agricultural use. It is essential that butterflies in these areas are monitored to ensure the health our countryside.

No experience is necessary - just an interest in butterflies, a willingness to learn, normal eyesight and the ability to get to and from the square and to walk the route safely.


The scheme uses randomly selected 1km squares to assist in reaching under-recorded areas. Because squares are selected randomly they can cover any type of habitat, including urban areas and farmland as well as more natural areas. The scheme gives a more accurate and more balanced view of our species across our countryside and augments traditional transects and casual recording which tend to be biased towards our scarcer species and favourable habitat areas. The scheme was established in 2009 as a ‘low commitment’ recording system only requiring a minimum of 2 trips/annum in July and August but more are encouraged. With the key aim to achieve more coverage WCBS combined with the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) so surveyors can walk their sites in winter for birds and summer for Butterflies, Moths and Dragonflies.

What's involved?

The technique is the same as the Pollard walk of a traditional transect. Walks need to take place in good weather and follow the same methodology used for butterfly transects. You are expected to create a route and record that route much like a transect. A minimum of two visits to your 1km square between May and August counting butterflies along two parallel 1km walks each of at least 5 sections running North to South or East to West within the approximate boundary of the square. It requires a little creativity to avoid walking over open fields of nothingness and often hedge-lines, headlands, footpaths or verges provide a route aiming to reflect habitat change across the square. In some cases the landowners permission is required before walks can take place. All these stages can be a significant hurdle and require some commitment to establish your square but that is where we are here to help you.


Below is a list of squares colour coded: white for currently active, green for new starters , yellow for no records since 2019, orange are promoted(holiday) squares and red for no historic data. Also given is the date the square was allocated to the scheme

WCBS consists 3000 squares nationwide with 2000 having received at least one visit(trip) since the scheme started in 2009. In 2019 830 squares (27%) received a visit with an average of 28 in each county. In Yorkshire 56 WCBS squares have been allocated to VC61-5 (Yorkshire is three times larger than an average county) and 5 of these received a visit (8%). (In addition there were 13 BBS squares active in 2019) WCBS contribute about 1200 records annually or about 10% of all transect records for Yorkshire. More than half of Yorkshire's WCBS squares have no data. We perform poorly against the other counties. A Target of 30 squares has been set starting from 5 and adding 5 per year.


Can you Help ?

A number of squares have been identified in Yorkshire which require new walkers for 2021 indicated by Yellow, Orange and Red markers on the map or take a look at the spreadsheet above. If you are interesting in getting involved in butterfly recording and would be able to undertake two walks a year (one in July and one in August) at one of these locations please contact webmaster@yorkshirebutterflies.org.uk

More Information

Take a look at the latest newsletter to find out what it is, which species are the most widespread in the UK and how you can take part.

Hopefully there are still plenty of opportunities for people to count butterflies in places where we’ve had no records before.

The newsletter also includes information on events and how children can get involved in counting butterflies.

WCBS 2019 final.pdf