Volunteers sought to monitor our butterflies

Gales and rain one minute, snow the next. I think we had the lot last weekend. It wasn't all doom and gloom however, as in the midst of Saturday's blizzard, I heard the first oystercatchers on the Ettrick near my house in Selkirk.

Saturday, 6th February 2016, 6:18 am
The ringlet, one of the butterflies you are sure to see at Murder Moss.

I hope their arrival is not premature and that spring is just around the corner.

Looking at the picture this week, you probably think I’ve gone a bit wonky, writing about butterflies in February, but a great opportunity has just presented itself to anyone interested in both learning more about these fascinating insects and helping with their conservation.

Sarah Eno from Butterfly Conservation has been in touch to ask if I could help to find some volunteers to help monitor the butterfly population on a wonderful wildlife reserve near Selkirk.

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Just a couple of miles east of Selkirk by the A699 to St Boswells lies a group of special wetlands.

Murder Moss is one of these and it lies in a hollow below Lindean Reservoir.

For around 20 years the butterflies on Murder Moss have been monitored weekly from April to September along a fixed route (a transect) through different habitats.

Over the years, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orange Tip, Ringlet, Scotch Argus and Small Heath butterflies to name but a few of the possible twenty species, have been recorded.

Quite often, as a bonus, in July there is also a wonderful hatching of Five-Spot Burnet Moths.

The information is sent to Butterfly Conservation (BC) who put it together with 1000 other transects to help understand national trends in butterfly distribution and abundance.

You can read the latest report at www.butterfly-conservation.org

It is important that this long run of data from Murder Moss is kept going, so that they know what is happening to some of our most precious insects locally and nationally.

Sarah told me: “Now we are appealing for help to maintain this survey.

“The idea is that a pool of people is formed from which one or two people will be delegated as available, to take a turn walking the transect when the weather is reasonable.

“As you walk, you record the butterflies seen within a 2.5m ‘box’.

“The walk takes 20-40 minutes.

“This is an opportunity to learn a bit more about the wonderful wildlife of Murder Moss, share the task of the monitoring, have a bit of fun and help Butterfly Conservation and our butterflies.

“You don’t have to be an expert as training and assistance would be given.

“If you would like to be part of a group or want to know more, please email [email protected] or ring 01750 76398.”

This is a rare opportunity to become involved in local conservation – citizen science in action!