Glasgow & SW Scotland Butterflies

Glasgow & SW Scotland Branch Website

April 17, 2010

Scottish Cinnabar Moth Survey

Filed under: Conservation and Habitat Management, Moths — Tags: , , , , — Scott Shanks @ 5:29 pm

This survey, which began last year, is continuing through 2010.

Cinnabar moth

Cinnabar moth

Like many of the commoner moths, the Cinnabar has undergone a long-term decline in recent decades (83% over 35 years, based on Rothamsted trap data) and at the UK level is now regarded as a vulnerable species (see ‘The State of Britain’s Larger Moths’ report). It remains widespread across England & Wales, but is much scarcer in Scotland, where it is most often seen in coastal areas. Butterfly Conservation, with support from the Moths Count team, wants to learn more about where it occurs and this is most easily done by spotting the colourful orange and black caterpillars which feed on ragwort leaves, often in such large numbers that they strip the plants completely.

Cinnabar caterpillars feeding on Ragwort

Cinnabar caterpillars feeding on Ragwort

The caterpillars can be seen in July and August; the equally striking adult moth has a long flight season, starting in late May and, because it is easily disturbed during the day and will fly when it’s sunny, may also be recorded during the same period.
Postcards showing both the larva and adult were widely distributed in 2009 and further publicity is planned for this year. People are being asked to send in any sightings using either the postcards or directly by e-mail to Barry Prater , the Moth Recorder for Berwickshire.

There was a pleasing response from BC members and others and the map shows all the 2009 records received; if you know of more from last year do please send them in.

Cinnabar moth distribution map
Cinnabar moth distribution map

One of the objectives of the survey is to highlight the issue of moth conservation in the context of the overall pressure on biodiversity. The reliance of Cinnabar larvae on the widespread but controversial plant ragwort, known to be toxic to horses, may raise conflicts of interest, but a very helpful leaflet ‘Ragwort Friend or Foe’, prepared jointly by Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and the British Horse Society is available from the BC Scotland page of the main BC website. The leaflet outlines the benefits and problems of ragwort and gives advice on its management.
Anyone who lives here or others who visit the area during the summer can help by taking part in the survey.

March 3, 2010

Recording Butterflies in Your 1km Patch

Filed under: Butterflies — Tags: , , , , — Scott Shanks @ 11:12 pm

Do you currently record butterflies in your garden or around your neighbourhood? Perhaps you’ve fancied taking part in one of the branch butterfly surveys but the sites were all too far away or took up too much time with repeated visits? If so you might be interested in the ‘My Patch’ recording project which aims to discover more about the butterfly species in Your local area. It’s not hard work and gets you out of the house with a purpose. By doing a ‘patch’ it means you wander anywhere you can access within a 1kilometer square. Go out as often as you like, for as long as you like – just get out for a walk and simply jot down the date and what you see.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Your ‘patch’ can start right outside your front door if you like. Even by walking through housing areas, glancing in allotments, hedges, spare land, scrubby areas, river banks etc. you can usefully record areas which will otherwise be blanks on the County records map. Others might prefer to get in a car or on a bike and do a ‘patch’ a couple of miles away, you know, that bit you’ve always thought looks good but never quite got there to have a good look.


If you fancy the idea, and there really is not any more to it, get in touch with me and tell me the ‘patch’ you want to do or let me know where you are and I’ll suggest a ‘patch.’ I need to know before you start because somebody else might already be doing the bit where you are. Just use footpaths, roadside verges or areas with open access as we don’t want you being frog marched out of anywhere or having to run like the clappers with a bull halfway up your shirt tail! Go on, give ‘patches’ a go – adopt a 1km square as your own.

The scheme was launched last year in the Cumbrian branch area and Steve Doyle of the Cumbrian Branch reports great success, with many folk there wanting to do the next 1km square too! It’s always the same, when you get to the boundary of your square, the next bit looks interesting too!

You can either e-mail or post me your records at the end of each month or all together at the end of the year and I’ll pass them onto the correct Butterfly Recorder for your area and ensure that all your records get passed onto the National Butterfly database. There is a recording form that you can use to keep track of your records.


Scott Shanks

Flat 1/2 , 113 Haugh Road



G3 8TX



Transect recording has been the key method of recording thus far and will continue in the future as it is a very valuable source of repetitive data from which trends emerge. We can use the information gathered from these trends to see how well butterflies are doing across the country and can also tell if management action needs to be taken at the transect site to protect the species there.

Some regard transects as rather formal however and are not so willing to commit to walking a transect once a week. Even so, despite formal transects and other valuable ad hoc records there were still a vast number of blank unrecorded or under-recorded squares (even in towns and cities) in south west Scotland. This is where the ‘Your Patch’ recording project can help.

If you already send in your casual/ ad hoc records from day trips and walks please continue to do so as you are contributing vital information for research into butterfly distribution.

The My Patch recording project will hopefully highlight areas in our cities, towns, villages and the countryside where butterflies are thriving, squares with lots of species or those with high numbers of a particular species. This information can be used by local councils managing our green spaces or community groups keen to encourage biodiversity or land owners keen to manage their land with wildlife in mind.

South West Scotland Butterfly ‘Patches’ – General Guidelines

  1. If your square covers an area where you feel threatened or in danger, don’t do it. Report back to me and we can agree a different one.
  2. No need to stick to the same route in your square every time. Go everywhere within it that you can. Your square is at most 1km long so it is not a long way from one side to the other.
  3. Best times of day to record are 10.00 until 16.00 but beyond that in a very warm spell and provided the weather is fine.
  4. Remember different species fly at different times of the year so visit regularly or at least once a month.
  5. Walk at a slow steady pace, lingering in likely places, watching for movement.
  6. Not all species fly at eye level or below. The Purple Hairstreak is very under-recorded in  South West Scotland. The Purple Hairstreak is undoubtedly more widespread, so in late afternoons in July and early August pause and look for movement at the top of oak trees. If you see ‘silver coins’ flitting around they are likely to be Purple Hairstreaks which rarely come to ground.
  7. If you have difficulty telling different species apart, let me know and I will get some help for you.
  8. Complete your form during your visit or immediately after. Don’t leave it too long.


My local patch is in the west end of Glasgow. Grid reference NS5665.


my 1km local Square

my 1km local Square

It’s not the greenest area with few gardens containing flowers, but it does include a great bit of rough grassland and wildflowers in Yorkhill Park (behind the children’s hospital) where I’ve seen 9 species! The most important thing is that I walk through parts of this square at least once a day. I’ll likely also do the square to the north of it NS5666 too, as I walk through this on the way to work almost every day (and it has a bit more green areas and potential habitat!).





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