Butterflies are an important part of natural food chains, they help to pollinate our plants and they are also great indicators of environmental health. Their important role within local ecosystems is the reason they are monitored throughout the UK, and here at Falls of Clyde we conduct a survey every week as part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.
Within the British Isles there are 59 species of butterfly but only 32 are regularly seen in Scotland. Here on the reserve we see many of the common species that can be found in your garden, such as the Small White, Green-veined White, Ringlet and Peacock butterflies. Despite these being “common” species, it’s important to maintain long-term monitoring records that show us population and geographical trends.
During our survey we include as many different habitat types as possible, from broad leaf woodland to grazed meadow. This is another important part of monitoring, as it highlights trends in the types of habitat and preferred diet of different species, and can provide information on how to support declining species’ in the future.
In recent weeks at Falls of Clyde we have had some very exciting (read:colourful) sightings during our surveys and out on patrols. A favourite is the Comma: a similarly coloured butterfly to the tortoiseshell but with a very distinctive wingshape. If you pop into our wildlife garden you may just be lucky enough to see one yourself!
There have also been sightings of the Red Admiral near Bonnington Linn and in the meadow. This is a species with a flight season right up until October, so is likely to be one of the last butterflies you see before winter is upon us. A favourite food of the Red Admiral caterpillar is the stinging nettle, so the next time you’re weeding your garden why not spare a thought for this butterfly?
Jenny Mann, Falls of Clyde Ranger
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