Butterfly Surveys for Butterfly Conservation

A year ago or so I joined Butterfly Conservation the conservation charity for butterflies…obviously. Keen to join in I contacted the local surveying guy by email expressing an interested in helping out with any practical work happening in the area. To my surprise I got a phone call from the the local surveying guy, Stu asking if I fancied meeting up to discuss how I could get involved. So I went to Didsbury and had a coffee with him in the local Costa.

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Stu asked me, pleasantly enough if I wanted to join in just to make my CV look good? I respected his frankness and got the impression that it would have been fine if that was my reason but was able to honestly reply that my CV was OK anyway and I really just wanted to get involved with something ‘butterflyee’. I knew I liked them but my ID skills weren’t great and I know I learn best by actually doing stuff so this seemed like a good way to go about it. Stu told me about different surveying techniques and offered to put me in touch with Malcolm, the head of the Cheshire bit of Butterfly Conservation who apparently surveyed in the Dunham Massey area each year but was often unable to complete the second half of the survey due to other commitments. Stu suggested I could do the second half for him.

After exchanging a few emails with Malcolm I cycled from Fallowfield where I live, out of the city for the first time. It was a bit of a revelation to me that if I cycled for three quarters of an hour I would suddenly find myself in beautiful Cheshire countryside. I completed the survey as best I could, attempting to match up Malcolm’s descriptions of landmarks with what I was seeing. I was fairly sure I’d got it about half right. I submitted my records and Malcolm and I arranged to get back in touch the following year to walk the route together so I knew exactly where I was going.

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So today I cycled to Malcolm’s house and met him for the first time. Getting into ecological and conservation pursuits is, I’ve learned, all about meeting people for the first time. Perhaps in the future I’ll end up not meeting a new person for ages (or more likely they’ll start meeting me) but at this early stage in my journey I’m meeting people for the first time all the time and no longer worry about how it’s going to go. That’s the other thing about ecology and conservation, people are generally friendly and interesting, or at least one of those, Malcolm was both.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon walking the routes for the survey. I took photos of the land marks and was relieved to see I’d got most of them right, and we chatted about conservation, ecology, genetics and Napoleon. And butterflies.

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(One of the marker points for one transect)

I cycled home, passed the McVities factory taking deep breaths through my nose as I went. It really is the nicest smelling area in Manchester.

Full photos on my Flickr account

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