Sussex victorious in race to count butterflies

A TEAM from Sussex celebrated victory after being crowned champions of the Big Butterfly Race last week.

The Wood Whites were the winners at the event on Friday, July 19, which was run by Butterfly Conservation to boost the charity’s campaign to encourage the public to count common species.

Naturalist Nick Baker, who led the Sussex side against their Hampshire counterparts, was crowned ‘Butterfly King of the South’ at a ceremony on Bosham beach after a keenly-fought contest between his team and the Glanville Fritillaries, led by Matthew Oates, butterfly expert for the National Trust.

Nick, Butterfly Conservation’s vice-president, said: “Everyone involved has had a blast. It’s been absolutely great.

“It’s really important to track butterflies – it’s good for the soul. And being aware of what butterflies are doing, how they’re doing and where they are gives us so many clues about the state of the countryside.”

The two teams from either side of the border each visited the other’s county. They earned a point for each butterfly species spotted, with an additional point for early stages: the egg, caterpillar or pupa.

Both teams scored the same total of 34 points, but the adjudicators – Debbie Tan, CEO of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and Tony Whitbread, CEO of the Sussex Wildlife Trust – awarded the crown to the team from Sussex as they counted two more species.

Race organiser Dan Danahar said: “It wasn’t just the rare or unusual butterflies that decided this race. The winning team spotted some eggs of both large and small whites – the ‘cabbage whites’ – on the leaves of some nasturtiums growing outside a pub.

“If you want to help us take nature’s pulse, simply download an ID chart from www.bigbutterflycount.org, find a pleasant place to be, and spot butterflies and moths for 15 minutes.

“You can find butterflies in your garden, in a park, or even a window box, as well as in the woods and downs of Sussex.”

Last year the public counted more than 220,000 butterflies with 15 of the 21 species declining compared to 2011’s count.