Surveying our sites

Quadrat surveying Arnside and Silverdale

Climate change, competition and trampling can all affect how a species might survive and to make sure our management techniques are working, rangers, volunteers and local naturalists annually carry out survey work.


Every time the rangers are out on sites they're noticing, observing and looking out for changes in the wildlife all around.

Sometimes it’s just glancing over areas of woodland which have been coppiced to see if shoots are growing back or looking to see if certain plants are in flower. The informal day to day ‘observing’ is just as important as formal surveying.

Surveying takes place mostly in the summer months – when most of the wildlife is reaping the benefits of the winter’s work.

If you’re out walking in the summer, you might see our rangers or volunteers out with a butterfly net and a clipboard - carrying out the weekly butterfly transect. This is a fixed route where any butterflies within 5 metres of the transect are noted down.

Sometimes they ‘net’ the tricky ones which are moving too fast as they are easier to identify when they are still and within seconds they fly off again.

Surveying for insects
Arnside and Silverdale moth survey
Surveying for insects

Alongside butterflies, orchids are surveyed and counted in the summer. The limestone grassland and poor thin soils in Arnside and Silverdale make the perfect habitats for a range of rare orchids from green winged to butterfly orchids. The flowering orchids are counted, and their numbers are compared to previous years’ records to look for any patterns.

It’s not that butterflies and orchids are more important than other wildlife on our sites, but they are ‘indicator’ species and can be extremely sensitive to change. If they are thriving, then we know the habitats they live in are thriving too.