Butterfly monitoring at Hatchlands Park

Marbled White butterfly at Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Nothing spells out summer quite so well as a butterfly flitting from flower to flower in a meadow. With nationwide declines reported across a number of Britain’s most common species, we’re working hard to help reverse that trend. At Hatchlands our Ranger, Fran Martinez, has set up our first butterfly transect in association with the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

Butterflies are one of the most treasured elements of our UK wildlife. With their beautiful colours and graceful, darting movement, it’s easy to see why they’re perhaps Britain’s best-loved insect. But it’s not all about the showy outfits…. 

The UK butterfly situation

Butterflies are uniquely placed to act as barometers of the state of the environment, allowing us to assess the impacts of climate change and the progress of initiatives to conserve biodiversity. They’re a perfect indicator species, with rapid lifecycles and high sensitivity to environmental conditions.

Orange tip butterfly on the edge of Centenary Woodland at Hatchlands Park
Orange tip butterfly at Hatchlands Park, Surrey
Orange tip butterfly on the edge of Centenary Woodland at Hatchlands Park

The UK has lists of species and habitats that are conservation priorities, highlighting those species most under threat because of their rarity or rate of decline. It includes more than 20 butterflies and over 150 moths.

What we’re doing 

At Hatchlands Park we’ve designed and set up our first butterfly transect with help from Bill Downey, the Transect and WCBS Coordinator for Butterfly Conservation Surrey & SW London. 

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme’s mission is to assess the status and trends of UK butterfly populations for conservation, research and quality of life. Transects form the core of the scheme and are located throughout the UK, covering 71 species.

What’s a transect and how does it work?

A transect is is a fixed-route walk along which butterflies are recorded on a regular basis, under reasonable weather conditions, over a number of years. Transect routes are chosen to evenly sample the habitat types and activity on sites. 

Butterflies are then recorded each week from the beginning of April to September, between certain times and only when weather conditions are suitable for butterfly activity. These set conditions can have a considerable effect on the numbers of butterflies seen and so ensure that the counts are standardised as much as possible.

A meadow brown butterfly perched on a thistle in the meadow at Hatchlands
Meadow brown butterfly at Hatchlands Park, Surrey
A meadow brown butterfly perched on a thistle in the meadow at Hatchlands

The Hatchlands transect takes in a large area of the estate that includes Sheepwash Pond, the Wildflower Meadow, the Parterre Garden and Centenary Woodland. To date we’ve recorded a number of different species including brimstone, small white, orange tip, small copper, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, common blue, large white and red admirals.

Drop in and get involved

It’s difficult to predict very far in advance when the transect will be walked because of the set weather conditions that must be met. But, if you’re a regular visitor to Hatchlands and would like to help us with butterfly surveys, the day, time and meeting point will be posted on the events board at Visitor Reception. We’ll also try to give you some notice on our social media channels. 

Whenever the walk is taking place you can join Fran to help survey butterflies whilst taking notes of what you spot. Fran will provide you with a butterfly sheet (including a special, colourful one for younger butterfly enthusiasts) and you can help us to ensure that these wonderful emblems of warmth and colour remain a fixture in the park at Hatchlands.