Butterfly Conservation – flying high!

Autumn tortoiseshell.  photo: Tim Melling
Autumn tortoiseshell. photo: Tim Melling


The autumn issue of Butterfly came through the door yesterday, and with it Butterfly Conservation’s Annual Review for 2012/13.  Both are so well-produced and interesting that I have read them already.

I highlighted the last issue of the magazine as being superb, and I’m not going to do it three times a year (though I will tell you if I think standards drop badly), but it is worth recording that it clearly wasn’t a one-off.  This is a really interesting read which is really beautifully produced.

It seems that I am not the only person to be impressed by Butterfly Conservation’s style and substance as the Annual Review states that membership, at 19,100, is at an all-time high (and the 20,000 mark was passed in August this year!).   If you are thinking about joining then you should get a move on.  For just the next 10 days, if you join, by Direct Debit, then you will not be charged for your first year of membership (and four copies of a wonderful magazine) but payment will kick in automatically for your second year. That is a great deal – so go for it!  I see that retention of members is at a whopping 91% so it doesn’t look as though you are likely to regret the decision (and I certainly never have).

Times are hard for most NGOs, large and small, but it is more nerve-wracking for the small ones.  The Annual Review mentions the drop in grant and contract income in the year in question. When government tightens its belt, organisations like Butterfly Conservation feel the pinch too.

Butterfly Conservation is a £3m per annum  turnover organisation.  That  is small and vulnerable, but the organisation does an awful lot with that money and is certainly a high-flier.

The Annual Review reminds me that, in the year in question, Butterfly Conservation published two important reports, on Landscape-scale conservation and Larger Moths, both of which were covered in this blog.

I saw a Large White in the garden a couple of days ago.  Was that the last of autumn?  I’m already looking forward to catching up with Duke of Burgundy next spring and I know that Butterfly Conservation will be working hard for butterflies and moths all through the cold months of winter.

Grayling. Photo: Tim Melling
Grayling. Photo: Tim Melling




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41 Replies to “Butterfly Conservation – flying high!”

  1. One of the biggest problems facing small NGO's is members cancelling membership because they don't automatically see a change.

  2. If times are hard for NGOs then it is surely imperative they convince already squeezed potential membership of their absolute determination to conserve nature and not just the utility of fighting for nature.

    Just as the church appears to offer sanctuary but takes great care to ensure sanctuary is needed (John Fowles) judging by their response NGOs appear to rather like the content of the State of Nature report because it keeps them in business.

    Apart from the WWT I have decided to take back control of the money I used to handover over to various NGOs and use it wisely! As spin slowly dies a death perhaps we can look forward to some real action to prop up nature and the livelihoods that depend on it.

    1. The Temple of Science (Einstein):

      'The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.

      * In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither.

      Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition;

      many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes.

      Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside. '

      If I dare to correct Albert I'd say "some men and women" you choose the order!

    2. Its such a shame Phil that you continually bang on about the failings of NGOs, and others, without actually recognising something good for once. I can understand the frustration but hang on. I'm fortunate to work with many NGOs and certainly those at BC are as dedicated and passionate about doing the right thing for butterflies and moths and more besides. This is also manifest in those that volunteer to manage nature reserves, record transects and more besides. It's also worthwhile recognising the massive efforts that 1000's of professionals, amateurs and volunteers make each year to do something for our beleaguered wildlife. This report (along with my copy of the BTO annual review) illustrates just this.

      1. DBS, yes it is a shame, a crying shame, I saw the good and kept the faith in 40 years of funding but latterly observing the attitudes of so called "conservationists" both professional and amateur from the RSPB to NCOS then sadly I feel I have to speak out.

        What's called for here is a futile gesture (Edmund Blackadder) and this is mine!

        I started watching nature programs with Sir Peter Scott's "Look" program in the late 50s and 60s, I've absorbed all of the wonders and messages of that and similar programs since that time. I've read trillions of words about how we must look after our natural capital, get involved, write to your MP and then they give me the State of Nature report!

        All I can say is it's a good job the professional conservationist is not judged by football manager criteria!

        I absolutely understand the odds are stacked high against successfully turning things around while humanity remains wedded to a ruinous monetary led market economy system coloured by Adam Smith philosophies of "Maximising Competitive Advantage" (ie Globalisation) but at the same time I read James Lovelock's books, esp. the last of which "The Revenge of Gaia" and think [bleep]ing hell, what the [bleep] is going on here.

        I said previously I regret having used foul tactics in the past but if you want I'll publish extracts of an email conversation I had with staffers at the RSPB over tackling the Turtle Dove issue in Morocco and then you can compare it to the subsequent call for funding to protect Turtle Doves!

        Doug calls me inconsistent but bloody hell!!

        The Hen Harrier petition is another barometer. It current stands at 6,501. If I could bang on some more - where is the million voices for nature? I haven't seen evidence of the rspb highlighting one of their ex-employees initiatives have you? Do you know why they won't act?? Is lottery funding more important than the subs from 1 million members???

        If they acted according to Einsteins philosophies perhaps the membership would rise to the 10s of millions and if Mark stood at the next election as a Green he'd sell many more books? I dunno - just bouncing ideas about the place as a good pleb should.

  3. Mark, You obviously missed the Chair's comments at the front of the magazine where he refers to 'surging past' 20,000 in August (no doubt in some small part to their amazing Bird Fair offer). I agree what a small but professional organisation this appears to be and as the AGM is only about 5 miles from me I might go and have a closer look.

  4. I am a member of BC, one of their 20,000. I am also a member of Lancashire Wildlife Trust, one of their 25,000. My point is this: how are Butterfly Conservation as a NGO, with only 20,000 members UK-wide going to make a difference to the "state of nature"? In no way am I knocking them, but as Mr Davis states above, perhaps my (and your) money would be better used conserving ALL wildlife locally, (which by the way, in my area would include some very rare butterflies). Collectively, the Wildlife Trusts are surely the ones to invest in !?

    1. "money would be better used"

      I joined BC this summer - now I see if I had waited I could have been one of the chiselling cheapskates getting a freeby for a year. But, although I don't actually exist, I do have principles - one of which is that when you give you don't count the cost. And if I worked myself into a spittle-flecked rage every time a membership recruitment drive favoured new members over old - I'd be in a permanent lather.

      BC certainly have a good "membership experience" - almost daily deliveries of dead-tree printed stuff of very high quality and pictures of Joanna Lumley squatting in some helleniums - but Mrs C has raised the point that "aren't we trying to cut down on clutter and moving towards a paperless household and as fast as I clear up you keep joining Bugwatch or Butterlife or something and creating more paper Ken the Postman must get fed up with schlepping up here to deliver it all and whose are these raffle tickets and why don't you start collecting ticks the dog would like that and it would actually provide a benefit instead of all these pictures of things you could just see in the garden for nothing do you want an anchovy in your salad or what?"

      1. Filbert, I believe that some at least (possibly even all) the BC Branches are offering a virtual experience for the Branch newsletters which may suit your non-existent status best? I'm not sure about the big glossy offering that flops onto the mat every now and then though.

        Certainly the branch will be keen to add you to the email list as t is a good way of reducing costs. Which will help some extra butterflies (or moths).

        You can find your branch here http://butterfly-conservation.org/49/in-your-area.html, and there will be an email form somewhere! Don't write a letter though!

        1. Thanks AdamM I'll look into the e-way. I have also dipped into UK Butterflies site which with the BC online gives me as much as I want to know.

          Headlines like "2012 a dreadful year for butterflies" tend to hack me off. The splendidly wet summers of late have caused a explosion of violets in the garden and woodland here which have preceded the appearance of Silver Washed Fritillary in numbers in 2013. So how was that dreadful? Massive foxglove explosion in the garden, and Dames Violet too. I didn't sow them. Cold weather dormancy breaking I'd guess. Followed by Orange Tip and more bumble bees than I've seen since - ever. Now I'll have to rescue that BB identification wall chart from the recycling and hide it in my banjo case.

          1. I think the answer is as ever, the weather will be good for some things and not for others. If we had the same weather every year it would be a) very boring, and b) very bad for biodiversity. Nature needs a bit of disturbance every now and again!

      2. FC as a chiselling cheapskate I agree with you. Had I not had that offer thrown at me would I have joined, probably not. Having joined am I going to stay, more than probable.

        What has it done for me - redirected my interests towards other things than birds, increased my photo collection and created a feeling of well being having submitted some sightings.

        What has it done for BC - well Wiltshire has got a new member and some sightings out of it, they have got good PR from increasing numbers and someone who might well pass the message on.

        The odd thing is that I went to a bird fair and ended up joining a butterfly society. The even odder thing is that at the same bird fair I could have joined a bat society, various wildlife societies and even bought a microscope for looking at wristwatches ( well that's what they were doing with it). That brings me back to the age old question of do we need all these various bodies or could the contribution of BC be best achieved being part of a larger group. At the moment BC does seem to have more momentum that a lot of the others put together.

        1. "I could have ... bought a microscope"

          That's a very good ideol, Bob. With a good binocular mic. I could justify hanging on to my copy of E Vernon Watson during the Great Declutter and renew my ambitions as a bryologist after all there is an entire teeny-tiny world out there in the garden and quite honestly I find it makes me a bit dizzy craning my neck upwards to gawp at birds and butterflies through binos so it would be safer too although I'd have to have a good hiding place for it maybe disguised under a tower PC case or something anyway I'll worry about that later and just live dangerously for the noo so eBay here I come!

  5. Just back from my daily twitch, looking forward to a response from DBS to the actual points I made in my contributions, plus the feedback from the people who dislike my contributions but don't explain why and guess what - silence!

    I suppose its slightly better than being on Delingpole where the "truth you've spoken" gets a deluge of abuse.

    DBS, I do say some positive things looking back over the past month or twos blogs and I do recognise the contributions made by 1000's of professionals and amateurs to looking out for wildlife but to concentrate on the positives and discard the negatives gets us nowhere while we continue to witness decline on the scale reported by the State of Nature.

    Rather than just try to discredit people who state the obvious "inconvenient truths" why not actually address the points made. I'd be very happy to be proved wrong about my actual concerns about decline, but you're not actually giving me anything by crudely making me out to be a curmudgeon.

    You, Doug and Douglas - is that all you've got?

    btw, going back through the blogs I found this from Douglas McFarlane who appeared to rubbish me in the Pandas blog with references to plebs and epetitions:

    "You're right Phil the lack of people signing the e-petitions actually gets me down, in fact it irritates the hell out of me and is one of the points Mudlark makes that I was nodding my head to as is the RSPB's lack of interest in them, seriously how hard would it be for the RSPB to help promote, remember when Labour was in power and the RSPB launched a petition to toughen the laws on raptor persecution they even handed it into no.10.
    I've said it before but if you're a politician and you see an e-petition and it has so few numbers on it what would your impression be? Well I know from one politician his response on a previous e-petition was (and I paraphrase a bit as I didn't write it down) "the persecution of birds can't be as bad as some say after all you're the only person I met who has raised the issue with me, I've looked at the e-petition and the numbers, given the number of birdwatchers either they don't care or don't believe there is a problem"...says it all to me and shame on all those who don't bother to sign e-petitions"

    So what's changed your mind Doug? Is an extra 563 signatures since we first highlighted John Squire Armitage's petition good enough for you?

    1. The trouble with people replying to you is that you don't actually state what your opinions are. You just seem to quote from something before declaring that you don't actually believe what you've just said.

      1. Jack, that's interesting, "I dont't believe what i've just said" it's not something I recognise off the top of my head. Can you illustrate please? In return I'll clarify what I currently believe, although heaven knows I've made enough references to my heros and hence I reflect their views.

        Question, James Lovelock - on a scale of 1 to 100 where 100 equates to 100 percent accurate how does his Gaia theory measure up?

  6. Why invest in NGO’s? As I see it, they maybe a rum bunch but they are, more often than not, staffed by passionate people working to try and change things. Some are better than others admittedly. This change may not be right here and now as you seem to want PD. Yes, there is a need to conserve and protect many habitats and species right now but what we really need for the Long Run is a wholesale shift in public attitudes towards our own ‘comfortable’ consumer lifestyles, as I’m sure you’d agree. This cannot be achieved overnight and will most likely take a couple of generations, if not more. To me the shift I have seen is how wildlife NGOs (the best one’s at least) are increasingly reaching out to the next generation, trying to engage and enthuse them about our natural world. Sadly it seems schools aren’t doing this. Perhaps these are the ones you should be supporting? In my view it’s only by connecting young people with nature first hand, particular with passionate guidance can we change what they value (watching butterflies rather than PS2!!) and maybe the lifestyle choices they make as they grow up.

    1. Thanks James, yes I am unapologetically impatient but then as I pointed out I've been wondering for a long time now why there is so little urgency around an issue that is crucial to the wellbeing of the whole of mankind and our fellow occupants of spaceship earth. My early heros were writing about this in the sixties! My mid term issues were writing about this in the seventies and eighties. My latter day heros now tell me we have as little as 6 years to really start to get to grips with the fundamental problems presented by our OVER consumerist lifestyles (the emphasis is to reflect the fact that all life consumes and produces waste).

      For the sake of clarity I believe in the theories of Lovelock, Porritt, Woodin and Lucas, John Fowles, Robert M Pirsig, Spinoza to name but a few who all share similar sentiments on the need to keep sight of what really matters!

      DBS accuses me of being wholly negative about all NGOs. Not true, I still support the WWT and praised the rspb for their rebranding and tv advert (in contrast to Mark who dismissed them with the wonderfully expressive word: Yuk!!) their failures to communicate with ordinary blokes like me and support epetitions is puzzling and I'm keen to understand their position

      1. My position is just that I think we need to look after all the world, from lichens to lions and ramshorn snails to racoons. All life is important and not just in economical terms.

        I am ashamed to say that I have never read anything of the people you listed, though John Fowles sounded interesting. And I would quite like to read more about him. I concede that I now need to get my references right before challenging you again. I find that admitting that one is wrong is a rare thing on the net these days. but in this case I am, and I apologise for it.

        1. Top man Jack, I very much admire that.

          The Aristos is the book that sets out Fowles philosophy of life and which underpins his fiction.

    2. James/Jack, how familiar are you with the writings of the people I listed above? What's more important have these guys completely pulled the wool over my eyes? In other words is my impatience not justified?

  7. On a totally different subject. Am I the only one who doesn't like likes (or even dislikes for that matter). I don't know what they do or what they mean or how relevant they are.

    1. Bob, it'd be much better if we could have a discussion and if you and I say something that is just plain wrong we are challenged and the arguments we present picked apart.

      As it is the wrecking ball responses tell me our detractors have nothing to offer other than mild abuse as retribution for not sticking with the flock.

      The other thing I've learned participating in two blogs at the polar opposite ends of the debate: Delingpole and Avery, is that they are pretty much the same. You can't get any answers other than to deduce my hero Lovelock is right, we're too stupid to save ourselves.

      The blog that disappoints me most is Avery!

  8. NGO's are getting a lot of stick in recent months. A lot of this criticism is because suddenly those interested in wildlife are expecting them to achieve vastly more than is actually possible for such organisations. Are we seriously expecting these often small organisations, with limited funds, to fill the huge hole in nature conservation work that appears to have opened up as a result of the government pushing the natural world agenda off the edge of the cliff. I have no doubt these NGO's are feeling as desperate about the state of our wildlife as we as individuals do and they are no more capable of doing much about it than individuals are. I think we [UK citizens, voters and taxpayers] can reasonably expect our government to support our wildlife.

  9. Hi Phil, Yes I am familiar with the writings of some of your heroes, they are mine too plus a few of others: Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Elinor Ostrom etc. As with your heroes they are voices that shouted out that things must change sooner rather than later. I don’t think they have pulled the wool over our eyes and I do agree with you that action needs to be taken now, in many instances. My point is that we, as you say, are wedded to our consumer lifestyles, it’s all very comfortable for us (well in EU USA etc) and to change this will take time (I include myself). A lifetimes work from many committed people and the next generation have their part to play and we need to prepare them now. Changing attitudes and more importantly behaviour associated with deeply held lifestyle beliefs is incredibly difficult. A good book to read is Navigating Environmental Attitudes by T.A. Heberlein. We may be shocked in to changing (NY sinking in to the sea) since, as Lovelock might suggest, the earth may well bite back; it’s a ‘self-regulating system’. I can’t deny you should not be impatient; there will be losers and ….. some winners in this fast changing world. I think we all need to keep chipping away and as Mark does recognize good work and, like you, challenge as well. But we must accept it’s a long road to change. I hope to see some small changes in my life time, in fact I have. I never thought I’d see the likes of Boris bikes take off in London. OK its tiny seed of hope but you should see the morning bicycle commute in Copenhagen (I’m in Denmark now). This has taken two generations of Danes to reach around 35% cycling to work. Although, they have set a 50% target for 2015… umm?

    1. JamesW, your post here is another seed of hope. I has intended to never blog again but you and Jack have shown there is hope. Many thanks for that.

  10. Phil,
    Firstly you're wrong about people not wishing to explain why they have or have not responded to your comments or the ticks of Likes or dislikes or whatever it is today that's got up your nose, you're wrong because you're assuming I or the other Doug has clicked on the dislike icon, so far I HAVEN'T (not sure whats Doug's done and I hope he doesn't mind but I don't give a s*** who's clicked on what to be honest) so it would be quite hard for me to explain!!! In fact I've clicked on the "like" icon just three times since it's introduction onto this blog. Once on a comment from some person and twice for a blog post entry...
    I also can't comment on everything and anything all the time...some of us have to work for a living and after work fancy doing something a bit more constructive then looking at an LCD/HD/3d screen writing tosh about what's wrong or right with the world, there's a better 3d/HD screen and it's outside fella!
    What swipe at you are you on about? Seriously take a chill pill or something would you, if anything my comment is more reflective of my viewpoint that modern day "action" involves a "click", a "tick" and a comment or two and no longer do we see actual large scale protests, nor do many people attend MP's surgeries to actually let their MP know how they feel etc if it makes you feel better Phil, I didn't read your comment on the previous blog post...but sadly it was just a piss poor joke at the fact this blog now has a like and dislike feature which might stiffle a decent and RATIONAL debate....so far I'm right

    1. Procrastination is not the only thief of time - that which we have left might be better spent on tits, stoats, kites and dogs. 🙂

  11. Douglas, In setting myself up for abuse shows I have the skin of a rhino. Your joke wasn't the best however. Its the way you tell 'em!!

    As for a chill pill, you're wrong. I am trying something different to nice and fluffy. Porritt says its the wrong approach also, but if you think the "proper" strategies are failing what do you do?

    I come from a systems background. Good supplies concentrate on systems RAS - Reliability, Availability and Serviceability. In aiming for 100 percent availability you have to focus on the failings and fix 'em in order to meet you objectives.

    Thanks for feeding back reasonably. It's great to be able to debate - the old mould suddenly starts to show cracks!

    1. A non birder once walked into a hide I was squeezed in and sat down with their kid, the kid went on to say look at that black swan, almost immediately the hide emptied and I had room to use my big lens, the parent asked "did i do something wrong?", "no, not you" I replied. After a lenghty chat about black swans the parent asked, to me, a relevant question "why do conservationist always talk on and on about conservation and protecting endangered animals, do they ever talk about anything else"..."yep, but mostly to themselves" I replied


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