Conservation is a major part of our remit and 2013 saw important and fruitful work. In February a work party cleared scrubby grassland at Lullybeg to create the conditions needed for the Marsh Fritillary. Similar work followed there in November. This proved very successful; see Lullybeg Reserve Report. Our project site in the Burren at Fahee North also received attention with two scrub cutting days in 2013. A work party consisting of members of Butterfly Conservation Ireland and the Burrenbeo Trust Volunteers cleared Hazel scrub from an area of Marsh Fritillary habitat and opened up violets growing under very dense scrub to sunlight. Previously this area was heavily shaded and unsuitable for breeding. In the autumn another clearing was made to attract the Pearl-bordered Fritillary to breed. It is envisaged that this work will be ongoing; there is no doubt that maintaining habitats in good condition is vital for biodiversity.
A recording initiative put forward by The National Biodiversity Data Centre and National Parks and Wildlife Service was discussed at meetings held early in 2013. The need for good data on our rare species was put forward as the reason behind the proposal. The initiative did not develop as the proposers hoped. Butterfly Conservation Ireland decided to launch our own recording scheme which was well supported in 2013 and provided an abundance of data. The information sent in by recorders, for which we are grateful, can be viewed at http://www.butterflyconservation.ie/wordpress/?page_id=1981. In 2014, as BCI’s recording scheme becomes better known we expect to increase the number of recorders so that we will add to our knowledge of the status of Ireland’s butterflies. Calls for conservation must be supported by good information and butterfly records will help us to make the case for the conservation measures needed.
Conservation advice was also given to a number of individuals and bodies, such as the Burren Farming for Life Programme and Wyeth in Askeaton, Limerick and conservation issues affecting butterflies that appeared in the media were responded to in order to highlight the urgent necessity to protect vulnerable habitats, especially peat bogs. A submission to the “Consultation on Scope of National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan” being carried out by RPS Consulting Engineers on behalf of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was made in October 2013, re-stating our original submission to the Peatlands Strategy 2011 and adding the idea that the Department should purchase sites where problems persist.
Finally, in 2010 we began a campaign to have certain moth and butterfly species given protection from the activities of collectors. All of the species put forward have an extremely restricted range and must be considered a priority. Our proposal is to have certain species added to Section 23 of the Wildlife Acts 1976/2000 by way of statutory instrument. The species that we put forward are: White Prominent, Burren Green, Irish Annulet, Portland Moth Sandhill Rustic, and Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
The latest information is that the process to legally protect the most vulnerable lepidoptera is underway. We were told early in 2013 by Mr Brian Nelson of NPWS that the White Prominent, Burren Green and Irish Annulet are considered to be in need of legal protection and that these have been put forward for legal protection, pending the outcome of a public consultation. The White Prominent and Irish Annulet must be considered especially vulnerable as the known range of both species is extremely restricted. BCI expects that the legal protection needed will be provided and, if found necessary, the appropriate conservation measures implemented.