Conservation is a major part of our remit and 2014 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 2014. 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 scrub encroaching on the centre of the site was tackled. This work will continue in 2015.
Butterfly Conservation Ireland launched 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, our recording scheme continued to attract an excellent number of records; see http://www.butterflyconservation.ie/wordpress/?page_id=2549. This data adds to our knowledge about 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 the National Parks and Wildlife Service staff. One case in point concerns Pollardstown Fen, County Kildare where sheep grazing was proposed. We advised on cattle grazing instead given the problems that sheep cause on sites requiring a range of vegetation heights. BCI was able to suggest a highly suitable livestock source and happily the management suggested was put in place. BCI was active in the media with contributions on issues pertaining to butterflies appearing in the Irish Independent and on local radio. Advice on how to mitigate the impact of certain developments on butterflies was provided as was habitat creation advice. The BCI website was used to promote conservation throughout 2014. The Small Blue was introduced to a highly suitable site where it was not known; stock was taken from a donor site that is being reduced in area by extensive erosion. The progress of both sites will be monitored during 2015. A leaflet on gardening for butterflies was also produced and has proved extremely popular. A number of talks were also given during 2014; these highlighted practical conservation measures. Finally, a submission was made regarding canal habitats managed by Waterways Ireland and suggested submission points were sent to our members and interested parties whom we advised to make submissions to ensure our conservation concerns were clearly communicated. Details are available at http://www.butterflyconservation.ie/wordpress/?p=3289.
A changing countryside makes our role in raising conservation issues ever more important. New opportunities, such as new markets for beef that are becoming available to the nation’s farmers must be balanced with biodiversity needs. BCI will continue to champion the cause of our beautiful moth and butterfly heritage in 2015.