Conservation is a major part of our remit and 2016 saw important work. In February and November, a work party cleared scrub on grassland at Lullybeg to create the conditions needed for the Marsh Fritillary, Dingy Skipper and Brimstone. In late autumn, a grazing programme on some of the northern portion of the reserve reduced the sward and disturbed the substrate. This process is vital to maintain the habitat. Following the grazing Bord na Móna assisted by clearing a large area of dense scrub and rank grassland on part of the south side of the reserve and by roughing up the grassland on the richest areas on the southern side and northern side of the reserve using heavy machinery. Our project site in the Burren at Fahee North, Co. Clare received attention with a scrub cutting day in early December along the fencing to ensure the electric current is uninterrupted so that cattle grazing can take place. Grazing will help to maintain the high quality habitats on this land.
Our recording scheme begun in 2013 continued in 2016. Calls for conservation must be supported by good information which will help us to make the case for the conservation measures needed.
Our website was used to promote conservation throughout 2016. Butterfly Conservation Ireland continues to liaise with Waterways Ireland regarding habitats associated with inland waterways. Contact has also been made concerning the inappropriate width of the canal ‘Blueway’ in Kildare. We publicised this issue (see http://www.butterflyconservation.ie/wordpress/?p=5202 ) and written to Waterways Ireland. We met a representative of Waterways Ireland to highlight our opposition to the excessive extent of hard surface walkways/cycleways on the grassy banks of our inland waterways. Areas of rich butterfly habitat along the waterways network where work should be minimised or avoided were highlighted. This issue is ongoing.
In 2015 The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht carried out a review of Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts that deals with the closed season for hedge cutting and scrub removal and the season for burning vegetation in upland areas currently March 1 to August 31. We recommended retention of the closed season. Unfortunately Minister Humphreys ignored the advice of Butterfly Conservation Ireland and several conservation NGO’s and is proceeding with changes to allow hedge cutting in August and burning of vegetation in upland areas into March in the Heritage Bill 2016. Many moth larvae feed on hedges during August. During March many butterfly and moth larvae begin/resume feeding/basking on upland vegetation. BCI expressed its opposition directly to Minister Humphreys and wrote a submission concerning the impact of the proposed changes on butterflies and moths for BirdWatch Ireland to use in its campaign. The minister is having trouble in getting the legislation amended, a tribute to the opposition the proposals have generated. The campaign continues.
Finally, in December 2016 Jesmond Harding represented BCI at a meeting which discussed the possibility of publishing an all-Ireland butterfly atlas in 2022. Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre and members of the Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club acting in their own capacity were also present. We will meet again in early 2017 to discuss the proposal. It is likely that the project will proceed. A consultation with our members will take place in 2017 to determine how we should proceed.
Please continue your recording and conservation work in 2017; no matter how small your work may seem you can make a difference. Gardens, for example, often contain a greater range of biodiversity than semi-natural habitats because of the diversity of habitats and micromanagement possible in a garden. The same principles can be applied in local community planting schemes. Stay busy!