Sussex triumphs in butterfly contest

The race held to mark the start of the Big Butterfly Count - picture by Nigel Symington

The race held to mark the start of the Big Butterfly Count - picture by Nigel Symington

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A team of Sussex-based butterfly expects were declared winners of Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Race 2013 in a ceremony on Bosham beach last Friday.

Sussex team leader naturalist Nick Baker was crowned ‘Butterfly King of the South’. Taking part were Sussex team - the ‘Wood Whites’ - and the ‘Glanville Fritillaries’ led by Matthew Oates, butterfly expert for the National Trust from Hampshire.

The race was held to mark the start of the Big Butterfly Count to encourage the public to count common species by the Butterfly Conservations campaign.

Butterfly Conservation is the largest charity of its type in the world and their aim is to conserve moths, butterflies and the environment, running conservation programmes for more than 100 threatened species and manage over 30 nature reserves.

The winner Nick, a Butterfly Conservation vice-president, said: “Everyone involved has had a blast. It’s been absolutely great. It’s really important to track butterflies – it’s good for the soul. And being aware of what butterflies are doing, how they’re doing and where they are going gives us so many clues about the state of the countryside.”

The two teams from Sussex and Hampshire visited each others’ county, and earned a point for each butterfly species spotted, with an additional point for ‘early stages’ – the egg, caterpillar or pupa. Both teams ended up scoring the same total of 34 points, but the adjudicators Debbie Tan, CEO of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Tony Whitbread, CEO of Sussex Wildlife Trust chose to declare the team from Sussex the winners as they counted two more species. The winning team was then crowned by Margaret Paren OBE, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority. Dr Dan Danahar the race organiser explained: “It wasn’t just the rare or unusual butterflies that decided this race. The winning team spotted some eggs of both Large and Small Whites the ‘Cabbage Whites’ on the leaves of some nasturtiums growing outside a pub.”