People who found solace in nature during the lockdown are being urged to join an annual butterfly count as part of efforts to protect wildlife.
TV naturalist Chris Packham is encouraging members of the public who found nature helped them through the recent months to return the favour to the natural world by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count.
The annual citizen science survey helps experts monitor populations of butterflies and day-flying moths and assess the health of the environment, as part of efforts to protect wildlife.
Butterfly Conservation, which runs the count, said the fine weather in spring this year saw butterflies emerge at the earliest average time for 20 years – which should prompt some interesting results.
The charity has also received thousands of extra inquiries about butterfly and moth sightings from the public who have been focusing more on nature.
Last year, more than 113,000 members of the public took part in the survey, which involves spending 15 minutes in an outdoor space counting the amount and type of butterflies and some day-flying moths spotted in that time.
Butterfly Conservation said this could be the biggest year yet for the survey, which runs from Friday July 17 to Sunday August 9.
Mr Packham said: “While so many of us have had a bit more time to appreciate the nature on our doorsteps during the lockdown period, and learning about the natural world has been a mindful distraction from uncertainty, this is a real chance to do something positive and contribute to conserving nature.
“Butterflies and moths are key indicators of the health of our environment and anyone can help contribute to our understanding of these incredible creatures by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count.
“The sightings you submit will be used to map and measure populations and the geographic spread of species across the UK.
“We’re asking everyone who has been given a helping hand from nature this year to return the favour.”
Dr Zoe Randle, senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation, said the very sunny spring weather meant almost all butterfly species had emerged early this summer.
As the UK’s weather patterns change with climate change, it is important for experts to capture information about what is happening to wildlife.
And she said: “We’ve seen an incredible amount of interest from people who have been out and about in their gardens and local areas spotting butterflies for the first time.
“Nature has really shown its true value to us this year, but it is still under threat. Now, more than ever, we must all do our little bit to protect it.”
The Big Butterfly Count is supported by B&Q and the DFN Foundation.