This summer we hosted our second annual Butterfly Blitz in the Credit River Watershed. From May 30 to September 19, citizen scientists helped create a watershed-wide inventory of butterflies by sharing their butterfly observations through iNaturalist.
Things were a little different this year due to COVID-19. Our training program and wrap up event were held online instead of in-person. We weren’t able to lead our guided hikes and butterfly count in June. Despite all of this, our participants still managed to record 10 more species and make almost 700 more observations than in the 2019 Butterfly Blitz!
The number of observations over both years is impressive. The data participants collect is very useful for our programs. It shows us where different species of butterflies can be found and helps us determine which butterflies are locally rare. After five years of data collection we’ll be able to analyze population trends.
Most of our Butterfly Blitz participants contributed through the iNaturalist platform. iNaturalist is an online citizen science social network for naturalists, citizen scientists and biologists to share biodiversity information and observations. You can check out our project.
2020 Butterfly Blitz Highlights:
Locally rare species: The mulberry wing is a small skipper butterfly that lives in wetlands and feeds on native wetland grasses. After two years of Butterfly Blitz, it seems that the mulberry wing is only found at one site in the Credit River Watershed. Wetland butterflies like the mulberry wing make up many of our locally rare species. Protecting wetland habitats is important for these species and other wildlife that depend on them.
Admirals, ladies, and question marks: This year our participants observed fewer red admiral, American lady, painted lady, and question mark butterflies. For example, there were 136 red admiral observations in 2019, but only 36 in 2020.
These four closely related species are all migratory. The size of their populations each year is weather dependant. This is one of the reasons we’re running the Butterfly Blitz for five years. Each year we learn something new but it’s important to analyze the data over five years to get the full story.
Room for improvement: iNaturalist’s mapping features allow us to see areas in the watershed where few to no butterfly observations have been made. In some cases, we plan to address this issue by carrying out targeted surveys in 2021. In other areas, the low number of observations is because there is little butterfly habitat available. Identifying these areas can help us target our stewardship work. For example, we will be helping to develop a butterflyway in the Fletchers Creek area through the Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan (SNAP) program starting in 2021.
A huge shout out to all our amazing citizen scientists for your time and curiosity. We couldn’t have collected this data without you. We can’t wait to collect more next year in the third annual Butterfly Blitz. If you’re interested in learning more about the 2020 Butterfly Blitz or would like to know how to get involved next year, connect with us at [email protected]
By CVC’s Laura Timms, Ecologist and Lindsey Jennings, Community Outreach Specialist