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Butterfly volunteers honoured for decades of work from London to Lothian

Butterfly volunteers honoured for decades of work from London to Lothian

VOLUNTEERS from central London to the Scottish Highlands have been honoured for helping save endangered butterflies and moths.

Leading wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation has recognised the decades of invaluable work at its 2024 Volunteer Awards.

Tens of thousands of people volunteer with Butterfly Conservation each year, contributing an estimated 221,625 days of work, the equivalent of more than 1,000 full-time staff.

Volunteer recorders monitor butterfly populations at more than 2,800 sites across the UK annually and have walked 930,000km of butterfly transects since 1976, enabling the charity to do targeted conservation work and help hundreds of species.

This year’s awards, sponsored by Marsh Charitable Trust, were announced as part of a Butterfly Conservation Volunteer Celebration Day at London Wetland Centre on Friday <<7 June>>.

Among the eight winners was Mike Slater, 67, from Rugby, who has volunteered with Butterfly Conservation for more than 40 years.

Mike, who was presented with the Volunteer Impact Award, organises more than 130 work parties across Warwickshire every year, personally volunteers at least three times a week and analyses survey results to show that these and other efforts are making a genuine difference for vulnerable butterflies and moths.

He also advises landowners including Jaguar Landover, CEMEX and SUEZ on creating wildlife-friendly spaces.

Mike said: “I love the way Butterfly Conservation use science to direct their conservation work and I follow this example locally. I get a special pleasure advising farmers, and I have advised over 70 in the last few years. It gives me a real kick when they phone me up having followed my advice and tell me that the butterfly I said would colonise their land has done so.”

Becki Hawkes, a communications manager from London, has been volunteering with Butterfly Conservation for just over two years as part of its Big City Butterflies project in the capital.

Becki Hawes

She was presented with the Community Engagement Award.

The 36-year-old said: “I love volunteering with Butterfly Conservation because it gives me a chance to share my passion for moths and butterflies and connect with people in London who want to find out more about the beautiful wildlife in our city.

“I find it especially rewarding to support community groups and centres that are already doing important work and I really like volunteering with children – I recently did some school planting workshops and it was really fun seeing the kids get excited about creating a wild space.”

Ian Rippey from County Armagh has been a member of Butterfly Conservation’s Northern Ireland Branch since its formation in 1988. He has been Secretary, Treasurer and Chairman and still sits on the Branch Committee.

Ian Rippey by Rose Cremin
Ian Rippey by Rose Cremin

A keen musician, he has even written songs about butterflies.

Now aged 70 and retired, he is still volunteering as a recorder and was presented with a Special Recognition Award on Friday.

He said: “I have always been interested in the distribution of lepidoptera in Northern Ireland and Britain. I have purchased nearly all the books relating to the butterflies of various counties and regions of the UK and try to be aware of changes in distribution. I have given talks to schools and other organisations.

“In most of the last 15 or so years I have met one or more butterfly enthusiasts from Britain coming to Northern Ireland, usually in late May and June, to see the Cryptic Wood White at Craigavon Lakes about three miles from where I live. At least one person has indicated their desire to pay such a visit this year.”

Mark Cubitt, 61, from Linlithgow in West Lothian, has been volunteering with Butterfly Conservation for 16 years and also picked up a Special Recognition Award.

The retired IT architect is County Moth Recorder for three vice counties across the Lothians but also helps with habitat management and makes moth traps to loan to new recorders. He invented a new tool for dam installations in peat bogs, is website manager for Butterfly Conservation’s East Scotland Branch, runs moth identification Facebook and email forums and provides software tools for Butterfly Conservation’s Supporting Science project to assist butterfly and moth county recorders.

He said: “I enjoy activities that I feel are worthwhile and make a positive impact. With butterflies and moths I get a sense of achievement from either directly contributing to knowledge about them and their conservation or providing information and tools that assist others in doing so.”

Helen Rowe, 52, from Aberdeen, works as a Countryside Ranger for Aberdeenshire Council, but has also volunteered with Butterfly Conservation for more than 20 years. She is currently East Scotland Branch Aberdeen area organiser and South Aberdeenshire VC92 County Moth Recorder and helps to teach less experienced volunteers. She has been presented with the Mentor Award.

She said: “I’ve always loved moths and butterflies and enjoy sharing my knowledge to help others understand their important roles in ecosystems, appreciate them more and do what they can to conserve them. I also enjoy the teamwork with likeminded recorders on surveys and those who assist with events.”

Stuart Cathro from Menstrie in Clackmannanshire is retired auxiliary nurse and now volunteers with Butterfly Conservation’s Bog Squad, helping maintain peat bog habitats for butterflies, moths and other wildlife.

He has only been volunteering with Butterfly Conservation for a year but has also done valuable butterfly transect counts and surveys, in particular for Large Heath, Northern Brown Argus and Pearl-Bordered Fritillary. For his enthusiastic work he has been presented with the Newcomer Award.

Asked why he enjoyed volunteering with Butterfly Conservation he said: “A healthy environment equals a healthy body. I’ve always been an avid hill walker and am very passionate about the environment and nature.

“By volunteering with Butterfly Conservation I would like to think that I am doing a little bit so that future generations can enjoy the natural environment, and learning about different aspects of the environment. It’s good for the body and soul – and I also love meeting other people who are interested in nature.”

Maurice Avent, 80, from Chippenham, has been a member of the Wiltshire branch for 25 years and even hosts meetings at his home.

Maurice Avent
Maurice Avent

His Special Recognition Award honours his huge list of contributions including organising butterfly transects and moth-trapping meets; liaising with landowners and helping them apply for Countryside Stewardship grants; organising major fundraising events and monthly scrub-clearing work parties, and giving talks to local gardening clubs and schools.

Maurice said: “It has given me great joy to have had so many interesting roles within Butterfly Conservation. It has been a delight to have shared so many lovely experiences with a diverse range of people, whether on committees, as fellow farm owners or members.

“Our common interest has given all of us so much pleasure, it is the finest of hobbies to share and ensures great physical and mental health for those committed to environmental conservation generally and Lepidoptera in particular.”

WINNERS

Mentor Award: Helen Rowe, East Scotland

Newcomer Award: Stuart Cathro, Glasgow

Volunteer Impact Award: Mike Slater, Warwickshire

Runners-up: Pete Moore, Highlands and Islands; Andy Wyleds, Northamptonshire; Richard Smith, South Wales

Community Engagement Award: Becki Hawkes, London

Runners-up: Sarah Gregory, Wiltshire; Iain Crowe, East Scotland

Special Recognition Awards: Maurice Avent, Wiltshire; Mark Cubitt, East Scotland; Ian Rippey, Northern Ireland; Serena Meredith, Gloucestershire

Find out more about volunteering at butterfly-conservation.org/volunteering


Main photo: Mike Slater