David Attenborough, who ranks high on my list of Favourite People I Am Never Likely To Meet, is encouraging us all to go out and count butterflies. Being, as you know, an Obedient Type, I was quick to take up the challenge
which was issued on a TV programme sometime last week.
The TV presenter made the ginormous mistake of calling Sir David, Sir Richard. Being the great and humble
man he is, Our David did not correct her, choosing instead to start out in his plea for butterfly conservation. That's what I call the Mark of a True Gent and gis further proof of why he is up there on my aforementioned list. The presenter did apologise profusely
later on in the interview (presumably having been roundly taken to task by Voices Off) but the Great Man brushed off her apology as unnecessary. All that mattered were the butterflies.
Sir David is most concerned about butterflies and if he's concerned, then so am I. He wants us all - that's you, too, don't you know? - to help with a kind of Census For Butterflies. All we need to do is to find a sunny space in which
to spend just quarter of an hour of our busy lives taking note of every butterfly we spot. We then enter the results on-line, where we will also find a helpful identification guide for those of us who might not know our Peacock from our Red Admiral.
Well, you know me, up for any challenge especially one for which I don't have to leave the garden and which doesn't involve hanging upside down or other similarly unsettling
activity. I therefore took myself down to the bottom of the garden, aka The Jungle on account of its Untamed Nature, armed with a pencil and a piece of A4 paper.
I chose the end of the garden because that is where the two buddleia bushes - one towering, one aspiring - grow. The buddleia is, if course, also known as the Butterfly Bush on account of its reputation for attracting the Fluttering Ones from near and
far. I don't think I was cheating; Sir David simply said “a sunny space”.
I waited, pencil poised expectantly over paper, eyes fixed on the butterfly
bush. Guess what? Nary a butterfly in sight. Plenty of bees, though. Perhaps the buddleia should be renamed the Bee Bush. Quarter of an hour in and my entire tally was just one large white butterfly.
It's exactly the same story with the Annual Garden Bird Watch, organised by the RSPB. All our resident birds desert us as soon as they hear that Mr B and I are planning to spend an hour logging their presence in our garden.
Come the following day, after I have reported our Pitiful Tally, they will be back on the lawn, the feeder, the bird bath, taunting us.
However I can try
again. The Big Butterfly Count lasts until August 6th so I guess I will be out in The Jungle on as many occasions as it takes to arrive at a reasonable return. Last year 36,000 people took part, recording 400,000 butterflies and day-flying moths between them.
Unless my Trusty Calculator is failing me, that means an average of 11.11 butterflies each which makes my single Cabbage White look a trifle shabby. The tally, you understand, not the Cabbage White butterfly which was beautiful in its, well, whiteness.
My challenge, therefore, is to be average. To be average, I need to see 11 butterflies (I'll forget the decimal points if you don't mind) in my 15 minutes in the sunshine.
This may take some time but I'm determined. If you happen to call round and can't find me, I'll probably be down in The Jungle, hiding behind the butterfly bush, all the better to spot the elusive ones.
Counting butterflies is like taking the pulse of nature. It's the least I can do.
Sir David expects…