Our butterfly hunt is over – but who has seen the most?
Prize awaits most successful insect-spotter
Did you see a swallowtail? Did you glimpse a gatekeeper? We hope it helped to make the summer special, for some of you at least, but this week The Independent's Great British Butterfly Hunt is coming to a close.
Our invitation to try to see as many of our 58 native butterfly species as possible in a single summer has excited widespread interest and helped to raise the profile of our loveliest insects, many of which are in decline. But the time of reckoning has come, and we are reminding readers to send us their records.
The winner of the hunt – the person who has seen the most species, with itemised locations and dates of sightings – will be invited on a butterfly safari with the charity Butterfly Conservation to find the most late-emerging of all our species, the elusive brown hairstreak.
Martin Warren, Butterfly Conservation's chief executive, says anyone who has spotted more than 30 of the total is doing "pretty well"; anyone who has seen more than 40 is doing "very well indeed".
For although some of our butterflies, such as the red admiral, the peacock, and the small tortoiseshell, are common and will be visible in parks and gardens across Britain this week (given good sunshine), others have much more restricted flight times and locations.
To see the swallowtail you have to go to the Norfolk Broads; to spot the Glanville fritillary you have to go to the Isle of Wight; to observe the mountain ringlet you have to climb mountains; and to glimpse the remotest one of all, the chequered skipper, now extinct in England, you have to go to Argyllshire.
The Independent's own hunt has encompassed all these species – we have featured them in the paper – and we have nearly seen all 58; but not quite. A week ago today, with the help of Polly Freeman, countryside ranger with the Blair Atholl estate in Perthshire, we racked up species number 56, the Scotch argus, Scotland's own butterfly which is a rich chocolate brown with marmalade-coloured eye-spots.
Today, we hoped to be on 57, leaving only the brown hairstreak remained, but one species has eluded us – the clouded yellow. This is not rare, but it is a wandering migrant from the continent, so it is hard to predict where it will turn up and it has not yet appeared in front of your correspondent, despite several frustrating searches.
*Send your records, with dates and locations of each species sighted to firstname.lastname@example.org, marking the subject box "Butterfly Hunt". If you do not have email access, send them by post to Michael McCarthy, The Independent, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF, writing "Butterfly Hunt" on the envelope. Make sure your entry reaches us by this Friday, 28 August
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