Big Butterfly Count

Wildlife presenter Mike Dilger explains how you can help save our butterflies by taking part in the annual Big Butterfly Count. So what exactly is it? Well for a start it is a UK based project, so for those who live elsewhere, you sadly cannot take part. Since 2010 it has become the world’s biggest butterfly survey. 52,000 people took part in 2015, counting over 580,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK. The 2016 big butterfly count took place from 15 July – 7 August and the 2016 results have just been released.

In the long-term butterflies and moths are in decline due to human activities such as habitat destruction and pesticide use, there are short-term changes, from year to year, butterfly generation to generation, which are typically caused by natural factors such as the weather and populations of parasites. So, in cold, wet summers, such as in 2012, butterfly populations may crash, while in good summers, such as 2013, they bounce back.

The 2016 results buck this trend.  The summer was good for butterflies, with above average temperatures and yet butterflies declined.

The average number of individual sightings was the lowest recorded since the project began in 2010! A mere 12.2 individuals per count were recorded, down from 13.4 per count in 2015, 14.7 in 2014 and a whooping 23 per count in 2013.

Despite the general scarcity of butterflies during the 2016 big butterfly count, huge number of people turned out, once again, to help with the world’s largest count of butterflies. Altogether, 38,233 counts were submitted, from the Isle of Sheppey to the Isle of Skye and all across the UK, by over 36,400 participants – a fantastic effort and I was proud to take part once again!

But there was good news too. Red admiral numbers were up, as was the green-veined white.  Numbers in Scotland were also up and I cannot help but wonder whether this reflects increased use of sprays in England compared to Scotland. My home in Alderney is a riot of butterflies and day flying moths, in large part because there has been no intensive farming on the island – ever.

Anyway, check out the full results here, and please make sure you take part in the Big Butterfly Count next year. Download the excellent identification chart here.

Childhood Diabetes


As government cuts make running extracurricular activities more challenging for our local schools, Highland Titles are delighted to once again donate a cycle to Ballachulish Primary School as the main raffle prize for their Christmas Fundraising again this year.  Hopefully the lucky winner will be able to use it to cycle along our tracks at Keil Hill.

Years ago, it was rare to hear about a child with type 2 diabetes. Doctors used to think children only got type 1. It was even called juvenile diabetes for a long time. But not any more. Exercise – or lack of it – is probably the main reason for the rise in this pernicious disease. Getting out on the hill and cycling are two excellent ways for youngsters to avoid Diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes runs through my family. My mother, both her parents and my sister have suffered from Type 2 diabetes. However, I have so far escaped, probably due to a lifetime of waking in the hills and a vegan diet. But I could certainly lose a few pounds and now lead a depressingly sedentary lifestyle, running Highland Titles. How I envy our volunteers who get rained on every day and are the figures of fitness, on their feet all day leading tours and planting trees. Perhaps we should swap jobs now and then!

I spent many years in medical research dealing with the systems that, when they do not work correctly, lead to diabetes. Your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates like pasta and potatoes into a type of sugar called glucose. Your pancreas creates insulin, a hormone that moves glucose from your blood into your cells, where it’s stored until it is used as fuel.

In type 2 childhood diabetes, the insulin receptors on cells in your child’s body fails to respond to the insulin, and glucose builds up in the bloodstream. This is called insulin resistance. Eventually, the sugar levels in the blood get too high for it to handle. That hyperglycaemia can lead to other conditions in the future, like heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure. Progress to these complications is particularly rapid in children.

Type 2 diabetes is most likely to affect girls rather than boys who are overweight. In the UK and USA nearly 1 every 3 children is overweight. Once a child gets too heavy, they are at a much greater risk to develop diabetes.  Children become obese because of a lack of physical activity and eating to much of the wrong sorts of food.  The school run is certainly one factor. In my day, we all walked to and from school every day. Children now expect to be driven everywhere. The development of safe cycle routes and footpaths is a large part in reversing this trend.


So, what are the symptoms?

At first, there may be no symptoms. Over time, you may notice:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hungry or thirsty a lot, even after eating
  • Dry mouth
  • Peeing a lot
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy breathing
  • Slow healing of sores or cuts
  • Itchy skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

Take your child to the doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.  Better still, encourage them to maintain a healthy weight by eating the right food and exercising enough. Failure to do do should not be an option.