Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A brief summary of the final report of the National Environmental Monitoring sub-programme on butterfly communities 2015

by Erki Õunap and Anu Tiitsaar

Regardless of untypical weather conditions during the last summer the species diversity and abundance of butterflies in 2015 remained close to the multi-year average. The index, reflecting general abundance of butterflies, equalled to that of 2004 when the Estonian monitoring programme was launched. Over the 12-year monitoring period the abundance of butterflies is currently demonstrating slight increase, in spite of the recent years’ decline if compared to the advanced period of 2010-2013. These results reveal, that in wider context the butterfly populations of Estonia are in favourable condition. In the European context these are really good results, as similar index, calculated from similar monitoring patterns in 22 European states demonstrates 30% decline since 1990 and only during the latest 5-10 years the rate of decline seems to be decelerated.

The condition of the monitoring areas is generally good - in 10 areas out of 14 there is no need to change the management system, as retention of viable populations of butterflies (protected species therein) is guaranteed there under current regime. In 2015 from 14 transects 83 species of butterflies were registered. Two of them - the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and the Painted Lady (Cunthia cardui) are migratory species of Southern origin, unable to winter in Estonian conditions. The rest of the 81 species constitute 81% of Estonia’s native butterfly fauna (total 100 spp.). The most diverse transect in 2015 was the Piusa-Veski transect with 50 species.

Lesser Marbled Fritillary (Brenthis ino) / Photo: John Maddocks

About Erki Õunap (PhD 2010):

„I discovered the exciting world of arthropods by following the example of my father when I was just a schoolboy. As time passed and I grew up, my interest directed its course to a more definite target and so little by little I decided to concentrate on butterflies.

After graduating from the Tartu University I have worked as a professional lepidopterologist in Tartu University and in Estonian University of Life Sciences. I have gathered data and knowledge of the distribution, habits and behaviour of butterflies during the last twenty years resulting in the  publishing of a book on the butterflies of Estonia.“

Monday, March 7, 2016

The 7th Winter Garden Bird Count

During the last days of January the 7th Winter Garden Bird Count took place. More than 58 000 birds from 64 species were noted according to the results. Almost 2800 birdwatchers from 2000 locations were participating, while a whole quarter of this people was participating the very first time. Only 75 participants have been participating  every time. 95% of the watching was done in the gardens, 5% in parks and 7 people were counting birds in grave-yards. The result is remarkable in several ways. It is the highest count of all the 7 years, although the relative number was unexpectedly low. The average number of birds per location was 20-25 % lower than usual. The most probable reason was the thaw after a prolonged period of frost, that made the birds move around and seek for food on their own. In a way it's a good news and shows that the birds are not depending on our mercy totally, but able and willing to live their own life.

The most numerous species was once more the Bird of the Year - the Great Tit, that made up more than 26% of the total number of observed birds. As in previous years among the five most abundant species were also the Greenfinch, the Tree Sparrow, the House Sparrow and the Blue Tit. 

Many usual species were met in about 10% lower numbers, e.g. the Bullfinch and the Blackbird, while the Nuthatch, the Magpie and the Jay had increased about 2-4 % 
Among the “interesting” species this year there were seen the Great Grey Shrike (12 specimen), the Wren (4) and the Redwing (1). Birds of prey were also there, as usual the Sparrowhawk (38), the Goshawk (9), the Common Buzzard (13) and the Pygmy Owl (3), but also 2 specimen of the Rough-legged Buzzard and a Kestrel. Maybe the cherry on the cake was this year the Green Woodpecker.

The counts of the birds together with the number of counting sites are given in the Table 1.