Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Volunteers spot endangered butterflies in Castlemaine

Posted on 26 December, 2019 by Jacqui

In pleasant but overcast conditions, eight volunteers joined local ecologists, Karl Just and Elaine Bayes, on Sunday 15 December 2019 to look for Castlemaine’s endangered butterfly (the Eltham Copper Butterfly) in Kalimna Park, Castlemaine VIC.

After a quick briefing, we formed a line in the bush (emergency services style) and began walking slowly with long sticks in hand to tap the Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) plants gently as we walked by, to see if any Eltham Copper Butterflies would alight. We all had high hopes of spotting some of the small beautiful butterflies. To begin with some thought we saw them, only to realise they were small yellow moths, revealing their identity as they landed and tucked their wings.

After walking together for a while a call came from a volunteer at the end of the line that Eltham Copper Butterflies had been spotted on top of a rise! The group broke formation, scrambling up the hill to take a look, and were treated to excellent views of the butterflies, which may have been flying more slowly than usual because of the overcast conditions. Seeing the butterflies in flight helped us improve our identification skills. When flying, Eltham Copper Butterflies can look dark, almost black, with flashes of copper, compared to other butterflies of similar size.

An Eltham Copper Butterfly at rest on fallen timber (photo: Jacqui Slingo)

Elaine informed us that the adult butterflies tend to be ‘plant loyal’ and are likely to stay close to the individual Bursaria plant they were born on. We were treated to more sightings throughout the afternoon, generally finding butterflies at same locations where they were recorded during previous years. We were able to track the locations during the survey on our smart phones using Avenza, a free app available on Apple and Android. For more information on Avenza – click here

If you’re keen to join in and help out with surveys for Eltham Copper Butterflies, there’s still time this butterfly season, which extends from December to March. Please stay tuned to our blog, or contact us for information on further monitoring events.

Everyone is invited to get involved. Monitoring isn’t difficult but you will need:

  • A reasonable level of physical fitness, as monitoring involves walking off-track through the bush, often in warm weather.
  • A positive attitude and willingness to learn.
  • Ability to read maps, follow simple procedures and record sightings.

To learn more about this wonderful little butterfly – click here. It would be terrific to find some new populations in our region. You don’t need to attend an event to be a monitor. Once you understand the monitoring method and feel confident you can identify an Eltham Copper Butterfly, you’re welcome to do your own monitoring and report sightings.


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