The summer is all about bugs, minibeasts, things that fly, crawl, buzz, jump, hop and wriggle as they make the best of the sunshine! And what better way to get involved with minibeasts and make a difference to your bit of the Tees valley than to take part in one of the largest citizen science surveys in the UK, the Big Butterfly Count. Coordinated by the Butterfly Conservation Trust, the Big Butterfly Count has been gathering information about butterfly numbers during July and August for 7 years with 36,000 people taking part in 2016. The information is used to create a national picture of how these charismatic insects are faring in our changing climate and environment. Choose your patch, count the butterflies over a 15 minute period between 14th July and 6th August and record the data at www.bigbutterflycount.org, where you can also find the survey sheets and lots of tips and information. If you’d like to join in with a group along the Tees, two family friendly butterfly count walks are taking place at Maze Park (16th July) and Coatham Marsh (25th July), led by officers from River Tees Rediscovered partner, the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. Check out the details on our website and email acarrick@teeswildife.org to book a place.

Still on the subject of butterflies, back in May, after the Black Path guided walk, I casually asked James ‘Did you take some good photos on the guided walk?’ He replied, ‘Oh yes, even managed to get a butterfly’. Must’ve been the speckled wood I saw on the walk I thought but oh no, it was something much more exciting. When I checked the photos, it turned out to be no less than a Dingy Skipper. The Black Path provides ideal habitat for these wrongly named, attractive little butterflies with plenty of bird’s foot trefoil for the caterpillars to feed on and lots of bare patches along the path for basking in the sun. A member of the skipper butterfly family, with its strange way of holding its wings and almost moth like appearance, to find the Dingy Skipper along the Black Path stretch of the Teesdale Way, running through Middlesbrough’s urban landscape, is something to celebrate. While they’re not blessed with the razzamatazz of the peacock or red admiral, or provide the welcome splash of springtime colour that the orange tip does, these cryptically coloured beauties have a subtlety all of their own. While the Big Butterfly Count is too late in the year to catch the main season of the Dingy Skipper, it’s always worth keeping your eyes open and I expect plenty of butterfly watchers will see their more common orange coloured relatives, the Small Skipper and Large Skipper, in flowery meadows along the Tees.