Patterned after the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) coordinates similar 7.5-mile radius, one-day, comprehensive counts, traditionally some time around the Fourth of July. The first of these “Fourth of July Counts” took place in 1975, when the Xerces Society coordinated and published 29 counts across the United States. The program has since grown to include hundreds of counts across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (508 counts in 2006!). The goals of the counts are threefold: to (1) gather data to monitor butterfly populations, (2) give butterfly enthusiasts a chance to socialize and have fun, and (3) to increase public awareness and interest in butterflies and butterfly conservation needs.
In 2010, TINS initiated a NABA Fourth of July count, centered on Osgood Swamp and encompassing much of the southern Tahoe basin (view map of count circle). Due to the crush of humanity and traffic congestion at Tahoe during those weekends surrounding the Fourth of July itself, as well as the somewhat delayed phenology of our montane butterflies, this first count took place on the third Sunday of July, and we have stuck with that schedule ever since.