Fifteen minutes is a short slice of time. It is the increment used in Britain’s Big Butterfly Count, held in 2018 for its ninth year. People are encouraged to sit in a sunny spot (as in their garden), and inventory (identify and count) butterflies during that interval. As the linked article states, significant crowd-sourced data is recorded – in 2017 half a million butterflies were counted by 60,000 people. Besides the data, another benefit related to one’s mental health emanates from the experience. One may choose to not worry about counting, but just notice these charismatic insects in flight.
I have taken in a few sessions myself. I did not take note of my watch, or count, but did indulge a few photos of cooperative butterflies, particularly a Gulf fritillary, and giant swallowtail.
More species flitted around – sulfurs, skippers, and other swallowtails. The elegance of the individuals was matched by the beauty of the moment. On later visits to my garden, I returned to these moments of observing. Besides other species of butterflies, hummingbirds and dragonflies flew throughout the garden. Our abundant July rains brought two immense August hatchings: first mosquitoes, and then an amphibian assault – thousands of hopping tiny (less than .25 inch) toads. With many amphibian species under threat of extinction (see The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert), this toad proliferation pushed against that overall trend.