Thursday, 18 September 2014

Devon Wildlife Trust Placements, August 2014

by Daniel Hosking, Jordan Holmes and Hayley Partridge
BSc Conservation Biology

In August, our intrepid team of biologists have been finishing off their soil sampling (started last month), and surveying hedgerows, bats, moths, freshwater invertebrates, marsh fritillary larvae. At the Okehampton country show, they explained to farmers and other members of the public how Devon Wildlife Trust can help with conservation work, and started collcting information on potential new County Wildlife Sites. Finally, they have been seed harvesting to improve plant diversity of meadows next year.

An elephant hawk moth. Photo: Hayley Partridge.
Throughout August we have been making many site visits. Towards the beginning of the month we concentrated on completing the soil sampling we began in July, in order to find out the differences between soils which support Devil’s Bit Scabious and those which don’t. Soil structure and texture was also analysed and we dried out our samples so we will be able to analyse them for pH, potassium, phosphorus and organic matter content in the laboratory. We also recently visited the university to find out how to analyse our soil samples, and we should begin this very soon.

We have also had four days in South Devon this month, working on the farm in the Avon Valley. Here we have been surveying hedgerows, which was difficult at first due to the number of new species we found. However, we added many to the list of species we can now identify, and learning the trees will be an asset in the future. The hedgerow surveying was very interesting, and we also looked for mammal signs such as badger snuffles, rabbit scrapes and vole holes. We even found evidence of deer. We should have done a bat and moth survey early in August, but this was postponed due to bad weather. In the last week of August we were able to carry out this survey on the farm, which was very successful as we found noctules, pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles and lesser horseshoe bats. Our moth survey involved setting up two moth traps, which are wooden boxes lit with a bright light, with two Perspex sheets beneath to funnel the moths into the trap. Egg boxes are laid in the bottom to give the moths shelter and a place to hide when they have been caught. We identified around 27 species of moth, with over 210 individuals captured (and then released).
Small Tortoisehell butterfly. Photo: Hayley Patridge.

This month we have also attended Okehampton country show, where we spoke to landowners and members of the public about how Devon Wildlife Trust operates and where we can help landowners with grants or free advice, and also when and where family events are run and how members of the public can get involved with nature in Devon. We also ran a small table for children’s activities which was quite popular, where the children could make and decorate paper flowers, butterflies and bats.

We had a day of Riverfly surveying on three sites, and we were met by our placement sponsor Martin Stanley, from the Holly Hill Trust, who came to one site to see how we were getting on.

Towards the end of August, we have also been seed harvesting, where seed is collected in a harvester pulled by a quadbike, turned out, and then filtered through metal frames onto tarpaulin. This is then left to dry in the barn and later used to increase species richness in other meadows, as it is spread over sites as green hay.

Marsh Fritillary larval web. Photo: Hayley Patridge.
We also visited two nature reserves in order to begin looking at marsh fritillary larval webs. The flying season of the butterflies is over, they have laid their eggs, and the caterpillars are beginning to make an appearance in small webs over the basal leaves of the flowering Devil’s Bit Scabious plants. Next month we will begin web surveys properly, as we’ve had practice finding and identifying them.

We have also begun collecting data on sites which could be classified as County Wildlife Sites following site visits, should they meet the criteria. We have had responses from many landowners, and have our first site visit at the start of September.

No comments:

Post a Comment