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Normandy Species Records Report 2023

A summary the Normandy Parish wildlife records that members had given me, together with those I and fellow FNW Committee member, Steve Marshall, had collected are given.

Close to 280 species of moth (macro and micros) had been recorded in 2023. Several new species to Normandy Parish are illustrated on our poster boards. Of particular interest is a Dark Spinach (Pelurga comitata) which was helped out (alive) of a water filled rut on Folly Hatch! It’s status is Vulnerable in Great Britain because of the decline of it’s foodplant (oraches and goosefoots), presumably due to modern agricultural practices.

Over 550 butterfly records (a record number!) were submitted to the Surrey branch of Butterfly Conservation and included 30 different species. I was lucky enough to photograph a Grayling (Hipparchia Semele) on our door frame! This is the first time I’ve been able to photograph this butterfly on our property; it being more often seen on the heathland. Its status in the UK is Vulnerable.

Amphibian and reptile records were entered as usual into Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group’s website. Sadly they included one dead Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca, our rarest snake), which was found on a scrape near the edge of a recently burnt area on Ash Ranges. Perhaps it had strayed onto the burnt area where it was more visible and killed by a corvid. Close to 100 of our amphibian records have recently been shared with our Parish Council in an attempt to try to understand the distribution and apparent decline of the Common Frog and Toad (Rana temporaria & Bufo bufo), particularly on Normandy Common.

I have still to submit bird, mammal, plant, fungi and other insect records. Steve is ahead of me on this front and should be commended for his efforts and on helping to put Normandy on the map. Amongst others he submitted 34 bird records, 17 plant records, numerous other insect records and 4 mammal records.

As in previous years I encourage members to put Normandy on the map by continuing to send records to FNW or to one of the many recording centres/devices. If sent to the latter please do try to let us know as well! Many thanks to those members who submitted sightings in 2023.

Bill Stanworth, FNW Species Records Coordinator

Number of butterflies in the UK at a record low, survey finds

Freshly emerged male silver-studded blue (Plebejus argus) on cross-leaved heath, Ash Ranges. 5 June 2020. This butterfly is a U.K. BAP Priority Species.

The Guardian reports Butterfly Conservation, which counted butterflies and moths between 16 July and 8 August, said the results, released on Thursday, marked the lowest numbers since the Big Butterfly Count started 12 years ago and called for urgent action to be taken.

It is the latest warning sign for butterflies – which, as well as forming a vital part of the food chain, are considered significant indicators of the health of the environment – after decades of decline. Since 1976, 76% of butterflies have declined either in abundance or distribution. 

Wolves ‘must be reintroduced to UK to fight climate crisis even if farmers lose sheep’

European Wolf photo by Lawria under creative commons

The Mirror reports wolves should be reintroduced into Britain to help fight the climate crisis, according to one of Britain’s leading conservationists. Without Roy Dennis’s efforts, there would be fewer red squirrels, no beavers and no osprey or red kite introductory programmes. And the 81-year-old is showing no signs of retiring.

He explained how we must see the benefit to the whole of society by sharing the countryside with large carnivores again, even if it means farmers could lose the odd sheep, and explained how the extinction crisis can only be addressed with “bigness.” 

For peat’s sake: the race is on to save Britain’s disappearing moorland bogs

The Observer reports tinally recognised for its environmental benefits, the UK’s ‘Cinderella habitat’ is at the heart of a major conservation drive… About 92% of England’s blanket bog is in the north of the country, mostly in Yorkshire. But this vital and delicate part of the ecosystem is disappearing, in many cases having been deliberately drained to graze sheep and shoot grouse, and now the moorland is etched with deep channels through which, each year, hundreds of tonnes of crucially important peat is simply being washed away by the weather. 

Does feeding garden birds do more harm than good?

Goldfinch and red poll on garden feeder

The BBC reports the regular feathered visitors to the bird feeders I hang in a particularly lovely tree outside my kitchen window are a welcome dose of colourful nature in a sometimes repetitive daily schedule. So the suggestion that my conscientiously topped-up supply of “premium mixed wild bird seed” is anything other than a positive boost for local wildlife has come as something of an unwelcome surprise. But evidence has been building recently that supplementary feeding could disrupt a delicate ecological balance beyond our windowsills and gardens. 

Snowdonia Hawkweed: ‘One of most threatened in the world’

The BBC reports on cliffs above Bethesda that can only be reached with specialist mountaineering gear, grows one of the most endangered plants in the world. The exact location is a closely-guarded secret, but even sheep are unable to get to it, meaning they cannot eat the last of the Snowdonia Hawkweed. Their grazing has wiped the plant out in six of seven areas it once thrived. But from the verge of extinction, it is thought three plants spotted on a cliff in 2002 may have doubled their number.

“For some of the rarest plants, the only places they can sustain themselves is away from grazing and humanity, on the most inaccessible ledges and cliffs,” said horticulturist Robbie Backhall-Miles, who is trying to revive them.

Light pollution from street lamps linked to insect loss

Clifden Nonpareil moth photo by Bill Stanworth

The BBC reports scientists say light pollution may be contributing to “worrying” declines in insects seen in recent decades. In a UK study, artificial street lights were found to disrupt the behaviour of nocturnal moths, reducing caterpillars numbers by half.

Modern LED streetlights appeared to have the biggest impact. There is growing evidence that insect populations are shrinking due to the likes of climate change, habitat loss and pesticides. Factors are complex and varied, including the steady loss of forests, heathlands, meadows and marshes, overuse of pesticides, climate change and pollution of rivers and lakes. 

Trees should be planted without plastic guards, says UK study

The Guardian reports planting trees without plastic tree guards should be standard practice, a UK study has found, as leading conservation charities and landowners seek sustainable alternatives to reduce plastic waste.

The Woodland Trust has announced it is aiming to stop using plastic tree guards by the end of the year. It is trialling plastic-free options at its Avoncliff site in Wiltshire, including cardboard and British wool. The charity plans to plant 10 million trees each year until 2025.

Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: “As one of the nation’s largest tree planters, by committing to go plastic-free in terms of the use of tree shelters, we are set to be the trailblazers in this field – catalysing a permanent change to the tree-planting world.”