9th August 2017 – Since the 1930s in the UK we've lost 97% of our wildflower meadows, and with them our critical pollinators such as bees and butterflies. To help reverse this decline, and to support the creation of a beautiful expanse of meadow to support Somerset’s bees and butterflies, Somerset Wildlife Trust has created the Perrymead Wildflower Project – which aims to harvest seed from flower rich areas and sow it on species poor areas to create enriched habitats to support more pollinators.
1st August 2017 - There is photographic confirmation that, for the first time in recorded history, a pair of Night Herons has bred in the UK. Two adults and two recently fledged juveniles are now roosting at Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve, having either bred there or nearby on the Avalon Marshes site. The birds were captured on camera and made their debut on Flickr. (Picture to left courtesy of WikimediaComms)
Somerset Wildlife Trust has been selected as one of the charities in Somerset to chosen to benefit from Tesco’s community fundraising initiative ‘Tesco’s Bags of Help’, which awards grants raised from the 5p carrier bag charge to fund local community projects across the county Somerset Wildlife Trust is asking Tesco shoppers on Somerset’s coast to use the store’s token voting scheme to help it secure the maximum amount of £4000 to support its Brilliant Coast project, which ensures that Somerset’s coastal wildlife has a healthy future.
25th July 2017 - Somerset Wildlife Trust is joining the celebration of marine life that will be taking place across the UK from Saturday July 29th to Sunday 13th August, as part of National Marine Week, to inspire everyone to show a little love for the county’s little known, unique marine wildlife and habitats.
Competing against six others in the Best Environment Project category the Avalon Marshes project - a collaboration of several leading conservation organisations - saw off stiff competition from more than 1,300 organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards 2017. This year saw a record number of entries to the annual search for the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded projects.
National Meadows Day (1), dedicated to celebrating and protecting our vanishing wildflower meadows and the wealth of wildlife they support, will take place on Saturday 1 July 2017. This year's National Meadows Day will be the biggest yet, with over 100 events (2) taking place across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
Viridor’s Taunton-based Sustainability team is celebrating its work with the local community after winning the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Award at the Taunton Deane Business Awards.
Nature and wildlife isn’t just for those living in rural places to enjoy on a daily basis - a new poll of over 2,400 people living in cities across the UK reveals that city-dwellers have a strong affinity for nature and think that it’s important to help care for it.
The General Election will soon be here and undoubtedly we’re all thinking about how to cast our vote. Somerset Wildlife Trust votes for nature, and we are asking you to do the same. Somerset is blessed with wonderful moors, a stunning coastline, rolling farmland, and picturesque towns and villages, with the added jewels of the unique wetlands in the Levels and Moors, Exmoor National Park and four ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
Somerset residents are being invited to get out and enjoy their green spaces as Taunton-based Viridor and Somerset Wildlife Trust proudly launch ‘Viridor Wild Walks’ - a set of three walks introduced to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 May).
BEST YEAR FOR BRITAIN’S RAREST BUTTERFLY SINCE 1930s
The once-extinct large blue butterfly, reintroduced to the UK in 1984, flew in its highest numbers for at least 80 years this summer, due to the combined efforts of the Large Blue Project, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and their project partners, belying widely-reported warnings that 2016 could be the worst year on record for British butterflies.
Thanks to meticulous conservation management, south-west England now supports the largest concentration of large blues known in the world. Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Green Down and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Royal Entomological Society’s Daneway Banks saw over 10,000 adult large blues in 2016, which equates to roughly 60% of the UK population according to Professor Jeremy Thomas, chair of the Joint Committee for the Restoration of the Large Blue Butterfly. Together they laid more than a quarter of a million eggs on the abundant thyme and marjoram flowers.
This is no mean feat, for the large blue is the only UK butterfly species that is sufficiently threatened worldwide to be listed in the IUCN’s global Red Data Book, and our only one designated as an ‘Endangered Species’ across Europe. The success of the large blue reintroduction is due to the combined efforts of the Large Blue Project. As well as the Wildlife Trusts in Somerset and Gloucestershire, partners include Natural England, Butterfly Conservation, the University of Oxford and the National Trust.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s CEO, Roger Mortlock, says: “This is fantastic news for this globally endangered butterfly whose extraordinary life cycle makes its conservation very challenging. Scrub clearance and careful grazing of wildflower-rich grasslands is key to ensuring a future for this beautiful insect. This special management also helps a huge diversity of wild plants and other insects to thrive.”
Professor Jeremy Thomas (Chair of the Royal Entomological Society’s Conservation committee, Emeritus Professor of Ecology at the University of Oxford, and chair of the Joint Committee for the Restoration of the Large Blue Butterfly) said:
"The success of this project is testimony to what large scale collaboration between conservationists, scientists and volunteers can achieve. Its greatest legacy is that it demonstrates that we can reverse the decline of globally-threatened species once we understand the driving factors."
The large blue has a bizarre life-cycle, having fed for three weeks on the flowerbuds of wild thyme or marjoram, the caterpillar produces scents and songs that trick red ants into believing it is one of their own grubs, and is carried underground into the ants nest and placed with the ant brood. The caterpillar spends the next 10 months feeding on the grubs before pupating in the nest the following year and then emerging to crawl above ground as a butterfly.
Despite over 50 years of effort to halt its decline, the large blue butterfly was pronounced extinct in Britain in 1979. Its reintroduction in 1984 was based on the discovery that large blue caterpillars can only survive in the nest of one particular species of red ant, Myrmica sabuleti. Changes in countryside management were responsible for the extinction. Alterations in grazing left grassland too tall and shady for the heat-loving red ant.
Reserves Manager for Somerset Wildlife Trust, Mark Green said: “The amazing numbers of Large Blues recorded this year show what can be achieved through close partnership working and landscape scale conservation land management, underpinned by sound science. Large blue numbers had declined significantly two years ago, due to unfavourable weather conditions. But, thanks to the project partners creating and maintaining a number of well-connected core sites, the butterfly has now bounced back to record numbers. I feel proud to play a part in this highly successful project, which gives me hope that we can reverse the declines of other vulnerable species.”
Today optimum habitat has been restored to more than 50 former sites. The finest of these are Green Down Nature Reserve in Somerset and Daneway Banks Nature Reserve in the Cotswolds, both Wildlife Trust sites. Thanks to good gazing management coupled with favourable weather, their already massive large blue populations increased by 74% and 64% respectively compared with 2015. The National Trust’s Collard Hill site in Somerset also boasted good numbers, and remains the most accessible place to see large blues thanks to its extensive car park and on-site warden.
A spin-off of our managing grasslands to support the large blue is that it has simultaneously improved conditions for a diversity of other wildlife.
At Daneway, scarce orchids including fly, frog and musk have returned after an absence of many years, and the exceedingly rare cut-leaved germander and cut-leaved self-heal are now flourishing. Among insects, the Downland Villa beefly – not recorded in the UK for 50 years prior to 2000 – bred in great abundance along the tracks and scrapings of Daneway in 2014-16.
At Green Down, cut-leaved self-heal also flowered abundantly in 2016, and meadow brown and marbled white butterflies had their highest and 2nd highest recorded numbers respectively in decades of recording, again belying predictions for low butterfly numbers elsewhere.