Exmoor Wildlife Newsletter

 Autumn/Winter 2016

Edition 11

In This Issue
Exmoor Wildlife Forum 2016
Butterfly News
River Barle Crayfish Project - Year 2
Appeal Rescues Knotweed Control Project
Training Opportunities for Wildlife Volunteers
Lower Plants - Making the Link
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Welcome to the Exmoor Wildlife Newsletter

Welcome to another packed edition of the Exmoor Wildlife Newsletter. We again get a flavour of the breadth of work underway to safeguard and celebrate nature on Exmoor. We hear about Butterfly Conservation's boost to their vital work to conserve threatened butterflies, the international importance of lichens and bryophytes in the oak woods, and the ongoing battle against non-native, invasive species including the huge volunteer contribution in helping to protect the life in Exmoor's rivers. We hear of the many opportunities to get involved and learn about Exmoor's wildlife, much of which was showcased at the annual Wildlife Forum which, this year in November, celebrated the contribution of the many people who give up their time to help Exmoor's wildlife. Read on and enjoy and have a very Happy Christmas!

Helen Booker, RSPB
Chair of the Exmoor Nature Conservation Advisory Panel
Exmoor Wildlife Forum 2016
Bea Davis, ENPA
The second Exmoor Wildlife Forum took place on Tuesday 22nd November in Porlock Village Hall. Eighty people braved the floods to attend the event and celebrate some of the excellent wildlife projects taking place across Exmoor National Park. There was a vibrant buzz to the day, with displays on some of Exmoor's charismatic species, including otters and dormice, and presentations on a variety of topics including the state of Exmoor's wildlife and the work of the Exmoor Knotweed Control Project.
The Forum had a particular focus on the vital role of volunteers in conserving wildlife on Exmoor. A number of volunteers spoke about their work, for instance on the River Barle Invasive Crayfish Project and through the Sea Watch Foundation.
The Exmoor Wildlife Forum was hosted by Exmoor National Park Authority. The Authority would like to thank all those who generously give their time to help with such an array of wildlife projects.
Butterfly News                                                   
Jenny Plackett, Butterfly Conservation  

Butterfly Conservation has some exciting news to report! Firstly, the award by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) of £318,000 to support a new project, All the Moor Butterflies, which will be working to save some of the south west's most threatened butterfly and moth species. One of the target project landscapes, Exmoor National Park, hosts nationally important populations of some of our most threatened species, notably the high brown fritillary, heath fritillary and small pearl-bordered fritillary, all of which have declined by 70% or more over the last 40 years. The project will work with landowners to help them conserve these species by carrying out management to restore potential habitat, as well as engaging with communities to show them the wonder of their local wildlife.
High brown fritillary (credit: Neil Hulme)
In other news, Butterfly Conservation is delighted with the continued success of a small scale introduction of the heath fritillary butterfly into Hawkcombe Wood following recent coppicing work carried out by the National Park Authority. Volunteers recorded numbers swelling from less than 30 last year to more than 120 this summer, when recorded during a 15 minute walk across the site.
   Heath fritillary caterpillar and butterfly (credit: Jim Asher)
River Barle Crayfish Project - Year 2    
Nicky Green, Nicky Green Associates
This summer up 40 local volunteers have continued trapping and sterilising non-native signal crayfish with the River Barle Crayfish Project, a trial of a new invasive crayfish control technique. To date almost 6,000 signal crayfish have been removed from the 1.5km trial section of river and nearly 1000 large 'dominant' males have been sterilised and returned to the river. Large males dominate breeding activity and suppress the actions of smaller animals. By returning sterilised males to the river they continue to mate but fail to produce offspring, hopefully causing in a drastic reduction in numbers. Average daily catch has declined by a healthy 25% whilst the numbers of males being sterilised has increased by almost 40% since 2015. In addition to the main project, research on trap efficiency was carried out by a local University student and a small group of volunteers has set up a trial where they manage the trapping themselves.
2016 is the second year of a three year project and volunteers are needed to continue the work in 2017. The project is steered a local partnership including Exmoor National Park Authority, Environment Agency, River Exe and Tributaries Association and the River Barle Fishing Club. It has received funding and in-kind support from the Exmoor National Park Partnership Fund, Natural England, Environment Agency, CEFAS and Heritage Lottery Funding through the Heart of Exmoor Scheme.

Appeal Rescues Knotweed Control Project
Heather Harley, ENPA
For over 10 years the Exmoor Knotweed Control Project has been treating sites across the National Park using a professional, qualified contractor. Each year the Project partners comprising Natural England, Exmoor National Park, National Trust and the Environment Agency have donated money to enable this work to be carried out free of charge for the wider benefit.
There are over 1100 knotweed sites recorded on Exmoor and each site with the landowner's consent is treated through the Project at a cost of approximately £25. Due to the scale of the work this cost is substantially discounted; the same work would cost more than £80 per site if carried out through an individual contract.
With so many sites to treat each year, in these difficult financial times the Project was facing an uncertain future and so this year the Project launched The Exmoor Knotweed Appeal to raise funds to contribute to the cost.
So far the response has been positive, with over £1,870 raised, which has enabled the Project to continue this vital work. The Exmoor Knotweed Control Partnership would like to thank all those who have contributed.

Training Opportunities for Wildlife Volunteers 
April Windle, ENPA

After another successful year of the Wildlife Training Programme, 23 ecological training events have been delivered over the course of 2016. These have consisted of discovery sessions, training days and biological surveys, which have provided a wide variety of opportunities to get involved on Exmoor. Whatever the ability, there has been an event to suit everybody!

The programme proves a really great way to learn more about Exmoor's wildlife and meet friendly like-minded people along the way. Attendees will be provided with the skills to identify and survey, so this acquired knowledge can be put into practice across the National Park.

Discover Exmoor's Bog Plants event at Blackpitts

The programme will be delivered again for 2017, with some new events added to the list, including events from the British Dragonfly Society and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. The events have proved extremely popular, so please keep an eye out on the Get Involved area on our website for next year's programme.
Lower Plants - Making the Link
James Mason, ENPA

In South West England not only do we have some of the best conditions for growing timber but also some of the rarest plants.  Some of the larger semi natural woodlands like Horner and Hawkcombe are internationally famous for the rare assemblages of species found in them but many commercial woods can also support populations where natural vegetation exists.  Many woodland managers will be familiar with tree bark encrusted with the varied shapes of different lichens or varied mosses along a stream or boundary features which all thrive with enough light and humidity.  Managing to improve conditions along watercourses or around older trees and linking these habitats together are all easily accommodated as part of managing sustainably towards the UK Forestry Standard.  This in turn can often help deliver other outcomes such as improvements in water quality and generating firewood.

Plantlife has produced a free woodland management handbook on 'Lichens and Bryophytes in Atlantic Woodland in South-West England'. This resource is designed to support land managers in assessing site value for lichens and bryophytes and planning effective habitat management. Free copies can be requested here. The handbook can be used in conjunction with Plantlife's guides to lichens and bryophytes in SW Atlantic Woodland (available here). Download the handbook as a pdf here

If you or someone you know are thinking about creating a management plan for woodland and want some guidance on where to start, get in touch with James Mason at Exmoor WoodLinks to see how we can help.

Exmoor WoodLinks is an initiative working with woodland owners and businesses across the Greater Exmoor area, helping to build a stronger woodland enterprise culture, bringing more woods into sustainable management for the benefit of the rural economy, environment and landscape. Thanks to a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exmoor National Park Authority with the Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission and other partners are working together to offer woodland owners specialist support to sustainably manage woodlands and in particular restore plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS) as part of the wider rural economy.

We hope you have enjoyed our latest e-newsletter. For more information about any of the projects mentioned above, or to let us know how you found this newsletter, please email bdavis@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

With best wishes,

Bea Davis & Ali Hawkins

Conservation Officers (Wildlife)
Exmoor National Park Authority