Exmoor Wildlife Newsletter
Winter 2017/2018
Edition 13

Welcome to the Exmoor Wildlife Newsletter

Welcome to the 13th edition of the Exmoor Wildlife Newsletter.  This edition brings you updates on some of the vital work to restore, protect and monitor Exmoor's wildlife and the ways you can get involved.
Read about the ongoing success in restoring the hydrology and ecology of Exmoor's mires and the challenges of tackling invasive non-native species in Exmoor's rivers. Find out how to take part in the survey of Exmoor's otters this spring, as well as the upcoming Exmoor Wildlife Forum and wider Somerset Festival of Wildlife, both in May.

And to help you keep in touch with latest information on Exmoor's wildlife and submit your own records, see the information on the exciting new wildlife web pages and Exmoor Natural Environment Record.
We hope you enjoy reading further and we would like to thank everyone who takes part in looking after Exmoor's special wildlife, you make a big difference.

Helen Booker
Chair of the Exmoor Nature Conservation Advisory Panel
In this issue:
  • Launch of the new Exmoor National Park wildlife webpages
  • Somerset Festival of Wildlife and Exmoor Wildlife Forum
  • Exmoor Otter Survey
  • River Barle Invasive Crayfish Project update
  • The challenge with invasive plants
  • Exmoor Mires Partnership update
Launch of New Wildlife Webpages
Bea Davis (ENPA)

We are delighted to announce the launch of two new features available on Exmoor National Park Authority's website: an online wildlife recording facility and the Exmoor Natural Environment Record.  The updated wildlife webpages can be viewed here

It is now possible to submit your wildlife records - for all wildlife rather than just the Exmoor Wild Watch species - via an online  recording form developed by Somerset Environmental Records Centre.  The form is really simple to use and should only take a few minutes to complete.  If you wish to submit records regularly we can arrange a log-in for you so that you don't have to add certain information each time. 

The development of the Exmoor Natural Environment Record (NER) means it is now possible to search online for wildlife reports for any area within the National Park.  The NER currently includes over 900 reports, gathered from many partner organisations - such as Natural England, RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, National Trust  and Environment Agency - as well as from ENPA. The information is available either as a list of reports or an interactive map (where you can click on the map to bring up a list for your chosen area).  If you spot any reports that we are missing please do let us know as we would be glad to add to this new system.

These changes may sound simple but the new systems have been years in the making and have come about thanks to the hard work of many ENPA staff and partner organisations, particularly April Windle who developed the NER during a two-year placement with the National Park Authority.  We would like to thank all those involved so far and we hope you enjoy using the new webpages!  Please do get in touch if you have any feedback.

Somerset Festival of Wildlife & Exmoor Wildlife Forum
Ali Hawkins (ENPA)

May is the month to look out for two great wildlife events. The first Somerset Festival of Nature will be launched over the first weekend in May with a fun family event being held at Fyne Court on the Quantocks over the weekend of 5th & 6th May. This will begin a week of events across Somerset celebrating the rich variety of wildlife across the county including events on the Somerset Levels, Mendips, Blackdowns and Exmoor and the Quantocks. On Exmoor we are running a Wild Watch stream dipping event on bank holiday Monday 7th May at Tarr Steps from 11am - 3pm which will be a fun event for all the family. For more information go to our website    
Tuesday 22nd May sees the third Exmoor Wildlife Forum which this year will be held at Exford Memorial Hall from 9.30am - 4pm. The programme is again an exciting mix of speakers who will give us updates on some key wildlife projects on Exmoor and there is also a chance to hear about the impact of post-Brexit changes on conservation management. The cost is £20, or £10 to Exmoor volunteers, which includes an excellent home-prepared lunch. You can book your place here. We look forward to seeing you there.  
Exmoor Otter Survey
Bea Davis (ENPA)

Do you fancy doing something a little different this spring, whilst taking in some beautiful Exmoor scenery and contributing to valuable conservation work?  If so - and if you are free on 21st, 28th and 29th April - you might like to consider taking part in the Exmoor Otter Survey. 
This full survey of Exmoor National Park for otters will be carried out by volunteers from Somerset Otter Group and the National Park Authority.  The survey is undertaken systematically over two consecutive days, following Somerset Otter Group's methodology, with all evidence of otters recorded on day one and only fresh evidence recorded on day two.  This gives us a good picture of where otters have been overnight.    
The survey will take place on 28th and 29th April, with full training provided on 21st April.  If you are interested in taking part in the otter survey please do get in touch.  Further information, including a volunteer role description, is available on the ENPA website. 
River Barle Invasive Crayfish Project Update
Nicky Green (Nicky Green Associates)

We have now completed three years of trapping and sterilisation of signal crayfish within this ground breaking project, which seeks to test a novel approach to invasive crayfish control.
To date almost 11,000 crayfish have been caught and over 1,300 large 'dominant' males sterilised and returned to the river.  Large males play a key role in population control via predation and competition; sterilisation allows them to continue this role but unable to reproduce, and a 60% decline in the number of egg bearing females caught between 2016 and 2017 tells us this approach may be working.
After three years of research we are finding that there are more questions to answer, so the project will be continuing in 2018 and possibly 2019 in order to undertake more detailed study of certain aspects of the techniques being trialled.  If you are interested in volunteering for this project please contact Patrick Watts-Mabbott (ENPA Volunteers & Outreach Officer).
The Challenge with Invasive Plants
Ali Hawkins (ENPA)

Work continues to tackle some of the non-native invasive plant species on Exmoor, with the Exmoor Knotweed Control Project making excellent progress. In the last treatment season over 84% of known sites were treated or monitored and on a large number of these knotweed was no longer evident or was greatly reduced.
Finding effective methods of treating organic sites has always been an issue, but last autumn - thanks to funding from South West Water through the Headwaters of the Exe project - a trial was started by a company called Ubiqutek who have developed a technology known as RootwaveTM which uses electricides to carry out the treatment (photo below, left). An electrical current passes through the stems of the knotweed causing the plant cells to boil from inside out from the root upwards. The trial will be repeated again this year on the same sites so that the effectiveness of this exciting new method can be monitored. 
Unfortunately we have also had the first records of skunk cabbage (photo above, right) on Exmoor. We are keen to hear about any more sightings of this highly invasive plant which particularly colonises wet areas.
Exmoor Mires Partnership Update
Morag Angus (South West Water)

The Exmoor Mires Partnership has been continuing to work on the peatlands of Exmoor. In autumn and winter of 2016/7 this comprised of 569ha across two sites, Warren Farm and Codsend Moor.
Along with the hydrological monitoring that was set up in 2011, the University of Exeter has set up a third monitoring area in order to look at the ecohydrological gradient between wet bog vegetation (peat depths in excess of 0.5 m) to dry Molinia caerulea (purple moor grass) dominated grassland (peat depths of less than 0.2 m). This area provides measurements of vegetation structure/composition, water table depth and green house gas fluxes which can facilitate the development of proxies of ecohydrological function across the wider moorland extent on Exmoor.
Volunteers and staff have continued to do an amazing job carrying out the vegetation monitoring. Eight transects were completed in 2017. Analysis of these data sets is showing some positive changes on these sites, including increases in Sphagnum cover (see figure below) and the number of species recorded and habitat change at a sub-transect level. 
Results for Sphagnum cover in transect 6 at Pinkery (showing an increase in Sphagnum cover)

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
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