Surveys reveal coastal wildlife jewels in National Trust crown

Thousands of nature lovers and wildlife experts helped the National Trust record more than 3,400 species at twenty five of its places along the coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the charity’s largest ever wildlife survey [1].

From the world famous chalk cliffs at the White Cliffs of Dover to the dune-rich White Park Bay on the beautiful North Antrim coast, volunteers raced against the clock to record as many species as possible over either 12 or 24 hours.

The BioBlitz surveys, which were run across six months during 2015, recorded a handful of wildlife firsts at National Trust places. These included the first recorded sighting of Balearic shearwaters, Puffinus mauretanicus, at Blakeney on the Norfolk coast. At Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire a Slow worm, Anguis fragilis, was found for the first time since 1966 and at White Park Bay, Co. Antrim, volunteers discovered the rare Forest chafer beetle, Melolontha hippocastani. This was the first recorded sighting of the beetle in Ireland in over a century.

The surveys were organised to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign [2] – the conservation charity now owns 775 miles of coastline.

Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation, said: “The data from these bioblitzes will play an important part in giving us a greater understanding of the species that live along our coastline.

“The shifting nature of our shoreline means that we need to think ahead about what is happening to coastal habitats and how we might secure the future of the wildlife that lives by the sea. The National Trust is working alongside partners at coastal landscapes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to create space for nature to move on a much greater scale.”

Four thousand people helped survey National Trust coastal places, including members of the public and wildlife experts from organisations that included the British Trust for Ornithology, Marine Conservation Society and Wildlife Trusts [3].

Gwen Potter, Area Ranger in Ceredigion, who led the bioblitz at Cwm Tydu on the Ceredigion coast, said: “Despite a bit of rain and quite a bit of wind, our visitors and volunteers had a great time looking for everything from tiny beetles on the beach to plants in our ponds, and starfish in the sea to fungi on a tree.

“We need to know more about our nature so we can protect it properly, but we also need everyone to feel they can get involved in spotting and recording our wildlife too. Thanks to everyone who helped from White Park to the White Cliffs this was the perfect opportunity for both.”

The wide-open expanses of Brancaster on the North Norfolk coast topped the survey with 1,018 species recorded on 20 June 2015. Second place went to Blakeney Point on the North Norfolk coast, followed by Brownsea Island in Dorset, Dunwich Heath in Suffolk and Cwm Ivy on Gower in South Wales.

Highlights from the 2015 coastal wildlife survey include:

  • The discovery of an oil beetle, Meloe proscarabaus, at Cwm Tydu on the Ceredigion coast in Wales; the first such record since 1994.
  • At Dunwich Heath on the Suffolk coast a water-vole was recorded for only the second time in more than 40 years.
  • On the Sussex coast at Gayles Farm near Birling Gap a Red-shanked carder bee, Bombus ruderarius, was recorded for the first time.
  • Nightjar and Dartford Warblers were both found on Brownsea Island in Dorset for only the second time since the 1980s.
  • A Jumping spider, Phlegra fasciata, was found at East Head, West Sussex, for the first time. There are fewer than ten sites for this spider in the UK.
  • The Forest chafer beetle, Melolontha hippocastani, was found at White Park Bay on the Antrim coast. This was the first record on the island of Ireland since 1915.
  • Otters were found at Murlough National Nature Reserve in Co.Down, Northern Ireland and at Cemlyn in Anglesey, North Wales.
  • At Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire a Slow worm, Anguis fragilis, was found for the first time since 1966.
  • The UK’s only venomous snake, the Adder, Vipera berus, was recorded at Ravenscar on the Yorkshire coast for the first time.
  • Balearic shearwaters, Puffinus mauretanicus, were recorded at Blakeney on the north Norfolk coast for the first time.

Moth expert Andrew Crory, who helped at the bioblitz in Murlough, said: “’Murlough is the best site for butterflies and moths in Northern Ireland, with over 700 species recorded, so you could be mistaken in thinking that there would be little in the way of surprises left at such a well-covered site.

“The beauty of targeted bioblitz effort came into play with the discovery of a new site for Sand Dart and other notable species such as Small Blood-vein and Grass Rivulet. A total of 174 moth species were recorded in the 24 hour period – perhaps the best moth-trapping session, in terms of species, in Northern Ireland’s history.”

-ends-

For further press information please contact Mike Collins, Senior Press Officer, on 01793 817708, 07900 138419 or mike.collins@nationaltrust.org.uk, or Tom Seaward, Assistant Press Officer, on 07810 814848 or tom.seaward@nationaltrust.org.uk  

[1] The 3,400 species recorded across the bioblitzes have been broken down into the following categories:

  Species
Flowering plants 899
Lower Plants 396
Ferns 21
Terrestrial Invertebrates 1511
Marine Invertebrates 236
Terrestrial Mammals 37
Marine Mammals 5
Birds 173
Fish 39
Amphibians 7
Reptiles 4
Fungi 52
Other 15

[2] Established in May 1965 the Neptune Coastline Campaign has been backed by tens of thousands of people, enabling the National Trust to acquire 550 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  From the first ever site acquired with Neptune funds at Whiteford Burrows on Gower to the most recent acquisition of a one-mile stretch of the White Cliffs of Dover, Neptune has allowed the Trust to buy and care for special coastal places loved by millions of people in the UK. You can support our coastal work via: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/get-involved/donate/current-appeals/neptune-coastline-campaign/

[3] Some of the organisations involved with the BioBlitzes run at National Trust places last summer included, AONB Partnerships, British Trust for Ornithology, Bat Conservation Trust, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Wildlife Trusts, Biological Record Centres, Buglife, Bristol Natural History Consortium, Conchological Society , Marine Biological Association, Marine Conservation Society, RSPB, Seawatch Foundation, Shark Trust and Ulster Museum.

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