Saving England's most threatened species from extinction

Roots of Rockingham 2019

The Roots of Rockingham have blossomed with many fantastic successes this year!

The first Chequered Skipper butterfly to emerge in England in over 40 years was recorded in the Rockingham Forest this year as a result of a successful translocation following dramatic and extensive habitat improvement work by Forestry England. This year a second reintroduction took place to help boost breeding Chequered Skipper butterfly numbers to really help the fledgling population get established. Introduced adults captured in Belgium were marked with red dots prior to release to enable surveyors to follow their movements. These newly introduced butterflies were spotted flying and nectaring on rides on the days following their release among numerous English-born butterflies.

At the end of summer, the first Chequered Skipper larvae were spotted, a particularly exciting find as last year’s larvae eluded discovery. This discovery could not have occurred without the help of many volunteer surveyors generously giving hundreds of hours of their time to monitoring and recording both butterflies and caterpillars.

Where do these amazing expert volunteers hail from? We are incredibly fortunate to have not one but two Butterfly Conservation local volunteer branches helping us: the Beds & Northants branch and the Cambs & Essex branch. In addition to their fantastic expertise in the field we have been very grateful to receive support from the Environment Agency staff volunteers who donated their time to this project.

It’s not just Chequered Skipper surveyors that deserve a mention.

Monitoring for Dingy Skipper and Grizzled Skipper across our sites has helped us to get a better idea of how populations of these rarer and declining butterflies are faring locally, and the picture is not as bleak as once thought! Many survey efforts have yielded numbers indicating good populations on some of our sites.

Moths matter to us too! The little-known Liquorice Piercer moth and the Concolorus moth have been found for the first time on some of our sites! Local lepidopterists have light- trapped throughout the seasons and were rewarded with the holy grail of moth sightings this year; Clifden Nonpareil - an enormous, magnificent moth with blue underwings. These sightings were also enjoyed by members of the public who attended our events. Moth and butterfly days have been popular this year and our talks have generated lots of interest with local groups.

Volunteers have also been central to the Adder monitoring on this project. We have been able to establish the likely locations of significant hibernacula, basking areas and foraging areas thanks to hours and miles of surveying put in by our fantastic reptile survey volunteers. Members of the public were invited to join us on a family friendly reptile walk. Folks enjoyed seeing Adder, Common Lizard and Slow Worm with grandparents and grandchildren sharing in the experience.

Three new Brown Long-eared Bat roost surveys were commenced this year with help from our dedicated bat survey volunteers. We have surveyed all eleven of our primary woodlands and some secondary sites for woodland bats. Work using static detectors began to investigate how bats are using hedgerows as corridors between different woodlands. Monitoring was also used to gather pre-management baseline data before woodland ride habitat management took place. Follow up surveys will tell us how bats have responded to the works.

 (c) Hugh Clark, bats.org.uk.

The status of the priority plant species on our sites - Fly Orchid and Basil-Thyme - have been updated. We are also monitoring the changes in vegetation in response to management and as hoped, we are finding a greater abundance and diversity of woodland flora where ride-widening and rotational ride management has taken place. This is great news for the biodiversity of plants, invertebrates including butterflies and moths and other species that feed on plants and invertebrates.

Our educational school workshops have been delivered within local primary schools and with home educators and they have been well received. Activities were greatly enjoyed by all the children we have met. Young learners built upon existing concepts of what living things need to survive and were supported to apply this to understanding how woodland species can become threatened and how we can help species in the Rockingham Forest thrive.

Our public events have been well attended with photography workshops by Wildscreen and a zine making workshop with creative writer Katherine McMahon being very popular indeed. A stunning Fans of the Forest zine was collaboratively produced by everyone who attended Katherine’s workshop and we were so inspired by these creative approaches to community engagement we put on more creative events!

ZINE <<< download here.

Back from the Brink don’t own any of the sites we work on and these brilliant events can only take place with the help of generous organisations like Grounds Café gifting their venue Little Barn for our workshops. The National Trust at Lyveden New Bield kindly shared their Wild Wednesday events with us and we are very grateful to Northamptonshire Parks for letting us host so many events at Fermyn Woods Country Park.

With kind permission of the BCN Wildlife Trust we hosted a fully booked art print workshop with Claire Morris-Wright and the Leicester Print Workshop which produced some stunning pieces inspired by the ancient semi natural woodland of Old Sulehay. Author Julia Thorley provided a very beautiful and thought-provoking Beautiful Birds creative writing workshop. We can’t wait to see Julia again in the new year for Botanical Bards and we have many more events in store.

Last, but not least, our practical habitat management work parties are now in full swing, much like the slashers swung by the fantastic staff from the Environment Agency alongside Back from the Brink volunteers at Bedford Purlieus last month. These work groups are essential for targeting areas in need of vegetation management where machinery simply can’t access. So far, we have cleared huge swathes of bracken and bramble to promote floristic diversity in areas of woodland glade where machinery would cause too much damage. We are looking forward to breaking out the mince pies at our next meet working on glades in Fineshade Wood next week. Join us!

 

Liz Morrison

Outreach Officer for Roots of Rockingham.

 

 

Would you like to help these incredible species? There are numerous ways in which you can:

  • Why not volunteer for Back from the Brink? Check out our events page for opportunities near you.
  • Help us to spread the word of this species, and the others we will be helping over the next 3 years, by sharing our message across our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow us: @naturebftb.
  • Finally - help support the work we do across England by donating. Our impact will be greater with your help.

 

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