With bats, butterflies, bugs and beetles, there’s more to RSPB nature reserves than birds
Last modified: 19 January 2012
Inspecting insects, scrutinising spiders, peering at pipits and looking at lichens were just some of the activities RSPB staff got immersed in as they spent their spare time last year compiling a wildlife stock-take of the Society’s headquarters nature reserve. The naturalists recorded a staggering 1,915 native species for the Bedfordshire nature reserve for the year.
Last year’s total brings the list of native and non-native species recorded at the site – known as the Lodge – to 4,035. Theoretically, this total makes the Lodge the third highest RSPB nature reserve for the highest number of species recorded, but many of the Society’s 211 UK reserves are thought to contain even more species, but they haven’t yet been surveyed as intensively. The site is officially only trumped by Minsmere, in Suffolk, and Abernethy, in the Highlands.
693 new native species were recorded for the Lodge last year, at the rate of almost two a day, but ecologists regard this as a vast underestimate because the potential for the discovery of species new to RSPB sites is believed to be enormous. One of the most bizarre discoveries of 2011 was the discovery of the revoltingly-named dog vomit slime mould. A brief visit from by an Arctic redpoll – a type of finch – from northernmost Scandinavia was the most interesting new bird sighting.
53 of the newly recorded native species have very limited ranges in the UK, including two species of clearwing moth. However, 125 threatened species previously recorded species weren’t found at the site during the audit, including the nationally-scarce barbastelle bat.
Overall, the RSPB network of more than 200 nature reserves across the UK supports a recorded 15,253 native species (32 per cent), of the UK’s estimated 47,000 freshwater and land-dwelling species. But even this figure is believed to be an underestimate. There is still a vast potential for species to be discovered for the network. For example, all of the UK’s 246 regularly-occurring native bird species have been recorded at some time or another across the RSPB reserve network, but only just over one third of the UK’s native insects have been found.
Mark Gurney is an RSPB ecologist. Commenting on the findings, he said: “The UK’s wildlife is often thought to be well-known in contrast to other parts of the world. But we have proved that anyone can make amazing discoveries if they look hard enough.
“The Lodge is a well-managed reserve, but it is similar to many woodland and heathland sites across southern England. What makes it the third most important site for us in the UK is that we have looked hard at what we have. If we repeated the same exercise across our network we would expect to find many, many more species.”
Creating a haven
Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Director of Conservation. He said: “The RSPB is famed for bird conservation, but we recognise that we have a huge responsibility for other wildlife too. Our nature reserves already contain examples of one third of the UK’s wildlife and we suspect that will figure will rise dramatically. The management of nature reserves is crucial in creating a haven for a diversity of species.”
The RSPB works with a diverse range of partner organisations to help wildlife on its reserves and the Society is involved with projects to reintroduce species to some of its reserves. For example the Society is reintroducing the Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly at Tudeley Woods, in the Weald, with Butterfly Conservation and the Forestry Commission. The RSPB is also working with Plantlife to conserve the nationally-rare Fen Orchid, through special management at its Sutton Fen nature reserve.
The RSPB has a network of 211 nature reserves across the UK, stretching from West Cornwall to the Shetland Islands.
March 2012. National fly expert, Roy Crossley, has recorded an impressive 376 fly species at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve Calley Heath. This is a good indicator that the Trust’s efforts over the years to look after this lovely little site are paying off: here.