Using Species Records in 2000

By Steven Bloomfield, Sites and Species Officer, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.

Following the departure of Julian Jones to Wales I have been appointed to continue working on Sites and Species for the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. Much of my work relies on having accurate data about the distribution and status of species within the county. A good example of this is the production of information pertaining to Special Wildlife Sites. Just recently I finished the first draft of the new Special Wildlife Site Handbook. During the production of this document I (and Julian before me) made extensive use of the data collected by local recorders. Without the help of species recorders and the data supplied by them in the past it would have been impossible to make sound judgements about the status of species in the county. I need information, not just about the rarities but also the more widespread species, which can be used as indicators for some of the habitats involved in the Special Wildlife Site process. This is an excellent example of how basic information, the collection of which is rarely glamorous, can be vital for the furtherance of nature conservation at a county level. With luck the Special Wildlife Site system will help to safeguard some of the county’s best sites within the planning process, as well as helping to ensure that their owners receive the advice and grant aid available to them. Hopefully this will help to encourage proper management of the sites.

I have also been involved in several surveys concentrating on individual species. Each has been based on historical records and will lead on to worthwhile practical conservation in the future. The results thus far are given below.

Stag Beetle Lucanus cervus

2000 saw the first full-scale survey of stag beetles in Upton upon Severn. 1000 homes were leafleted throughout Upton, Ryall, and Holly Green. The leaflets included a request for sightings as well as details about the life cycle and habits of the stag beetle. The response from the public was good with numerous forms returned. The results show that stag beetles are more widely distributed in the town than previously thought, and also occur across the river in Ryall, Holly Green, and in Uckinghall. A single confirmed sighting was also reported from Tunnel Hill to the east of Upton. The records support the theory that the beetles are utilising individual stumps, but it would seem that there are a few more prime sites than we thought. Sadly there were a number comments from the public suggesting that the beetles are less common than they used to be. In many cases this prompted enquiries for further information about habitat creation and these have been followed up with advice and practical help where possible.

The Trust has already put in a refuge for stag beetles along the footpath leading off Rectory Road (a beetle hotspot). In line with guidance from the PTES a ‘dead hedge’ of oak logs was sunk into the ground about 18 inches. The tops of the timbers were left above ground to make it easier for the adults to find. The net result of the work is a line of fake ‘stumps’ approximately 10 feet long, which will persist for at least 10 years (we hope) providing a new home for those beetles emerging in the area. Worcestershire County Council, Adrian Hope Tree Services, and the Malvern Hills DC supported the project, which has helped to raise awareness among the local people. Future work will include the provision of more dead wood refuges for the beetles and a wider survey next year. We will be targeting the smaller villages around Upton to see if the distribution of the beetles extends out into the countryside. We would be very interested to hear from anyone with information about beetles outside Upton, particularly if they know of other colonies in the south west of the county that could link up with the one in town. The beetles are capable of moving some distance so colony expansion is a real possibility if the habitat and larval sites are available.


Austropotamobius pallipes

As reported in Worcestershire Record, number 8, April 2000. a full survey has been carried out for the White Clawed Crayfish in the county. The results of this are depressing to say the least. Trained surveyors visited all the historical sites still suitable for crayfish but of the 40 watercourses they visited they found just four holding the animals. It seems that there are only small populations left at the remaining sites although the Whippets Brook near Malvern holds crayfish for a stretch of over 3 km. It is interesting to note that the survey found just one population of signal crayfish Pacifastacus lenisculus in the wild - on the Dick Brook

Although the Crayfish plague was a major factor in the extinction of native crayfish the recent survey also suggests that habitat loss has had an impact. Many of the old sites are no longer suitable for the animals and it is likely that this has compounded the problems caused by the introduction of the signal crayfish. The Trust, in association with the Environment Agency, will try to encourage better management of the remaining sites, working with the local landowners to safeguard them. We are also keen to promote the idea of a test reintroduction of native crayfish to a site, probably on the Dowles Brook in the Wyre Forest, which might support a population now that the plague has gone from the watercourse.

Any recent records of crayfish in the county would be greatly appreciated, as another survey will be carried out in the future to check the status of the remaining populations more fully. New sites could be added to this to provide a fuller picture.

Hornet robber Fly Asilus crabroniformis

Following on from the observations made in 1999 (Worcestershire Record number 7, November 1999) David Green has carried out a full survey for the Hornet Robber Fly in the Kidderminster area. The results of his work are in press and will doubtless be published soon. It seems that there were fewer Asilus on the wing this year than last, perhaps due to the less clement weather? Maybe next year they will be more in evidence.

Forthcoming projects.

Next year will hopefully see the Trust in a position to carry out a major survey of Black Poplars in the county. We are keen to plot the overall distribution of the trees as accurately as possible with a GPS. If you know of a hidden tree that is not in the main concentrations in the south west of the county please could you let us know so that we can add it to the list to check. We are also keen to get to grips with the birds that rely on arable land. We would like to see the best areas for wintering finches etc protected, perhaps under an agri-environment scheme. To initiate this we need to have data about distribution and numbers of birds using arable fields and wet grassland in the winter. If you would like to help with this please get in touch.

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