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Photographic Competition Reminder
Convolvulus Hawkmoth in Northumberland
Anne Pickering found a Convolvulus Hawkmoth Agrius convolvuli at her home in Oakwood near Hexham on 16 September 2008. This hawkmoth is resident in North Africa and each year there are northward movements of adults from there. There are annual records in the south of England, occasionally in significant numbers, but its occurence in the North East is uncommon. There have been 27 sightings in the region in the last six years, including a very rare record of successful breeding in 2003 at Blackall Rocks, Sunderland.
Convolvulus hawkmoth Agrius convolvuli. Photo: Anne Pickering
Public attitudes to biodiversity in North East England
Results have been published of a survey of attitudes towards biodiversity in North East England. The survey was carried out on behalf of the NE Biodiversity Forum at the end of 2007 by Marketwise Strategies and involved face to face interviews with 988 respondents from across the whole region.
The results indicate that the general public has a "passively positive" attitude towards biodiversity although there was widespread lack of awareness of what the term actually means with 33% of respondents confusing it with 'biodegradability' - perhaps an indication that conservation bodies should take great care to always use plain English in their public statements! Although only a small minority of respondents indicated an active engagement in activities relating to conservation of biodiversity over 80% felt that the North East would be more boring with fewer species and over half agreed that their local authority should do more to protect and enhance biodiversity.
Public support is an important factor in the protection of biodiversity and the survey should provide plenty of food for thought to the region's various conservation bodies as well as to local and central government. The full report can be downloaded from here (external web-site).
New guidance on managing aggregates quarries for invertebrates.
Mineral extraction of one kind and another has long provided a mainstay of the economy of North East England and there continue to be many active quarries in the region including those working the magnesian limestone deposits of County Durham and open cast coal in South Northumberland. A new guide published by Buglife will hopefully help to ensure that these quarries will be managed in a way that is sympathetic to the conservation of invertebrates.
Managing Aggregates Sites for Invertebrates provides advice relating to the restoration of a variety of terrestrial and wetland habitats in worked out quarries and highlights some of the potential pitfalls to be avoided. It also provides advice on how invertebrates can be encouraged alongside active workings. Although the scope of the guide covers all kinds of invertebrates including beetles, dragonflies and bees, there is much that is relevant to butterflies and moths such as Dingy Skipper, Northern Brown Argus, and Chalk carpet.
NE England Branch web-site launched.
After a period of several years of being 'off-line' the North-East England Branch of Butterfly Conservation has now re-launched its web-site. The aim of the web-site is to keep members (and others) informed about the butterflies and moths of the region and about the activities of the branch. We hope that users will find the content both useful and interesting. We would like to invite members to contact us with any suggestions they may have for additions or improvements to the site that they would like to see and also to submit any news items that may be of interest to other members (such as notable sightings, changes to local butterfly sites and so on). In future, possible additions to the site could include a 'picture gallery' for members' photographs or artwork.
The branch welcomes records of any butterflies or moths observed within the region and details are provided on the site for how to submit records to the relevant recorders (click here).
State of the Natural Environment
In May 2008 Natural England published its report on the State of the Natural Environment, bringing together a wide range of information about the status of England's fauna and flora, natural and semi-natural habitats and landscapes. The report shows that English biodiversity is much less rich than it was 50 years ago and highlights declines in many different species groups and habitat types. The information on butterflies reflects a now familiar picture: a few species are doing well but many are declining. The situation for moths is equally dispiriting: 62 species have become extinct in Britain during the 20th century and the Rothamsted survey has shown that overall abundance of moths has fallen significantly since 1968. The report can be downloaded from the Natural England web-site.
Chalk Carpet Workshop
On 18 July 2008 Dave Wainwright led a workshop on the Chalk Carpet, a UK BAP moth species associated with chalk and limestone habitats. There are a few records from magnesian limestone sites in Durham but the species is possibly under-recorded. Following a classroom session the group of about sixteen people decamped to Wingate Quarry to search for the species. The survey was a great success and a total of 15 individual Chalk Carpets were seen. A variety of other moths and butterflies were seen including Latticed Heath, Yellow Shell and Shaded Broad-Bar moths, and Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Heath and Small Skipper.
Chalk Carpet Scotopteryx bipunctaria. Photo: Jonathan Wallace
The Branch Committee has decided to organise a photographic competition, open to members of the North East England Branch of Butterfly Conservation. Members are invited to submit photographs taken during the 2008 season and these will be judged in three categories. The entries will be judged by the Committee members (who will not be eligible to enter) and results will be announced at the AGM in February 2009. There will be small prizes for the winners and the winning entries will be published in the April 2009 edition of the newsletter.
The categories are:
Adult British butterfly
Adult British moth
Immature stages - butterfly or moth
There will also be a category for the best overall photograph
Please send your entries to Jaci Beaven. See the latest Branch Newsletter for address details.
Small Tortoiseshell Project.
The Small Tortoiseshell is one of the most widespread and familiar butterflies but it has undergone a sharp and worrying decline in recent years. The reasons for this decline are unclear but one hypothesis is that it may be associated with the spread of a parasitoid fly Sturmia bella that was first recorded in southern England in 1999. A project run by Oxford University is investigating this hypothesis. Information about the project and how you can contribute is given here
National Moth Night
As part of National Moth Night on 7th June , Dave Wainwright and Dave O'Brien led a moth trapping event at Tilery Woods, Wynyard. Weather conditions were perfect and a total of 27 species were recorded whilst we were also entertained by a chorus of tawny owls. Species recorded were: Small phoenix, Silver Ground Carpet, Common Swift, Green Silver Lines, Rivulet, Early Thorn, Scorched Wing, Clouded Border, Pale Prominent, White Pinion-Spotted, Common Marbled Carpet, Scalloped Hazel, Peach Blossom, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Common Carpet, Pale Tussock, Flame Carpet, Brimstone, Green Carpet, Sandy Carpet, Cream Wave, Small Angle-shades, Clouded Silver, Elephant Hawk, Coxcomb Prominent, Pebble Prominent and unidentified Pug.
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