Sunday, 28 August 2011

Rare moth spotted during Lambeth wildlife count

Bat populations also thriving August 2011: A rare species of moth that until recently had hardly ever been seen in London has been spotted by volunteer conservationists in Brockwell Park in Lambeth.

The group discovered the rare Jersey tiger moth - which used to be found only in the Channel Islands and the far south of England - while recording local moth and bat populations in Brockwell and Ruskin Parks at night.

Experts believe that brightly coloured tiger moths are gradually moving northwards as the summers become more reliably warm, and they are becoming more common in London.

More than 40 local people volunteered to stay in Brockwell Park on two consecutive nights with local experts and the Friends of Brockwell Park to record the number of bats and moths found there.

BatsIn Brockwell Park at least 14 bats were spotted during the course of the first night, and included common pipistrelle in healthy numbers, as well as soprano pipistrelles and, even more excitingly, Daubenton's bat, which prefers hunting for insects over water.

Most bat activity centred on the park's middle pond which has good habitat structure for these flying mammals being sheltered on either side by trees. Bats are a superb indicator of the ‘ecological quality' of an open space, with each species tending to specialise - a range of species indicates a healthy balance of places to feed and travel, and the success of the park's meadow areas and ponds with 'wild' edges.

This success is also demonstrated by the variety and quantity of moths found next night in Brockwell Park, with 24 different species recorded, including the flame shoulder moth, marbled minor moth and notable sightings of the rare Jersey tiger and small clover case-bearer moths.

Ruskin Park, which contains a similar mixture of ponds and natural wildlife habitats, was also well used by common and soprano pipistrelle bats. A new wildlife-friendly community garden in the centre of the park is also helping to increase the number of feeding opportunities for bats as well as insects like moths on which they feed.

All of the sightings, both common and scarcer species, will be submitted to Greenspace Information for Greater London which collates and makes available information on London's wildlife, parks, nature reserves, gardens and other open spaces.

Donald Campbell from Veolia Environmental Services, which manages both Brockwell and Ruskin Park, said: ‘We're really pleased with the number of moths and bats recorded over each evening. It's great that the residents of Lambeth have this much biodiversity on their doorstep, and we will continue to ensure that all of our parks are a place for both residents and wildlife.'

Iain Boulton from Lambeth Council's Parks and Greenspaces department said: ‘To see a Jersey tiger moth was fantastic. This is an important sighting, which will be recorded and used to monitor the spread of Jersey moths as they apparently move further northwards through the UK. It's also interesting evidence of how our changing climate seems to be having an impact on wildlife.'

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