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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Bridgend College Volunteers help track elusive Marsh Frit …

Rob Parry (right) leads the tour ...

The late May bank holiday saw wonderful weather and an even more wonderful group of Bridgend College conservation volunteers at Cefn Garthenor. Rob Parry from INCC managed to get this amazing group of students and their inspirational lecturer Lyn Evans to spend their long weekend doing survey work. Lyn originally set up the group as he felt that there was not enough time on the various nature conservation, agricultural and rural skills courses to cover all the conservation issues in the depth he wanted. All I can say is that the dedication and enthusiasm on display from students and staff members was extraordinary.

Friday night saw the team of 14, including Rob and Vaughn from INCC, turn up and set up camp. Moth traps were set up, owls spotted and bats detected, all before bed. I felt very guilty about the meagre facilities on offer, but no complaints were heard. Never let it be said that the youth of today are soft!

First thing on Saturday morning and the moth trap was inspected with Vaughn leading the identification. Not a great haul, but we found Brimstone, White Ermine, Hebrew Character, Great Prominent, Peppered, Bright Line Brown Eye, Square Spot Rustic, Flame Shoulder, Small Phoenix, Brown Silver Line and Marbled Brown. Safely released, time for breakfast.

Vaughn leads the moth trap inspection

Next up, we did a walk through the land noting birds, plant life and insects by location. The team also set various camera traps. Most exciting for me was that we found Marsh Fritillary butterflies in three separate locations … it was the first time I’d seen one let alone several. Previously Rob, Vaughn and I had found caterpillars, larvae and their favourite (in fact pretty much only) food source, devil’s bit scabious. But never the fully formed butterfly. Rob and the INCC team have done a huge amount of conservation work on this particular beauty, one of Europe’s rarest, so everyone was very excited.

Marsh Fritillary ... at last. This photo by me, the one used with the blog summary is thanks to Vaughn Matthews

Later, under Lyn’s direction, we also set up five quadrats in one of the original semi-improved fields, now planted with wild-flower seed. This allowed for a detailed inspection of the plant species and their coverage within each. GPS coordinates were taken so that this can be repeated annually. As everyone was scrabbling around on hand and knees checking out the many types of grass and sedge, as well as flowers, I was reminded how little I know. Still, plenty of experts on hand! Good news too that the seed we harvested last year and scattered earlier this year in other fields is coming up ... Yellow Rattle is spreading and doing its job, creating space in the rye grass for other plants

Lyn leads the quadrant inspection ... he has an encyclopedic knowledge of plant life

A big thank you to the Bridgend College team and INCC …

Lyn, Alex, Robyn, Ffion, Josh, Beccy, Luca, Matt, Eliza, Jaiden, Harvey and Richard as well as Rob and Vaughn

I just hope that we can get Lyn and his band of Bridgend College Conservation Volunteers back again next year.

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Lacey gives Vaughn a guided tour ...
Tawny owl keeps an eye on proceedings ... photo thanks to Rob Parry
Three young Galloways wondering how they can get involved
Vaughn spotted and photographed this male Redstart which is nesting in the coach house.


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