Our Wildlife FieldThe field is managed to encourage local wildlife and bio-diversity.
Although creating a wildlife meadow which looks attractive from spring to autumn has guided much of our activity over the past eight years, the key emphasis remains “wildlife”. The explosion of anthills built by Yellow Meadow ants has been a successful consequence of close cutting the three meadow areas in late autumn. Ants, like many insects, are warm loving creatures and thrive in the absence of a cold, wet mattress of decaying, uncut grasses. The two obvious beneficiaries of this ant abundance are the green woodpeckers who open the nest and lap up the inhabitants and Blue and Copper butterflies which enjoy a wholly more equable relationship with the ants.
To ensure that our management of the meadow is beneficial to the most plentiful wildlife, the many insect species, butterfly and, more recently, moth numbers are closely monitored. Over eight years the number of butterfly species in the meadow has increased from 21 species to 24 and the total number of butterflies has increased year on year over a period of good and poor summers. Whereas there are only 60 butterfly species regularly seen in the UK there are very many more moths and to date we have recorded some 140 larger moths and almost 100 smaller (micro) moths. This is well short of the real total which should be at least double, nearer to 300 and even this would understate the moth riches of our allotment and its meadow. The moth known and seen by many plot holders is the colourful Jersey Tiger which flies in August sunshine and plays at being a butterfly. Two quite rare moths, nationally that is, are the Toadflax Brocade and the Small Ranunculus. Both breed within the meadow and their caterpillars are found regularly eating purple toadflax and prickly lettuce respectively. Several moths can be seen flying in the sunshine and are often mistaken as butterflies but, in the main, they are nocturnal and are recorded by moth trapping. A large plastic cylinder topped with a powerful mercury vapour light tempts the moths into the trap where they settle quickly and are found the following morning sleeping on the egg cartons which line the bottom of the trap. They are then recorded and liberated with photos taken of the showier or the difficult to identify species.