Butterflies and Bastard Balm

The beginning of March saw the Swansea Neath Port Talbot team in Ceredigion, where we were contracted to do some habitat work by Plantlife at 3 different sites. The work was specifically aimed to benefit bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum).

Bastard Balm by J Ohryzek

Bastard Balm by J Ohryzek

The bastard balm is a locally rare plant and listed as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Its decline has been attributed to the cessation of traditional woodland management. We also have bastard balm at our Pengelli reserve in Pembrokeshire.

We have spent a good part of March in The Dranges. The Dranges is a new site soon to be acquired by the Trust which is situated in the Gower. The meadows here are particularly species rich, and the habitat conditions are ideal for the marsh fritillary. The site is predominantly damp grassland which is dominated by tussock-forming grasses necessary for over wintering of the species. We have noted the presence of Devil’s bit scabious the main food plant of the marsh fritillary, all of which should make this a favourable site for the butterfly.

Marsh Fritillary

Marsh Fritillary

Marsh fritillaries have vulnerable European status, due to its severe decline in the Twentieth Century. Britain is now a strong hold for the species although the decline has been mirrored here also. A programme of scrub clearance has been undertaken to maintain and increase the area of meadow. This should improve the site for invertebrates and hopefully entice a population of marsh fritillaries to the area. Work has been carried out with volunteers and the Gower AONB ranger, Huw Lloyd.

Also on the Dranges, Karen McCullough winner of funding from the Vodaphone World of Difference project, has been set with the task of writing a management plan including a prescription of works necessary over the next few years.

Clearing Scrub on the Dranges by Becca Killay

Clearing Scrub on the Dranges by Becca Killay

This month she has been clearing scrub around the pond so she can get in to do some pond dipping. She has also walked the perimeter fence and mapped out where the existing breaks are, this will be necessary as we want to control the grazing of the site. Karen will also be leading a guided walk in June as part of the Gower Walking festival and has been preparing and researching the site for a suitable route.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteer oppportunities contact Rebecca on 07970780558