Marsh Fritillary on the Dranges

The reserves team in West Glamorgan have been involved with the management of The Dranges, Bishopston for the last 6 years and it is soon to be leased to WTSWW.
This 16ha site owned by the Pressdee family is a magical place, hidden away at the top of the Bishopston Valley adjacent to Barlands Common a difficult place to access for management & recreation alike.

Surveying amongst Devil's bit scabious

Surveying amongst Devil's bit scabious

It is a mosaic of unimproved grasslands: rhos-pasture, fen meadow and dry neutral grassland along with wet woodland and lowland deciduous mixed woodland and also a number of ponds and two streams which feed the Bishopston Pill. Senior WTO for West Glamorgan said, “On my first visit here in August 2007 I knew how special this place would be as a reserve, not many of our sites have such a mix of habitats all on one site. When I saw the 2ha field entirely blue with Devil's-bit scabious and the adjacent tussocky field of purple moor grass I thought surely this must be a likely site for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly.”

For the last 4 years every September we have carried out a survey for Marsh Fritillary larval webs with no luck but our luck was to change this year. After a training day was run for staff and volunteers by Butterfly Conservation Trust at the National Trust’s Welshmoor, Cilibion on Tues 9th September regular volunteer Huw Evans found a larval web – the first record of the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly being present at The Dranges.

Rebecca Killa, Assistant WTO who was running the survey said, “There was quite a buzz of excitement.  In the last 6 years the has been little intervention in the meadows apart from some scrub clearance, a lack of adequate fencing means WTSWW cannot graze it or control trespassing animals. We were starting to think that Marsh Frits hadn’t found the site.”

Already the team are thinking about how they increase the area of suitable habitat. The next step will be to find project funding to fence the site and establish suitable grazing whilst clearing encroaching willow and birch scrub from the meadows