BMT 2015

This was my second full year exploring the wildlife on land managed by Box Moor Trust in Hemel Hempstead and Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, UK. My aim was to keep my eyes peeled for new species but also to ensure that there weren’t any obvious or significant losses. I wasn’t able to replicate the level or breadth of coverage that I’d managed in 2014 but it was still a rewarding year.

New species 

(not previously recorded on Trust land)

Little Longhorn moth

Adela (Cauchas) fibulella on Germander Speedwell (8-11mm wingspan). A scarce day-flying micro moth in Hertfordshire. At the beginning of June, inspired by moth expert Ben Sale, I found colonies at the Brickworks & Westbrook Hay

Heath Speedwell &
Wild Strawberries

Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) (far left, next to Germander Speedwell) & Wild Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) (right) were both newly recorded at the Brickworks in June. Both plants are UK Red Listed (near threatened or vulnerable) and although seemingly "common" locally are valuable additions

Small Blue

Small Blue (Cupido minimus) (18-27mm wingspan). At the beginning of June, I spotted a single butterfly at Dellfield meadow, Westbrook Hay (the first to be recorded on Trust land). This led to the discovery of a small breeding colony nearby and the possibility of attracting this rare Hertfordshire species to Box Moor Trust land. It’s early days but it was one of those rare moments where spotting a single creature led to all sorts of revelations, learning and possibilities.
(see BMT Small Blue Project

Brassy Longhorn moth

Nemophora metallica on Field Scabious (15-20mm wingspan). A rare day-flying micro moth in Hertfordshire. It was a real delight to come across a small colony at the Brickworks in July


Welcome returns

(from my 2014 records or others' previous records)

Green Hairstreaks

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi). A rare species in Hertfordshire. The small breeding colony at Roughdown Common remains. I spotted my first adult this year on 20/04/2015

Dingy Skippers

It was a good year for Dingy Skippers (Erynnis tages) at Bovingdon Brickworks. And, it was a privilege to watch a pair come together and mate one sunny day at the start of May. Another rare species in Hertfordshire

Brown Argus

Having found the Brickworks colony at the very end of last season, it was fantastic to be able to confirm in the spring that the species did breed and emerge onsite.
A locally scarce butterfly 

Grass Rivulets

Another rare Hertfordshire moth and, for the second year running, it was recorded at Dellfield meadow, Westbrook Hay. I was glad to manage a half decent photograph this time too!

Lesser Whitethroat


Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) is not an easy species to catch up with locally. It has been recorded on Trust land before but not by me. I was really pleased to come across this singing male at Bovingdon Brickworks at the end of June. It stayed a good few weeks as well

Painted Ladies &
Silver-washed Fritillary

Throughout August more than 20 Painted Lady butterflies came through the Brickworks as well as at least one male Silver-washed Fritillary. It was also great to record a couple of Hummingbird Hawk-moths at the site

Kingfishers

The Kingfishers were a constant throughout last year's project and the same was true through 2015. At least 2 pairs attempted to nest along the Bulbourne river and youngsters were evident late summer

Siskins


 Siskins (Carduelis spinus) have previously been recorded on Trust land but, again, not by me. This year was my first sighting of them locally with numerous singles & small flocks passing through in autumn. By the beginning of December, more than 30 birds were feeding in Alders on Blackbirds Moor. Fantastic stuff!

Not photographed, but the swathe of c150 Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) flowered on Bovingdon Reach meadow in June. A very welcome return.

Also not photographed, but on 17/12/2015, I spotted 2 Lesser Redpolls at Bovingdon Brickworks - the first I’d seen in 2.5 years of watching Trust land. They were loosely associating with a mixed Tit flock, which included 4+ Goldcrests.

Concerns


  • During 2014, I heard Cuckoos at Westbrook Hay and Bovingdon Brickworks. During 2015, I heard none
  • During 2014, I found 5-Spot Burnet species at Bovingdon Brickworks. During 2015, I found none
  • During 2014, the Brown Argus were flying right up until the start of September. During 2015, the spring brood was small (perhaps less than a dozen specimens) and I'm not sure if there was a second brood. It'll be interesting to see if this species is present in 2016. I do hope so

The Future


Thinking about the future, there are two very obvious species to note for 2016
  • During 2015, at least 10 individual Little Egrets passed through the Hemel moors, along the Bulbourne, during autumn. At least 3 of these were young birds from the breeding colony in St Albans. It’ll be interesting to see how the River Bulbourne counts vary throughout 2016, especially post-breeding & during the river restoration works
  • Following the autumn planting of Kidney Vetch at Roughdown Common and Bovingdon Brickworks to attract Small Blues, it’ll be fascinating to see how the project progresses in 2016

Finally, I'm one of a handful of volunteers who record sightings across BMT land. I know that specialists in moths and in butterflies have also enjoyed exciting finds and encounters throughout 2015. For all of us in the team, it looks like 2016 is going to be another very interesting year.

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