Newsletter 1. November 2008 Shropshire Ecological Data Network Introduction Ecological data in Shropshire: Its collection, storage and use has been a complex subject for many years but things may be getting clearer. This newsletter has been produced to help those involved with biological recording keep up to date with recent changes and progress and also pass on news of exciting new finds. What has prompted this Past attempts at creating a renewed interest? Shropshire LRC Local authorities have a greater Previous attempts at establishing a demand for biological data - This is Shropshire Local Records Centre have partly due to legislation like the Natural focussed on the standard model of Environment and Rural Communities Act creating one large database located in an (2006), policies like Planning Policy office of one of the key partners being Statement 9, and also the new slowly populated with data from as many „biodiversity indicator‟ upon which local sources as possible. Sticking points have authorities can be rated (National been financial as well as issues over the Indicator 197). It is also due to greater location of such a centre, who should host awareness of protected species issues it and what control over the data local when undertaking local authority groups might have. functions such as considering planning applications, undertaking maintenance Many existing records centres spend works, and promoting new considerable time (often unqualified development. volunteer time) typing in species records from a wide range of sources. This Natural England has a commitment results in error-ridden databases that are to support local biological record usually, but not always, passed to county centres - For a few years Shropshire recorders to validate and then get passed has missed this funding because we back to the centralised LRC. As well as don‟t have a formal „Local Records breeding bad records this system can Centre‟, so the money has been spent involve duplication of effort and can elsewhere. NE has now agreed to distance recording groups from the users provide funding for development work. of the data. Contact Details for the Shropshire EDN Dan Wrench, SCC Biodiversity Officer Dan.Wrench@shropshire.org.uk Pete Boardman, FSC and current chair of SEDN - firstname.lastname@example.org The latest proposal by the Shropshire Biodiversity Partnership More recently the idea of a „virtual Local Records Centre‟ or Shropshire Ecological Data Network has been proposed. In practice this would still mean that records need to be aggregated but the method of doing this may not follow standard practice. Our aim is to help county recorders do what they do best. That is - manage and Newsletter 1. November 2008 validate their data. County recorders and other recording groups would ideally provide updated datasets every year (or more frequently where possible) to a database dedicated to storing just validated records. These records could then be used to best effect by conservation organisations, planners, consultants and of course members of recording groups. All existing un-validated records (such as many records on Wildlife Site files) would be gradually passed to county experts for validation. The difference with the standard model is that the most up-to-date and primary databases are held by the recording groups and the centralised database is updated by agreement with recording groups. All raw data should be passed to the recording group for processing (often via SWT) – although, for recording groups with less capacity, assistance can be provided for digitising records. Data for groups that do not have local expertise will be passed to national schemes for validation. The Shropshire Wildlife Trust has been establishing data exchange agreements with many recording groups with the aim of establishing such a „clean‟ validated database. A great deal of progress has been made with the majority of groups having signed up. In return the Shropshire Ecological Data Network will arrange support for local groups in the form of funding for atlas projects and even travel expenses for specific survey work. We believe a biological records centre should do more than pass on records. Amongst other things it should use the data to produce biodiversity opportunity maps used in planning policy, it should identify gaps in the data and commission new survey work (preferably by local experts), and it should support field recording, training and publications by recording groups. DRAFT data flow chart for the Records direct to SEDN – comments welcome groups or via SWT Natural Statutory Local Shropshire agencies authorities Consultants maps NBN SWT SWT Gateway / validated unvalidated BRC / BTO database database database Validation process Shropshire species groups or National Schemes Ideal flow of data: Current and potentially un-necessary data flow: Newsletter 1. November 2008 Financial set up News from Shropshire Wildlife The Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) and Shropshire County Council (SCC) ecologists have been busy Trust highlighting the requirement for local authorities to The Trust has recently have access to ecological data in the hope that they appointed Robin Mager as might help fund the management and dissemination of their Planning & Data data. All local authorities in Shropshire have agreed to Systems Officer. A key part do this and have paid into a joint fund for the supply of of Robin‟s work will be data covering protected species, BAP species, habitats, assisting the development and landscape character. The creation of a single of the SEDN and unitary authority in March 2009 does, however, developing the data generate uncertainty over future funding. exchange agreements. Initial tasks include Natural England is also providing financial support for assessing the quality of the development of the SEDN and Shropshire County existing data held by the Council, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and the Biodiversity trust, „cleaning‟ the data, Training Project (Field Studies Council & HLF project) updating with the back log are providing staff time to support SEDN development. of new data and providing new releases of data to At present the funds are being spent on: those participating in the data exchange agreements. Support for staff dealing with species data (SWT), habitat data (SCC) and landscape data (SCC). In addition to the species data Robin will also be Uploading plant records to the National Biodiversity updating Wildlife Site Network gateway (http://data.nbn.org.uk) boundaries and developing guidance for planners on The Brown Moss pilot project (Alex Lockton). the use and interpretation of biological data. Funds are also available for support of recording group‟s activities. We hope to consult active groups on So don‟t be surprised if what sort of support, if any, is required and an event is Robin contacts you in the planned for later this year. not too distant future to exchange some When I say „we‟ at present this means a sub-set of the information. If you want to Shropshire Biodiversity Partnership plus a few other contact him beforehand key people. This group is currently chaired by Pete then email: Boardman of the Field Studies Council‟s Biodiversity RobinM@shropshirewildlifet Training Project. rust.org.uk Recent updates to the species maps available from Natural Shropshire include the 233 Craneflies recorded in Shropshire. This data has kindly been supplied by Pete Boardman and forms the basis of the first county atlas of craneflies in the UK. Copies of this atlas (part funded by the Shropshire Biodiversity Partnership) are available from Kate Cheshire at Preston Montford Field Centre (email@example.com). Newsletter 1. November 2008 The Natural Shropshire web site & maps This web site is maintained by the Biodiversity Officers (Dan Wrench and Fran Lancaster). It is used as a communication tool for the Shropshire Biodiversity Partnership and some species recording groups. The site provides: A list of all known „County Recorders‟ or key experts for species groups in Shropshire. A web page or link for many species groups Maps of known records for many species groups The Species Biodiversity Map. Listing all the species uploaded by the species groups for a given tetrad. It also lists which are UK or local BAP species. A list of all Shropshire, and UK, BAP habitats and BAP species – with links to further information. Specific projects led by the Shropshire Biodiversity Partnership Reference documents and minutes relating to the partnership Events – A map of where many species recording groups are leading field excursions Species Maps are a quick reference for active species recorders and land managers. For active recorders there is nothing like a blank area on a dot map to help get records sent in. For land managers it can be extremely useful to know if, for example breeding lapwing are known for the area. Not least because Land Agents, Ecological Consultants and Natural England already use the maps to help inform options for environmental stewardship schemes. Free Mapmate Training for Species Species currently Recorders and Recording Groups mapped on Natural Shropshire This Mapmate course will the first course to link Fungi – BAP species directly into the Shropshire Ecological Data Lichens – all species Network, and therefore begin the task of plugging Mosses & Liverworts – all the gap between those people out making biological species records and those with the skills to incorporate Plants – BAP species them into databases so that the records do some Dragonflies – all species good locally. Craneflies – all species Big-Headed Flies – all species Thick-headed Flies – all species The 3rd December 2008 training is already fully Hoverflies – BAP species booked but we hope to run several more Mapmate Moths – all species days in 2009, these will be advertised in January as Ladybirds – all species part of the Biodiversity Training Project 2009 Reptiles – all species programme. Birds – BAP species only Mammals – Water Vole, If you are interested in attending a Free Dormouse & Brown Hare Mapmate course in 2009 or for more Hoverflies – all species information please contact Pete Boardman Long-horn Beetles – all species firstname.lastname@example.org Coming soon are: Butterflies – all species Newsletter 1. November 2008 News from the Recording Groups Recorders contact details: Shropshire Mammal Recorder John Mackintosh Sustainability@shropshire.gov.uk Shropshire Bat Recorder John Morgan email@example.com Shropshire Bird Recorder Geoff Holmes firstname.lastname@example.org Reptile & Amphibian Recorder SWT email@example.com Butterflies (Acting county recorder) Nigel Stone firstname.lastname@example.org Moths Tony Jacques email@example.com Ladybirds Ian Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org Diptera (True Flies) Nigel Jones email@example.com Bees & Wasps Ian Cheeseborough firstname.lastname@example.org Craneflies Pete Boardman email@example.com Fungi Roy Mantle Roy@homepcemail.co.uk Shropshire Ornithological Society Leo Smith firstname.lastname@example.org Shropshire Barn Owl Group John Lightfoot email@example.com Shropshire Invertebrate Group Nigel Jones shropsIG@insectpix.net Shropshire Dragonflies Group Ian Cheeseborough firstname.lastname@example.org Shropshire Botanical Society Sarah Whild email@example.com Shropshire Lichen Group Roy Mantle Roy@homepcemail.co.uk Whitchurch Community Water Vole Project Malcolm Monie Watervoles@monies.me.uk Upper Onny Wildlife Group & Upper Clun Wildlife Group Leo Smith firstname.lastname@example.org Moths (macro-moths) Tony Jacques - email@example.com Tony has recently started the new role of county recorder for moths and would, of course, welcome any records. A new species for Shropshire found this year by Tony is the micro-moth Phlyctaenia perlucidalis (1380). This species is nationally scarce and is typically found further south and south east in the UK. The larvae are thought to feed on various thistle species. The first records of this species in the UK were made at Woodwalton fen in June 1951 to 1957. Further updates on this species will be added when available. Other interesting visitors to Tony‟s moth trap were 3 Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria). This species is listed as common and widespread in Adrian Riley‟s “A Natural History of the Butterflies and Moths of Shropshire” but other than Tony‟s recent find there appears to only one current record. The low number of records may be due to the late flight period of mid September to early December. Mercury vapour moth traps used at this time of year would be likely to turn up more records for Feathered Thorn. Older records for moths have not yet been added to Natural Shropshire but earlier this year the Shropshire Biodiversity Partnership provided funds to Adrian Riley to digitise all the Lepidoptera records used in his book. Adrian was good enough to include a vast number of additional records some of which are very recent. These records were passed to Butterfly Conservation for processing and are now being added to records held by Shropshire Wildlife Trust. We hope to present all these records on the Natural Shropshire web site in the next few months. Newsletter 1. November 2008 Micro-moths Bees, Wasps and Ants Godfrey Blunt – Ian Cheeseborough - A.G.Blunt@wlv.ac.uk firstname.lastname@example.org There are a number of ongoing The number of species of aculeate micro-moth surveys. Cameraria hymenoptera recorded in Shropshire now ohridella is being surveyed as it's a stands at some 270. The split is roughly 140 potential pest of Horse Chestnut. It bees, 120 wasps and 10 ants. Each season first appeared in Britain in 2002, adds to our knowledge of what species are in and by 2006 had spread to the county and where and 2008 was no Shropshire. In 2008 it is well- different. Two species of bumblebee, Bombus established in certain areas, ruderarius and Bombus hypnorum were particularly around Shrewsbury. It recorded in the Bridgnorth area. B. ruderarius makes distinctive blotch-mines in had not been seen in Shropshire for some 30 Horse Chestnut leaves, often years and B. hypnorum has spread from the several to a leaf. south of England since its arrival from the continent in 2001. The Hawthorn Ermine Yponomeuta Two further species will be completely padella appears to be highly unknown and probably not recognised by localised in Shropshire, despite many people as bees and wasps, but make up being given in textbooks "common" part of this fascinating order. Anoplius national status. Its larvae form concinuus, a spider hunting wasp and Andrena distinctive webs on roadside hedges tibialis, a solitary mining bee, were recorded in spring and can be conveniently for the first time in Shropshire this year. Both recorded by car. In Shropshire it species are considered nationally scarce in occurs sparingly in a few well- Britain. scattered regions, especially in the Shropshire is continually turning up new and south-east, but there are large interesting species due to its variety of areas where it seems to be absent. habitats and the fact that relatively little recording has taken place in the past. Cranefly Recording Pete Boardman - email@example.com Following the publication of the Shropshire Cranefly Atlas recording has undergone a bit of a lull. I am however still as proud as I was of the publication as when I first saw it, as the first modern county account in Britain. The data has been passed to the National Cranefly Recording Scheme for inclusion upon the NBN Gateway, and is also to be found on the excellent Natural Shropshire website too. Most specimens collected during 2008 (including a major set by Nigel Jones) have yet to be identified, a job I generally set a side for the dark winter evenings, though as I write this there are still plenty of craneflies around, the autumn Tipula species and the odd Dicranomyia species are still active. Most obvious at the moment are the winter gnats (Trichocera sp), familiar to many naturalists as groups of craneflies that gather in sunny spots and dance together in competition for females over the autumn and winter months, and several of the different species we have in Shropshire will continue to do so until the spring craneflies arrive once more. One of the good aspects of looking at craneflies is that there is always something to look at – even in the winter. During 2009 I intend to get more recording done and will be targeting some of the gaps that the atlas indicated, as well as searching for some of the rarities that recent work by other dipterists have highlighted. I am always keen to see specimens collected by other recorders, and some species can be identified from photographs. Newsletter 1. November 2008 Recording Shropshire’s Flies (Diptera) is intended to restore sites to their former Nigel Jones - broadleaved status. Shropshire also has firstname.lastname@example.org many small dingle woodlands where scarce flies of old woodland habitats are The history of True-Fly (Diptera) recording found. A 2006 survey of Shropshire in Shropshire is sporadic at best. However, quarries provided records of over 320 more recently there has been some species from twenty sites, including very determined effort to study the county‟s Fly interesting flies such as the “Red Data fauna, notably by Cyril Pugh, who in the Book 3” status flesh fly Macronychia mid twentieth century collected many polydon and the scarce Conopid fly diptera and latterly, Pete Boardman has Conops strigatus - a parasite of wasps pioneered cranefly recording. Other fly and bees. This survey gave an indication families have received some attention, of the potential value of Shropshire‟s particularly, since 1990; Nigel Jones has disused and working quarries. recorded Hoverflies and a group of Diptera families known as the Larger Brachycera Mammal Recording that include Horseflies, Soldierflies and John Mackintosh - Robberflies. Presently there are probably at email@example.com most three or four entomologists actively collecting and recording Diptera in Mammal recording in the County is Shropshire, so progress in improving our currently being refreshed in a number of knowledge is slow. Most records of flies are ways. submitted to the recording schemes for The patterns of data flow are being various families of flies. These schemes are tightened up so that records receive more managed via the Dipterists Forum, a validation before being entered. Existing national society that promotes the study collections of records are being compared and recording of all Diptera. to ensure that there is agreement between them and to allow us to create a Apart from craneflies, the picture we have definitive set. for most Diptera remains very scanty. The rate of acquiring mammal records has Whixall Moss is well recorded and in the always been somewhat patchy as the south, Wyre Forest is well worked but number of people involved has been low. between these two outposts is a fly terra One remedy is to enlist the aid of other icognita. Any dipterist visiting Shropshire organisations active in the countryside. sites could well be an entomological BASC members, for example, have in the pioneer. Undoubtedly Shropshire has great past provided very valuable information potential for many discoveries of scarce, on the distribution and density of Brown interesting flies or sites that hold an Hares in Cheshire. We are hoping to be outstanding range of species. able to have a similar scheme to improve the Shropshire Brown Hare map. The work that has been undertaken has given us a tantalising insight. In recent An exciting development, at the moment, years it has become clear that many is that Harvest Mice, which have been Forestry Commission holdings, where regarded as extinct in the County for previously ancient woodland has been decades may still be with us. Over the afforested with conifers, still harbour a last few years a number of woven grass good range of Diptera associated with older nests have been found that look very woodlands as well as new species promising. Confirmatory evidence, associated with conifer. Notable amongst however, is needed as other small these sites are Bucknell Wood, Sunny Hill mammals may make similar nests. We at Clunton and Eastridge Wood near are trying to recover hairs from nests for Habberley. An interesting study for the microscopic examination and of course future will be to monitor how these faunas hoping for a sighting! respond to changing management, since it Newsletter 1. November 2008 Hoverflies Nigel Jones - firstname.lastname@example.org The hoverflies, family Syrphidae, are relatively well studied in Shropshire. Nigel Jones has made over 5,500 individual records of around 180 species, plus the NBN Gateway presently holds 2,800 further records. Other naturalists have made numerous notes of hoverflies encountered, but most of these records need to be collated for recording schemes. Most celebrated amongst Shropshire‟s hoverflies is Chalcosyrphus eunotus, a denizen of streams in ancient woods that has a strong association with the Welsh Marches area. C. eunotus is a rarity across most of Europe and Shropshire appears to be a real stronghold for this enigmatic fly. Amongst the showy species, the magnificent hornet sized Volucella zonaria arrived in the county for the first time in 2006, with a second sighting in Shropshire BAP officer, Dan Wrench‟s garden in Shrewsbury in 2008. In recent years the Field Studies Council‟s Biodiversity Training Project has given county naturalists an introduction to hoverfly recording. For anyone considering tackling this attractive fly family, support can be found via the Hoverfly Recording Scheme or via the Shropshire Invertebrates Group who are always happy to assist budding insect recorders. Do contact Nigel Jones or Pete Boardman if you have any records of hoverflies, or other flies, we‟ll do our best to assist you in confirming your identifications. Volucella zonaria. Photo by Dan Wrench An excellent two day introductory course to hoverflies is being held in March 2009 by the Biodiversity Training Project at Preston Montford. Whitchurch Water Vole Project Malcolm Monie - email@example.com This year we the project has been looking at the boundaries of the water vole population in the wider Whitchurch area. Survey activity has been mainly in the north- east and the south-west directions. This has involved cross-border co-operation, something which is likely to increase. A survey day jointly with Wrexham and the Environment Agency Wales was held on and around Fenns-Whixall Moss. This produced a number of previously unrecorded populations on both sides of the border. A day just north of Whitchurch, but in south Cheshire, was negative for water voles although good habitat was found but also mink prints. We are now working with Richard Gardner, North West Lowland Water Vole Project Officer with Cheshire WT, in looking at south Cheshire and links to the Whitchurch population. All the Water Vole data collected by the project since 2006 has now been fed into the record systems held by Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Water voles on a farm between Northwood and Whixall, 10.5 km from the centre of Whitchurch, are currently the most distant colony for which we have survey evidence and habitat corridors to link them to Whitchurch population. Newsletter 1. November 2008 Ladybirds Ian Thompson - SalopLadybirds@f2s.com The expected Harlequins have not shown themselves, or not been recorded in high numbers in Shropshire. There are a few records from Alveley Country Park and the only record of them getting into houses in small numbers was from Ironbridge. This lends some credence to the hypothesis that the most likely route from Worcestershire is via the Severn valley since the South Shropshire hills and the Wyre are quite a barrier to many species. We have also recorded the first larch ladybirds in Shropshire in 2008, this is not a new species but has never been officially recorded before. What Can Be Achieved – The Upper Onny Case Study Leo Smith - firstname.lastname@example.org The Upper Onny Wildlife Group was formed in 2003, and has carried out a Breeding Bird Survey each year since 2004, concentrating on Curlew and Lapwing. It covers about 122 square kilometres, between the Long Mynd and the Welsh Border. Most of this area is within the Shropshire Hills Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Shropshire Hills Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA). The area has been divided into 30 2x2 km squares and each member surveys a square looking for the target species. If they are located, a semi-professional ornithologist undertakes a follow-up survey, locating the birds and monitoring breeding success. Farmers with the species nesting on their land are contacted, advised of their presence, and encouraged to take appropriate conservation measures. Natural England HLS advisers are actively involved. The most important farm for Lapwing has joined HLS, which is funding management of cattle pasture for the birds‟ benefit, and another important farm has extended a Countryside Stewardship Agreement to improve management of arable land for Lapwing. Other farms have also taken conservation measures. The Group has also developed a Programme Of Action, to promote the conservation of Lapwing and Curlew, which has been implemented with the extensive and valuable support of Partner organisations, including the AONB and Natural England. This work appears to have helped arrest and reverse the decline of Lapwing in the area – the population was 19 pairs in 2004, 18 in 2005 and down to only 13 in 2006, but it then increased to 17 pairs in 2007 and 26 pairs in 2008. Monitoring of Curlew by the Group over the same period suggests that 4 pairs have been lost, a 10% reduction in population now down to around 35 pairs. A leaflet, Please Conserve Our Curlews, providing advice on grassland management, has been produced with the support and endorsement of Partner Organisations – AONB, NE, RSPB, National Trust and FWAG. A similar organisation, the Upper Clun Community Wildlife Group, was launched in 2007. It is working closely with the local SWT Branch. It highlights the potential for involving people with limited scientific expertise in active conservation work without the need to make a big commitment of time, or doing physically demanding work. The Group found 20-22 pairs of Curlews in 2007, but only 14-17 in 2008 The members of the Ludlow branches of SWT and SOS, together with the Craven Arms local RSPB Group, carried out a Lapwing survey in their area in 2007, reinforcing the evidence of serious population decline in another part of the County. The Upper Onny Wildlife Group has proved that local people, supported by professional workers, and with the help of Natural England, can reverse the decline of Lapwings. Training for members of all these Groups, on finding and recording Lapwing, has been carried out with the support of the Field Studies Council Biodiversity Training Project. Newsletter 1. November 2008 Shropshire Botanical Society – Alex Lockton The Society has 120 members and holds six field and two indoor meetings a year; it also produces a newsletter twice a year, which non-members can read on the web site. The Botanical Society has a database of 360,000 records of vascular plants in Shropshire and adds 20,000 each year, as well as adding historical records. One current source of these is William Hamilton's 1909 Flora of Shropshire, containing 2,100 pages of species accounts that all need to be transcribed. Another is the Herbaria at Home project, which digitizes herbarium collections at museums and universities. The Botanical Society, with support from SEDN partners SWT, SCC and NE, has spent £10,000 photographing herbaria with significant collections from Shropshire which is yielding valuable records. Before joining the SEDN, the society provided data enquiries directly to consultants, but now has an agreement with SWT to supply data in return for an annual fee. This is less than used to be made from enquiries but means a smaller workload for volunteers. It also means SWT has access to the definitive data for vascular plants in the county and can provide a better level of service to enquirers, hopefully helping to promote nature conservation. NE and SCC also get access to the database and all SEDN partners can send records and, if necessary, specimens to the county recorder. This is an efficient and effective model, but does mean that each group needs to be able to operate a database which communicates with the other parts of the network and needs to be willing to do so. It is easier to work on your own without the complications of politics or money but if you can work with other people and want your own work to be put to use, the SEDN is a unique opportunity. There is no other county where expert volunteers are involved in the records centre in this way and the benefits work both ways. By devolving the work to the societies, the funding organisations are taking a risk but one that is already repaying them handsomely. We are already talking about vastly more records than could conceivably be held by an LRC after just a year or two of operation and all of them validated by experts. It will be interesting to see if it works. It may create opportunities for naturalists to do much more than ever before. Visitors are welcome at meetings even if they are not members, but it is polite to ask first (there's always a contact name on announcements). http://shropshire.bsbi.org.uk/ Ongoing projects of the Shropshire Invertebrate Group. Godfrey Blunt Insect migration has been monitored annually since 2003 through specifically targeted field meetings and members' reports. In 2008 we did not have a specific field meeting, but members report that autumn 2008 was marked by a regular southward passage through the county when the weather has been good. Large White and Red Admiral have been the most numerous, with Small White and Migrant Hawker reasonably frequent. Migration was noted from late August to the middle of October. Migration at Alveley also included single examples of Hummingbird Hawk and a Darter sp. In 2008 SIG undertook a moth-trapping programme at Attingham Park, as this potentially rich locality has surprisingly been little trapped in the past. Early results show a good diversity of broad-leaved woodland moths, though nothing dramatic as yet. Plant galls and leaf mines are another ongoing project. A field meeting to Bury Ditches in October found this to be an excellent site for plant galls and leaf mines. Our visit did not turn up anything especially rare, but the variety and abundance, particularly on Oak, was impressive.