Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Isle of Wight extended weekend perambulations

Hazel dormouse
Muscardinus avellanarius

Dormouse monitoring
Briddlesford Woods

Dormouse bridge
Briddlesford Woods

Common cow wheat Melampyrum pratense
Briddlesford Woods

The weekend started with two days of hazel dormouse monitoring in Briddlesford Woods, a site owned and managed by Peoples Trust for Endangered Species. It also provided an opportunity to take a closer look at the fabulous dormouse bridge, which spans the railway running through the woodland.

An encounter with common cow wheat along the woodland rides, would prompt a later diversion to St Lawrence Shute to see the beautiful - yet still not quite in full flower - field cow wheat (Melampyrum arvense) which grows in some number on the south facing bank of an arable field. A once common but now rare plant that is found on only a few sites in the country (Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust 2017).

Field cow wheat
St Lawrence Shute

On our third day, we took a left at Ventnor and walked the undercliffs of Wheelers Bay connecting with 10's of Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia).

By chance we met the gentleman responsible for managing the site for Glanvilles, who generously gave us a full tour of the undercliffs, and provided an insight into the management history / process and progress to date.

Recent management prescriptions had focussed on recreating patches of bare ground behind the sea defences to promote opportunities for the early successional Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), the butterfly's primary larval food plant. In one large area chalk had been deposited to create a defence against an over-topping sea. Behind this new defence the ground had been scraped back to bare earth / gravel. At one end of this scrape an artificially sloping bank was installed, to create micro-climates within the bare ground habitat.

After our impromptu private tour we got the sunshine and the Glanvilles in spades! We noted six other butterfly spp. on the wing, along with a splendid hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum).

Glanville fritillary
Wheelers Bay

After a late lunch at the Spyglass Inn we walked west out of Ventnor, starting at the car park adjacent the coastal path. A scan of the walls of the car park, provided the briefest hint of a wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) dropping out of site into marginal vegetation. At Castle Cove a single lizard showed as it crossed the footpath running between the sea defences. A hasty record shot was obtained, and then we arrived at Steephill Cove, where we grabbed some refreshments and decided to retrace our steps, as the heat of a long day out in the sunshine was finally catching up with us.

Our return along the sea defences of castle cove provided an opportunity to watch wall lizard in small numbers (Ca. 10 individuals seen), as they basked and moved along the rocks behind the sea wall. Despite their proximity, and the splendid views we enjoyed I failed to get anything other than record shots. Several Glanvilles were also flying in this area.

Castle Cove - looking East
wall lizard
Lasiommata megera
St Boniface Down

On our final day we undertook a 8 mile round walk on the downs above and to the north of Ventnor. Successfully connecting with wall butterfly (Lasiommata megera), whilst dipping on Adonis blue(Polyommatus bellargus). A couple of adder (Viperus berus) basking in mid-afternoon sun doubled our reptile list for the weekend.


Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust, 2017 [Online]
St Lawrence Bank

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