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Finding and Recording Wildlife: Magical Moths, Brilliant Bats, + Valued Volunteers

By Louise Barnetson

Above: Magpie Moth.

Spring and Summer is a good time to be out looking for wildlife. The birds are nesting, the bees are buzzing, the butterflies and moths are active, and creatures that hibernate through the colder months have emerged to feed and breed.

Our Wittering Area Community Conservation Project, funded by the Woodger Trust, has seen us carrying out regular moth trapping sessions and bat surveying sessions throughout June and will continue through July too.

Our weekly moth ID sessions are hugely popular. Held in the private gardens of some wonderfully helpful local supporters, the moth trap is set up in the evening and then we arrive with our volunteers the following morning to see what we have found. We are always fascinated to see the variety of moths - there are over 2500 species of moth recorded in the British Isles! Every species we identify gets photographed and the data uploaded to iRecord. Moths are a hugely important part of the ecosystem: they are important pollinators

and an essential food source for a variety of animals, including birds and bats.

Above: Elephant Hawk Moth.

At our weekly bat surveys we have been joined by volunteers for sunset at various sites to watch the sun go down and the bats come out. We use bat detectors to pick up the echolocations calls as can be heard on the video below. Bats navigate and find insect prey using echolocation. The sounds emitted by bats are at frequencies beyond human hearing - the sound waves emitted by bats bounce off objects in their environment, including insect prey. The bat detectors enable us to hear these sounds as the bats swoop through the air searching for prey - perhaps gobbling up some of the moths we've been seeing on our moth surveys!

Above: Bats in Almodington.

We have also enlisted the help of some of our wonderful volunteers - including some new volunteers - to look for wildlife at some of sites we help to look after in the parishes of West Wittering, East Wittering, Earnley, West Itchenor and Birdham. These volunteers will be making regular visits to the sites to look for and record all the wildlife they see; be it birds, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, or anything else! We have also provided training to volunteers on using iRecord to record their wildlife sightings.

The goal of iRecord is to make it easier for wildlife sightings to be collated, checked by experts and made available to support research and decision-making at local and national levels. All the data uploaded to iRecord is made available to the Sussex Biodiversity

Record Centre (SxBRC).

Above: Peppered Moth.

Contributing to iRecord by uploading your own wildlife sightings is a great way of engaging in Citizen Science. The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is a good example of a successful and well-run Citizen Science project. In fact, it is the UK’s largest citizen science wildlife survey with around 700,000 people taking part. Researchers use Citizen Science data to make decisions about how and where to concentrate conservation efforts.

In February 2023, researchers from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) reported the results of a study demonstrating that taking part in nature based ‘citizen science’ projects can boost the wellbeing of participants. The participants taking party in the study experienced “significant positive effects on nature connectedness, happiness, sense of worthwhile life and satisfaction with life”.

Above: Roe deer taking a drink from a pond in East Wittering.

We have also been placing motion-triggered camera 'traps' at the sites to try to capture wildlife on camera. This is particularly useful for recording the presence of wildlife that is easily disturbed by the presence of humans and may run off before you've even spotted it.

We were very happy to capture this Water Vole on camera in Birdham!

Above: Water Vole in Birdham.


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