Laurie Jackson, Buglife Farm Pollinator and Wildlife Advisor, give us an update on work underway on the South Downs.......
Do you own or manage land in the eastern South Downs (Brighton to Seaford)? This area is a hotspot for many farmland birds and also for rare chalk grassland invertebrates. As such, Buglife has identified it as a priority for the Landscapes for Wild Pollinators and Farm Wildlife Project.
The flower-rich downs and coastal grasslands in this area support species such as the Potter flower bee Anthophora retusa, which has a stronghold around Seaford Head. This species has suffered a severe decline since the 1960s and is now considered endangered. Bumblebees including Brown-banded carder bee Bombus humilis, Moss carder bee Bombus muscorum and Shrill carder bee Bombus sylvarum can still be found foraging amongst legumes. All three have undergone widespread declines following losses of flower-rich habitats. The Adonis blue Polyommatus bellargus is a specialist chalk downland butterfly whose larvae feed on Horseshoe vetch Hippocrepis comosa and develop an interesting relationship with ants, which protect them until they develop into adults.
Butterflies such as the Adonis blue rely on chalk downland to complete their lifecycle
These and other rare chalk grassland invertebrates can be given opportunities to colonise new sites; helping their populations to become more stable and sustainable into the future. Landowners can help by providing feeding and nesting opportunities on their land to provide a continuous supply of forage from spring through to autumn that are well-linked to sheltering areas such as woody habitats, tussocky grassland and earth banks.
Tussocky grasslands provide foraging and sheltering areas for a wide range of pollinators (c. Peter Thompson)
It is possible for landowners to apply for support for targeted land management under the Countryside Stewardship Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package. Applications for a Mid Tier agreement with a January 2017 start date can be made until the end of September. If you would like free advice about how you can help wild pollinators on your land or help with putting together a Countryside Stewardship application suitable for your site please contact Laurie Jackson. You can find out more information about the Wild Pollinators and Farm Wildlife Project at https://www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/habitat-projects/landscapes-for-wild-pollinators-and-farm-wildlife-project and Countryside Stewardship.