SEWBReC Gwent Biodiversity Blitz Day 2008, Aberbargoed Grasslands

 

The 2008 Gwent Biodiversity Blitz day took place at Aberbargoed Grasslands on the 2nd of August, with a moth trapping session conducted that evening. A bat recording session was also run over the weekend. An impressive 480 species were recorded on the day, of which just under 400 are new to our database for the site, which is a fantastic outcome of the event. Of the total, 190 species were vascular plants.

Common FrogAberbargoed Grasslands is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and was also designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in 2006 for the large population of marsh fritillary butterflies and its purple moor grass and rush pasture. Other habitats include damp acidic meadows, bracken invaded grassland and a small area of woodland, as well as ditches and ponds. This diverse environment led to a wide and varied species list, one of which, pignut (Conopodium majus), indicates the site is a long established grassland.

The scrubby heath-like sections were home to species such as heather (Calluna vulgaris), western gorse (Ulex gallii) and cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix). The heath spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) was also recorded, as were several acid-loving Sphagnam mosses and the heath wood rush Luzula multiflora. The much wetter marshy grasslands were filled with moisture loving plants including several sedge (Carex) and rush (Juncus) species. A common frog (Rana temporaria) was also found in the marshy areas. Azure damselflies (Coenagrion puella) and a newly emerged female broadbodied chaser (Libellula depressa) were some of the Odonata observed, as well as some fresh water copepods and water beetles such as Helophorus dorsalis, which were found in a mixture of permanent and semi-permanent ponds. The gold spot moth Plusia festucae also favours these marshy regions. The lichen Verrucaria rheitrophila, which is a species infrequent in the west, was found on stones in streams on the site.

The other major habitat type on the site was scrubby woodland, within which several species of lichen were recorded, including the infrequent species Gyalideopsis anastomosans and also Lecanora chlarotera, which is a lichen found in unpolluted areas. Several of the trees were important habitats for these epiphytic species, as well as several mosses, including Orthotrichum lyellii, which was found growing on a grey willow (Salix cinerea). The parasitic honey fungus (Armillaria mellea), a species capable of achieving enormous mass, was found on a beech tree (Fagus sp.). Three spikes of broadleaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) was a notable find in one of the woodland strips, as was the observation of a bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) which is a Heath spotted orchidspriority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Throughout the site, several willowherb (Epilobium) species were observed. These are an important larval food source to many caterpillars, including the small phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata), four adults of which were caught during the evening moth trapping session. In total, almost 80 species of butterflies and moths were captured or observed during either the day or evening session, including the least yellow underwing (Noctua interjecta) and the triplespotted clay (Xestia ditrapezium).

Many thanks to Caerphilly County Borough Council for their help in organising this event. The buffet lunch, seats and shelter from the hot August sun were particularly welcome! Thanks must also go to all the recorders that attended the event, and to those that have submitted records. A list of species recorded on the day is available to download (Excel, 80kB).