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South Devon naturalists have hailed a conservation charity’s first ever BioBlitz a success.

The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) held the event over 24 hours at the end of June. The aim of a BioBlitz is to find and identify as many native species as possible. Activities included bug hunts, bat detecting, moth trapping, plant surveys and bird watching.

The BioBlitz took place in the grounds of Paignton Zoo Environmental Park – which is owned by WWCT - and in the charity’s two local nature reserves, Primley Park and Clennon Gorge. Tracey Hamston, WWCT UK Conservation Officer, said: “I’m delighted with how many people joined in – we had over 100 local children, 15 experts and 20 volunteers.”

The event brought together specialists from OPAL, Devon Bat Group, Torquay Museum, Devon Moth Group, Slapton Ley Field Centre, the University of Plymouth, Devon Mammal Group, the University of Exeter, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, the Sharpham estate and Newquay Zoo.

More than 80 species of moth were recorded and over 40 beetles, as well as dragonflies, butterflies, 8 species of bee and hoverfly, and lots of other invertebrates such as millipedes, centipedes, crickets and grasshoppers.

There were 23 bird species recorded at Primley and more than 30 in the Zoo grounds and on the Clennon nature trail, plus numerous plant species. Tracey: “People saw a family of stoats. Other mammals included wood mice, shrew, bank vole, field vole and rabbit.”

Highlights included a great green bush cricket, which is one of the largest insects in Britain at up to 5cm in length. Males can sing different songs to attract females and the females listen using ears on their front legs. There was a nationally notable species of beetle - Cryptophagus ruficornis - and a possible first recording of the Bruchidius varius beetle in Devon. Bumper numbers of slow worms and grass snakes were found basking under metal sheets which are placed on site for this very purpose – this was probably due to the poor weather beforehand.

Tracey: “The evening is always an interesting time to be in the Zoo - it was great to spot the greater horseshoe bats emerging from the caves at dusk and to hear the tawny owls calling.

“The bad weather leading up to the event probably meant that we saw less than normal for the time of year, but we were lucky on the day. We covered more groups of plants and animals than I expected. I hope to get a final tally of around 300 species. It shows that we have a good variety of habitat - we found different beetles in the different parts of the site, for example.”

The moth records contributed to National Moth Night and the full species list will be passed on to the Devon Records Centre.

Primley Park is 30 acres (12 hectares), Clennon Nature Reserve is 60 acres (24 hectares) and Paignton Zoo itself is some 80 acres (32 hectares). Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk.

Quotes An awesome experience. The amount of free space given to the animals was very impressive Quotes Review