Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 46

life - WILDLIFE Perfectly Unique Silver Washed Fritillary by David Purslow Ningwood Common Wildlife Reserve is the only place in the country where you will find a natural population of the rare reddish buff moth. But for volunteers and staff, maintaining these perfect conditions is a full-time challenge. Every Wildlife Reserve is important – and the Island’s Ningwood Common is no exception. In fact, as the only home of the last remaining natural population in Britain of the rare reddish buff moth, it holds a unique place among the Wildlife Trust’s reserves. The reddish buff moth thrives on Ningwood’s warm heathland, making the most of its fairly short sward and high density of sawwort, the food plant of the caterpillar. The current challenge is to ensure these favourable conditions continue to exist. To maintain this vital habitat takes significant human endeavour as well as careful management of the other species likely to call Ningwood home. The western part of the reserve 46 is the stronghold of the reddish silver washed fritillary butterflies. buff moth and is a Site of Special The site is also important for birds Scientific Interest. Through the such as the nightingale, which graft of volunteers, the Wildlife depend on the dense stands of Trust is opening up the existing impenetrable scrub for nesting sites track sides by scalloping the edges. and the adjacent open ground for This widening extends the area feeding. Contrary to their name, suitable for the reddish buff moth these birds can be heard singing by allowing more light and warmth from the scrub right through the back in, perfect conditions for the day. That said, the best time to hear sawwort, the reddish buff’s sole them is at night whilst on a moth food plant. trapping evening when all other In the future the manual scrub birds are at roost. clearance will be com plemented by grazing cattle. Ideally the Small Pearl Bordered Trust would like to trial a Fritillary by Phil McLean small number of Highlands, Galloways, Devon Reds or any other breed that has a tough mouth and does relatively well on poor ground. These hardy beasts will help break into the scrub and browse the thorny new shoots and tough aggressive grasses that encroach onto the best areas for the moth. Aside from the reddish buff moth, other important species found on site include small pearl bordered, dark green and In the past nightjars were regularly recorded on the heathland. However, as Ningwood became a regular area for local dog walkers, the dogs frequently flushed the birds and they eventually disappeared. Even though they are on the decline generally throughout their range in Britain, it is hoped that better control of dogs and the extension of more suitable habitat through the scrub clearance may encourage nightjars back to Ningwood. Island Life - www.isleofwight.net