Summer has definitely arrived in the Lake District and the Matson Ground Estate is in full swing. The holiday cottages are full of guests enjoying this beautiful part of the world and life on the farm is as busy as ever.
We’ve had great weather and made lots of silage, a store of winter feed for our cattle and sheep, while our colleagues have been conducting surveys on grasses, flowers and moths.
Grasses and Flowers Surveys
As part of our Countryside Stewardship agreement, we regularly survey the grasses and flowers. This provides us with vital information about the health of the fields and wetland areas. The scheme helps us to look after and improve the environment by, amongst others, conserving and restoring wildlife habitats, increasing grassland biodiversity and preserving historical features on the landscape.
One plant which we have in our wetland areas is this pretty, yellow Bog Asphodel, Latin name Ossifragum. Did you know that Ossifragum literally translates as bone-breaker? This unassuming plant acquired this violent name because it was believed that the livestock that grazed on it developed brittle bones. But don’t worry, there’s no truth in it. It was actually the calcium-poor pastures that caused the problem.
Reedbeds and wetlands are important habitats for many species of moths throughout the British Isles. As July is a particularly good time for moth populations in these habitats, we were looking forward to the survey results. And with the weather on our side we were not disappointed!
Our surveyors trapped the moths in a lightbox overnight, catching 515 moths in total, spanning 100 different species. The best moth find of the night was the round-winged muslin, which was only the third recording for South Cumbria since 2000. However, the prettiest moth of the night was this lovely Elephant Hawk Moth.
We were thrilled with the findings. Moths are a fascinating yet often overlooked group of insects and an important part of the UK’s biodiversity, as they pollinate plants and provide food for birds, bats and other wildlife. However, since the late 1960s total moth numbers have declined by around a third. We hope our wetland projects, and many others nationally, will help the recovery of moth numbers.