A Brede Apart

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 24 July 2018 17:45

This year I have been lucky enough to carry out an invertebrate survey of a fantastic private nature reserve in East Sussex. Some 15 years ago, the site in the Brede Valley was agricultural, now it's a wetland wildlife oasis thanks to Phil & Maria Newton. With natural processes maximised but human intervention maintained where necessary, this site has the best of both worlds, mixing rewilding with traditional conservation management. The wildlife is better for it too.  I strongly believe this is where rewilding has a place in the conservation of wild places, as one part of our tool kit and not an ideologically driven approach at the expense of all human intervention. As in all walks of life, the interesting stuff happens in the grey area and not at the polarised extremes. Ditches mean compartments and compartments mean you can vary grazing pressure. This means you don't end up doing exactly the same thing year after year and exactly the same across the whole site. This is great for wildlife.

We have completed only three visits so far and recorded 358 species. What's remarkable about this is although the time was split between three days in April, May and June, it's only about 11 hours worth of recording. We went on a site visit there last week and I did ONE pond dipping sample and pulled out this beauty. It's Graphoderus cinereus, the IUCN Vulnerable water beetle with only six records from Sussex, all in East Sussex, none of which are from this century. It's a new one for me too. A new genus in fact. Of the three species on the British list, this is the commonest one (of the other two, one is extinct and the other at only one site more or less). I was very pleased with the way the photos came out!

There were Great Silver Water Beetle (both adult and larva) in the same net along with dozens of other invertebrates. We've recorded over 110 beetles so far in fact. All in all, 30 invertebrate species we have recorded have conservation status (8.25%).

We also picked up Donacia crassipes, only the 3rd time I have recorded this nationally scarce reed beetle that feeds on water-lilies (which are abundant in the ditches there). Here is a photo of one when I found them at Woods Mill when the lake was dry five years ago.

And of course the site is great for 13-spot Ladybirds, Atylotus rusticus and the cool cranefly Limnophila pictipennis. In fact, the next visit is tomorrow and I just can't wait to see what we find this time. 

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