Celebrating biodiversity on the Defence Training Estate

On World Environment Day we’re celebrating this year’s theme of ‘Time for Nature’. We are encouraging everyone to learn, share, act and enjoy nature, so we thought we’d get the ball rolling with this infographic highlighting some of the rare and unique species we help to look after across the vast Defence Training Estate. The trouble is, we could only just squeeze 12 species on our poster, but there are so many more of interest to share with you. Sustainability Advisor, Derek Walter, highlights some of the other amazing species we can see out and about on the Training Estate.

Scotland & Northern Ireland  

If you are really very lucky, you could get to see a breeding pair of Hen Harriers around one of our West Scottish sites. The exact location is a closely guarded secret as these birds can face persecution and unwanted human interference. Landmarc has been involved in clearing scrub to open up breeding and hunting grounds for the pair.  

The Small Blue Butterfly is a common sight at Barry Buddon, being a strong hold in that area of Scotland. Landmarc has been involved in planting Kidney Vetch, their favourite foodplant, to help create wildlife corridors to other populations which are found around road verges.   

If you're at Magilligan in open meadow or grassland, keep an eye out for the pretty brown Eggar moth. Though you will only see the smaller male in the daytime as the female is nocturnal. How they 'meet' I do not know! 

Get yourself down to the coast at Ballykinler in Northern Ireland as it has both UK species of seal, the grey and the harbour, and is a great place to spot them sunning themselves on the beach before they go off to hunt for more fish. Some of our Landmarc colleagues are actually trained in seal rescue so that they can help out if any seals get stranded on the beach.

Ballykinler is also being used as a soft release site for red squirrels by Belfast University. A temporary location for them to get them used to wild conditions before being released into their permanent home elsewhere.

South East 

Woolmer Forest at Longmoor is a safe haven for many species including one of the rarest reptiles in the UK - the sand lizard. Males turn bright green during the mating season but may still be hard to spot as they are confined to a few sites due to destruction of their habitat. Thankfully Landmarc conserve their habitat so they are doing well on our sites.

Also, Woolmer forest:

  • is the only known location of a particular water beetle (Graphoderus zonatus)
  •  has colonies of the eye-catching silver studded blue butterfly- this butterfly has evolved to mutually rely on ants for protection for most of their lifecycle
  •  has Sundew carnivorous plants that lures, captures and digests insects with its mucus covered leaves

Wales and West 

Caerwent is home to one of the cutest rodents in the country, the Dormouse. Gwent Wildlife Trust has been surveying the population of numbers at the 70 nesting boxes since 2011.  

Castlemartin has one of the most at risk habitats in the country. Sand dunes are very prone to erosion from both natural and human influences, and are vital for certain species. The team here have worked hard on restoration works to ensure these dunes survive for future generations. 

Any visitors to Sennybridge Training Area will be sure to have spotted the red kites swooping above, but did you know that it is also known internationally for its wide variety of wax cap fungi and a host of other diverse fungi species? 

North 

The MOD estate retains some of the oldest trees in the country. It is thought that some of the ancient yew trees on Catterick Training Area are over 2,000 years old, which may well have been used for shelter by Roman soldiers, or Viking raiders.

Catterick is also known for its Prickly Sedge, a rare species of sedge which favours thin limestone soils with very little competition from more dominant grasses and sedges. 

Largely confined to the north of the UK, the rare Pine Marten is nocturnal and very hard to spot. However, it can be enticed to visit a peanut-laden bird table. Sightings have been seen at Otterburn including scat (droppings) found on site.

You may also see ghostly barn owls and venomous adders if you take a walk through the vast heathlands of the north.

 East 

The woodland at Yardley Chase is designated as ancient meaning that many of the trees will be at least 400 years old. Some here even date back to the medieval period, one nearby copse, Denton Pike Copse, was coppiced to make the staffs for pike weapons so has an even longer history with the military. Yardley chase is also home to the oldest tree in Northamptonshire, an ancient oak. 

Flying through the woods at STANTA you may be lucky enough to spot the apex predator the Goshawk. Almost the size of a buzzard, its broad wings enable it to hunt at high speed, weaving in and out of trees, and its long legs and talons can catch its prey in flight. 

Red Kites are also now abundant at STANTA, soaring in the thermals seemingly miles above your head with their distinctive forked tail feathers making them easy to distinguish from the similar buzzard.

South West 

The very pretty Marsh Fritillary Butterfly is found at both SPTA and Dartmoor. This species is both threatened in the UK and Europe meaning it is a species of great concern. One of the reasons that SPTA is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is because it is such good habitat for the Marsh Fritillary. It also holds this SAC status due to being ideal habitat for the Stone Curlew which nest on open, bare ground within short, semi-natural grass heath or downland. As such they can be very vulnerable in the nesting season from farming, walkers, dogs and predators.  

The south west also has one of the smallest species of butterfly which was only discovered in 1832. Only found in the very south of Dorset, this butterfly, the Lulworth Skipper, takes its name from the local village where it is found. You can spot them on the training area at Lulworth and along the South West Coastal Path.

Other species you might be able to see in the South West region include; 

  • Montagu's Harrier - one was spotted recently over Salisbury Plain
  • Short-eared owls which are frequent winter visitors 
  • Great Bustards – a self-sustaining population of around 100 birds lives on Salisbury Plain 

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Thank you to the Rural Estate Delivery Advisors for their suggestions of species to include in the infographic. We hope you will enjoy sharing it on social media. 

 

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