Marsh Fritillary butterflies making a come back

1991 was the last time a Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) was spotted at WWT’s Jones’s Mill nature reserve in Pewsey. Their return signals great things for the reserve and is a credit to the reserve staff and volunteers who work hard to maintain it.

The Marsh Fritillary is a threatened species, not just in the UK but across the whole of Europe, it is protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, listed on UK BAP and section 41 of the NERC Act in England and Wales. The butterfly is primarily found across south-west England with small populations in the north-west and into Scotland, making Wiltshire a core hotspot for the species.

Marsh Fritillary caterpillars main food plant is Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), primarily found in damp meadows, marshes and riverbanks. In more calcareous areas caterpillars will opt for Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis). As a result the main habitat of the Marsh Fritillary is damp or chalky grasslands. It is a highly volatile species that requires extensive habitat networks to thrive and the slightest barrier, such as a hedge or river, will prevent dispersal. They are under threat from habitat loss along with larval parasitism by the parasitic wasp Cotesia bignellii, for which the Marsh Fritillary is its only host.

Jones’s Mill nature reserve is a fen, made up of woodland, ponds and wet grassland. It is home to wildlife that thrives in wet conditions, including Devil’s-bit Scabious. The maintenance of meadow and marsh areas such as this essential in the protection of these beautiful butterflies and it is very promising to have them return to Jones’s Mill after such a long absence.

If you see any Marsh Fritillary butterflies when out and about in Wiltshire please let us know!


The Big Butterfly Count 2018

Butterfly Conservation has launched it’s Big Butterfly Count for 2018, running from the 20th July to the 12th August.

All you need to do is head out into your garden and spend 15 minutes recording all the butterflies you find. You can get a handy guide and ID chart on the Big Butterfly Count website or even download the app, this is also where you need to head to record your sightings at the end of the day.

The majority of butterfly species across the UK have been in decline for the past 40 years however the cold winter and settled spring/summer we’ve been having this year are the perfect conditions for butterflies, therefore numbers are expected to flourish.

Not only will you be contributing to butterfly conservation but spending time in nature has also been shown to alleviate stress and anxiety, offering a respite from modern life according to mental health charity Mind.

The Big Butterfly Count of 2018 is supported by Sir David Attenborough who takes great pleasure in watching butterflies in his own garden, saying “I have been privileged to have witnessed some truly breath-taking wildlife spectacles in far-flung locations but some of my most memorable experiences have happened when I’ve been simply sitting and watching the wildlife that lives where I do.”

Get out, enjoy nature and do your bit for conservation.

Top 5 species to look out for this month…

The sun is shining and school holidays are almost here. What better way to spend your days than out and about in nature…

Here’s our top 5 species to look out for this month. If you see them we want to know, please record your sightings on our website.

Hummingbird hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum

Understandably named for their similarity to hummingbirds, these moths hover to feed on nectar before darting off to the next flower. They beat their wings so fast you can even hear the hum – 70-80 beats per second! They are particularly partial to sipping nectar from buddleias, verbina and honeysuckle with their long proboscis, studies have shown they have an incredible memory and return to the same flower bed each day so keep a look out around your garden.

How to ID it: Orange-brown hind and underwing along with characteristic flight. Most similar to two species of bee hawkmoth however these have mostly transparent wings.

Violet helleborine Epipactis purpurata

A flower that gets even more beautiful on closer inspection. Look out for these in deciduous woodlands, beech woods in particular. Pollinators include wasps and it’s thought that the nectar self-ferments inside the flower and has a narcotic effect in the insects! WWT Reserve Ravensroost Wood is the place to go in search of these.

How to ID it: 40+cm, with large pale flowers that open fully, allowing pollinating insects inside. Broad leaves that are washed purple on the underneath.

Glow worm Lampyris noctiluca

Despite the names these aren’t actually worms, they are the female of the Lampyris noctiluca beetle. Glow worms are most commonly found as larva on chalk or limestone grasslands where they hide away under rocks and feed on slugs and snails, every gardeners friend! Try Morgan’s Hill or Coombe Bissett down in the evenings on the hunt for glow worms.

How to ID it: The male looks very beetle-like but the female looks more like the larva and has the unmistakable greenish-yellow glow of her bottom at night which she uses to attract mates.


These long warm evenings are the perfect time to see bats who’ll be coming out of their roosts in search of insects, a tiny pipistrelle can eat as many as 3,000 small insects in one night! Depending on where you are the common species will vary, for example Daubenton’s are more common near water whereas pipistrelles might be flying around your garden.

How to ID it: The best way to ID a bat is through visual inspection of roosts (please don’t do this unless you are licensed) or with the use of a bat detector which picks up and identifies their echolocation frequencies.

Swift Apus apus

This summer visitor is a common sight in the skies across Wiltshire. They are incredible fliers and even sleep on the wing, handy when making the migration up from sub-Saharan Africa. They are also incredibly fast fliers, reaching speeds of up to 110km/h… the fastest bird recorded flying under its own power not diving!

How to ID it: They are slim birds, sooty brown in colour with forked tails and scythe-like wings. Easily identifiable by their high pitched screech, they are the only one out of swifts, swallows and house martins to call on the wing. Wherever you are, look up, listen and you’ll spot them.

Time to get recording

So whilst you are out about each month record all the species you see and don’t forget to let us know. All the records you can give us go towards conserving the wildlife if Wiltshire.

Going going gone…….

Roe deer, Neil Emery 2006 WSBRC

Last Chance to Get Hold of Books

Have you heard the news…..

We still have a lot books that formerly belonged to WSBRC or were donated books to us. This is your LAST CHANCE to get them. We have now halved all the prices (in some cases more than halved). Books will be disposed of in 4 weeks time (6th April).

If you are interested take a look at this spreadsheet. It will be updated every  Wednesday to show what has been sold or reserved.

If you wish to buy or reserve any books or to have a look at them before deciding, please e-mail our volunteer Iain Bremner ( Books can be reserved and a time for collection sorted.

Helping our Hedgehogs

All is not well for our Hedgehogs, but we can all do something to help

Hedgehogs are in trouble. The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs Report, released last week, shows that across the U.K hedgehog population have decreased by almost half since 2002. The threats faced by Hedgehogs range from intensive farming and road collisions, to slug pellets and predation.

The picture is more complex then it first appears. In rural areas populations seem to have declined markedly whereas in urban areas some populations have stabilised and may be increasing. Part of this likely to relate to habitat; with Hedgehogs increasingly being associated with the mix of gardens and green spaces found in urban areas and less so in intensively managed countryside.

Hedgehogs are one of the top ten mammals record in Wiltshire. Mammals of Wiltshire (published in 2017) found that they have been recorded in 16% of kilometre squares in Wiltshire and that this has stayed near constant since the 1990’s. Hotspots are around urban areas such as: Chippenham, Trowbridge, Swindon and Salisbury. This is likely to be a reflection of both habitat preference and recording effort across the county.

So what can be done to help our spikey friends? Thankfully there are many small actions that can help hedgehogs. Installing a hedgehog house or leaving a corner of your garden to go wild can help massively. The Hedgehog Street Website contain loads of information about these ideas and more. Another simple but important action is to send in any Hedgehog sightings to us, finding out where there are still Hedgehogs present in Wiltshire will help to protect them.

Over the next few weeks hedgehogs will be emerging from hibernation. So keep an eye out for them and let us know if you spot any.

Books For Sale

Got Some Empty Space on the Bookshelf?

Recently at WSBRC we have been busy sorting through our extensive Natural History library. This library has been built up over time and contains many books including: identification, habitat management and general natural history interest. As a result of this we have over 200 second-hand books up for sale. Subjects range from soil to snakes and Badgers to Butterflies. Have a look at the full list here.

If any of the titles take your fancy then drop us an email to reserve your books. Don’t miss out on this chance. For most of the books there is only one copy; once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Has Anyone Seen a Spider?

Why is it important to record everything you see?

As 2017 starts to draw to a close it gives us as at WSBRC a chance to look back at the records we have received over the past year. We get records from many different sources and covering the whole range of species found in the county, from birds and beetles to snakes and spiders.

One thing that is very clear form looking at the records we hold is how some species are seriously underrepresented. Take for example the humble House Mouse (Mus musculus) currently in our database there are only 135 records for this species and in 2017 we received only a single sighting. This is just on example another is the Common Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum). Which as the name suggests is common and found in gardens however we only have 117 records and one new record for 2017.

Under recording also extends to families and groups of species. Take the Orb Web Spiders (the Araneidae) again this group is widespread and found in places such as gardens and woodlands but we have less than 800 records for the whole group. We know that all these common and widespread species are out there, the records are just not being sent into us.

The message here is to record everything you see, both the rare and unusual and the common and every day. There are a wealth of resources and many local experts and recording groups to help with get to grips with species you are not familiar with and everyone has to start somewhere.

If you are interested recording something specific, improving your ID skills with a new group of species or would like to know a bit more about the gaps we have and where your records could help make a big difference, please get in touch.

The Cotswold Water Park Dragonfly Atlas

Azure damselfly Wallace Regelous

The CWP dragonfly atlas - published & available to purchase

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Cotswold Water Park is now in print!

The Cotswold Water Park Dragonfly Atlas Project was originally conceived in 2008, to coincide with the launch of the National Dragonfly Atlas Project. It aimed to complete, and publish results of, landscape-scale dragonfly surveys conducted over a period of 5 years. These surveys sought to establish a detailed and accurate baseline for the Cotswold Water Park, along with proof of breeding for as many species as possible.

Aided by countless hours of volunteer effort, contributions of some stunning photographs and maps, and significant perseverance from the book’s author Gareth Harris, the Cotswold Water Park Trust has announced that a full colour printed edition of the Atlas is available to purchase online for £12 (plus shipping). Visit for details.


More about WSBRC’s role in the project

A new atlas project

Common Frog, David Restall

An amphibian & reptile atlas for Wiltshire

There are thirteen native species of amphibians and reptiles (known as herpetofauna) in the UK and of these nine are found within Wiltshire. There has never been an atlas of Wiltshire amphibians and reptiles published and with several new non-native species turning up in the county an assessment of our herpetofauna seemed overdue.

We currently hold around 12,000 records for the group as a whole, with the greater majority of records being for amphibians and distribution of these records seems to be fairly representative across the county. Wiltshire Amphibian & Reptile Group (WARG) activities are predominantly based in the Swindon area but we’re lucky to also receive records from consultants and other professional ecologists collected as part of their survey work as well as ad hoc records from the public from gardens and other local areas.

WSBRC and WARG are keen to improve further our knowledge of the whereabouts of these species so measures to safeguard our native fauna can be more effective. An Atlas project is a great way to overcome any gaps in information, encourage wider participation in herpetofauna recording across the county and provide high quality evidence to secure long-term gains for amphibians and reptiles. The recent Wiltshire mammal atlas proved this unequivocally and was a tremendous success.


 Our aims are to:
  • identify key locations for Wiltshire’s amphibians and reptiles
  • share information that will help protect them into the future
  • gather existing and new records of native and non-native species from recorders
  • produce an atlas of distribution based on current records
  • stimulate new recording and survey events in future to allow updating of the atlas

Please share your records with us by adding them to Living Record from where they will be verified by our County Amphibian and Reptile Recorder, Gemma Harding. Records collected for the atlas will be shared with local and national recording schemes such as the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC)

WARG are always looking for new members and new sites to set up surveys or group events. If you know of a suitable location for a recording activity please contact WARG directly via or on their Facebook page.

Identification Guides

There are numerous guides and resources to help you out with identification, here are some to get you started:

Guide to amphibian identification

Guide to reptile identification

Guide to alien amphibian and reptile species in the UK

Information on amphibians and reptiles

Wildlife Gardening Links

Wildlife gardening is a great way to add some natural habitat back to your local area and provide somewhere for species to thrive. Make your garden more attractive to amphibians & reptiles and other wildlife by trying out some of these ideas:

Froglife – Wildlife Gardening

ARC Trust – Gardens & Ponds

Wildlife Trusts – Gardening

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