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Murlough is cared for as Ireland's first nature reserve since 1967, the fragile 6000 year old sand dune system offers some lovely walks. Due to the reserves wild nature you can discover birds, flowers, butterflies and more, all overlooked by the rounded peaks of the Mourne Mountains to the south.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Marsh Fritillary Web Counts

At this time of the year, if you look really closely, you may be able to spot our Marsh Fritillary butterfly webs. The Marsh Fritillary is a protected species, and is a priority species on the UK BAP(Biodiversity Action Plan). It is extinct in many countries, and in decline in others, with the UK being the last strong hold of them.

The Marsh Fritillary lay their lava under the leaves of their food plant devils bit scabious from May-June. They hatch from June onwards, and live in communal groups in webs. These webs become more obvious towards the end of August. In Autumn they will make stronger webs closer to the ground where they will hibernate, then will disperse in the spring. 

As the more obvious webs are around at this time of year we use these webs to measure the breeding success of our Marsh Fritillary. This is important as they are a protected species. Each year we conduct a count on the main patches of devils bit scabious. For the last few years we have also done surveys on the scrub in these areas so we can assess what management is needed to help increase their numbers. This means estimating at each of our mapped out plots how much of each of the scrub species (gorse, bramble, burnet rose, ragwort and others), as well as an overall scrub cover of the area, and bracken estimated separately. This can tell us what sort of composition of scrub the Marsh Fritillary favours.

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