Coton Orchard’s weekend Bioblitz gets nature fans in a flutter of excitement
As the Cambridge Nature Festival 2023 draws to a close, the Coton Orchard Bioblitz marked one of the last of 84 different events taking place across Cambridgeshire, writes Kate Forbes.
The weekend’s events began with a flutter of excitement as moth experts examined the overnight moth traps and found 80 different species of moth including an enormous privet hawk-moth and the rarely-seen emerald and dark umber moths. Other species identified included the elephant hawk-moth, lunar-spotted pinion, heart & dart, marbled orchard tortrix and silver Y.
Later on the Saturday (July 1), members of the community had the opportunity to take part in guided walks with local experts.
Young and old helped to count the myriad species of birds, moths, butterflies and plants which flourish in this rare wildlife haven. Coton Orchard, the existence of which is threatened by a planned guided busway, is the eighth largest in England.
Remarkably, it has remained pesticide-free for decades. This explains the richness of its biodiversity and the rarity of its inhabitants including several species on the red list of critically endangered species.
On Sunday (July 2), activities included a bee walk, and a butterfly walk which recorded 136 butterflies.
Entomologist Claire Wallace said: “The most important thing to consider when conserving all pollinators, is having areas that provide food sources as well as nesting habitats. The orchard provides an ideal environment as evidenced by the good portion of species found today.”
Joined by Butterfly experts Val Perrin, Andrew Knight and Will Mcewan, enthusiasts of all ages took part in the butterfly walk later in the afternoon. Despite gusty conditions, an incredible 136 Butterflies were recorded. A number amongst the group had hoped to spot the endangered Black hairstreak butterfly, but spirits remained high as families examined White-Letter Hairstreaks, Red Admirals, Speckled Woods, Green-veined Whites, Marble Whites and Meadow Browns by the dozen.
Organiser Anna Gazeley, whose family owns the 100-year-old orchard, said: “We have already understood from the GCP report that Coton Orchard is home to a number of rare species of insects, birds and plants.
“Today’s BioBlitz only confirms the richness of biodiversity found right here in Coton and why it must be protected.”
To the untrained eye the Coton Orchard might remain an expanse of beautiful old trees surrounded by hedges and meadow left somewhat to its own devices. But those leaving the Bioblitz on Sunday trod carefully, in the knowledge that an abundance of life teemed under every footstep.
- Kate Forbes is a young environmental journalist whose parents live in Coton.