Rare wildlife discovered at New Forest BioBlitz

BioBlitz 2013 - New Forest cicada launch

Published Monday 10 June 2013

Rare species of moth and bat were discovered in the New Forest National Park during a 24-hour census of wildlife.

Enthusiasts young and old were joined by a host of experts over the weekend in this year's BioBlitz, organised by the New Forest National Park Authority.

There were more than 1,200 finds with about 500 different species surveyed including the rare and aptly named moth Scarce Merveille du Jour, and the Daubenton’s bat which was recorded for the first time at Roydon Woods Nature Reserve near Brockenhurst.  

But there were no sign of the elusive New Forest cicada despite help from a new smartphone app developed by scientists at the University of Southampton.

The rare singing insect is the UK's only native cicada and hasn't been seen since 1993, although some evidence of its presence was found in 2000.

The 'Cicada Hunt' app was launched at the BioBlitz and can pick up the insect’s distinctive mating calls which it sings from May to July.

Over 200 people have already downloaded the free software since it was released on 3 June, but so far its songs haven't been heard.

Dr Alex Rogers, from the University’s Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, said: ‘The next month or so is the ideal time to search for the New Forest cicada. It likes warm, still, sunny weather, and is most likely to be found in sunny clearings, where it will sing for a few hours either side of midday.’

Despite the absence of the cicada, the BioBlitz proved to be a great success and the data collected provides important information about the health or decline of species.

The event at Roydon Woods also proved to be a lot of fun with bug hunts, river surveys, fungi forays and an early morning birdsong walk.

Species spotters also ventured out at night with bat detectors and moth traps and joined in a seashore safari at Lepe Country Park.

Natalie Fisher, interpretation officer at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: 'It was such good fun and the enthusiasm of all involved was wonderful to see. Much of our wildlife is very secretive, so the BioBlitz was a great opportunity to safely get up close and personal with animals we would normally walk straight past without noticing. We had a number of first records for the site, and visitors loved finding out more. One woman told me she walks her dog through Roydon Woods every day, but now she’ll keep him on a lead so not to disturb the ground nesting birds.’

The New Forest National Park Bioblitz is run in partnership with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Hampshire County Council.

John Durnell, head of conservation for west Hampshire at the Wildlife Trust, said: 'The BioBlitz continues to be a great way to get people involved in surveying their local wildlife and green spaces. In just 24 hours we recorded hundreds of species, which provides valuable data about how healthy or otherwise our wildlife populations are.'

The cicada app is available now for both iPhone and Android smartphones on the iTunes and Google Play app stores. Search for ‘Cicada Hunt’. To find out more about the New Forest Cicada Project go to www.newforestcicada.info

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Picture caption: The ‘Cicada Hunt’ app launched at the New Forest National Park BioBlitz with (from l-r) University of Southampton project leader Dr Alex Rogers, New Forest National Park Authority ecologist Ian Barker, and app developer and PhD student Davide Zilli.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect

  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contacts:
Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639
Email: sion.donovan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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