In order to look after Dartmoor’s wildlife, we have to know where it is and what it needs in order to survive. We therefore carry out ecological surveys, undertake and support research and monitor both the species themselves and the habitats on which those species depend.
Much of this work is carried out in partnership with other organisations, and is supported by enthusiastic and experienced volunteers.
We carry out surveys of many of Dartmoor’s rare and threatened species. Current and past surveys include blue ground beetle, southern damselfly, bog hoverfly, marsh fritillary, Vigur's eyebright, barbastelle bat, willow tit, cuckoo, scarce moorland birds.
We have identified the best examples of ancient woodland, wet woodland, wet Rhôs pasture and haymeadows, and we work with their owners to map the habitat as County Wildlife Sites. We advise on habitat management and where grazing with suitable livestock is required we arrange with local farmers to provide hardy Dartmoor ponies to graze the sites in summer.
We run a number of special projects which are aimed at protecting and enhancing particular Dartmoor species and habitats. These projects are delivered in partnership with other organisations including Butterfly Conservation, Devon Birds, Duchy of Cornwall, Species Recovery Trust and involve local experts and volunteers to achieve practical objectives.
All the Moor Butterflies Project
This partnership project, launched in January 2017 is based on Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor, led by Butterfly Conservation and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. On Dartmoor this project monitors high brown and marsh fritillary butterfly sites and works with landowners to ensure these areas are in the best condition to support these butterflies. As a result of this and a previous project the numbers of these critically endangered butterflies are generally stable or increasing on Dartmoor, compared to a national trend of continuing decline.
This project builds on the successes of the Two Moors Butterflies Project (2005-2016).
Dartmoor House Martin project
The Dartmoor House Martin project was launched by Devon Birds, and partner organisations in response to the continued national decline in this summer visitor. Dartmoor still supports good numbers of house martins but we need to understand why they nest where they do – is it the availability of suitable building nest sites? perhaps the nearby presence of insect-rich habitats such as hay meadows over which they birds would feed? This information is being used to raise awareness on Dartmoor and may help others to understand and stop the national decline.
In 2016 nest surveys were coordinated in six Dartmoor parishes. Talks, guided walks and conservation activities were run over the spring and summer months. Over 90 nesting records were submitted. Sixty artificial nest were given away in raffles. The project continues in 2017.
Southern Damselfly project
The southern damselfly is extremely rare. On Dartmoor it occurs in only four small sites which provide the very particular wetland vegetation and runnels required by the aquatic larvae. We work with the owners of these sites and our own ranger service to maintain these special conditions, and every year since 2002 we have counted both the aquatic larvae and the adult damselflies. The results help us to ‘fine tune’ the management of the site. This cooperation has seen numbers increase year on year with 2015 being a record year at most sites.