Lullybeg Nature Reserve

Lullybeg Nature Reserve is a Bord na Móna rehabilitated cutaway area, managed since 2010 by Butterfly Conservation Ireland. It is listed in the Bord na Móna Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-2021. This is an important conservation location (rated Nationally Important in the Kildare County Development Plan) as it is home to a population of Marsh Fritillary Euphydryas aurinia, the only protected species of butterfly (and the only protected invertebrate) in Ireland (protected under Annex II of the Habitats’ Directive 1992). Other important butterflies present are Dark Green Fritillary Speyeria aglaja (ranked Vulnerable), Wall Brown (ranked Endangered), and Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus (ranked Near Threatened). Twenty-six butterfly species have been recorded on the reserve. The rewards of conservation management and scrub removal/control are evident as the already impressive list of flora and fauna recorded on site is increasing. The site is used as a transect for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (IBMS) run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre, with 12 years of IBMS records underlining the site’s importance for Lepidoptera. Moths that are present on the site include species ranked Near Threatened on the macro-moth Red List published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 2016 (Allen et al. 2016), such as Small Chocolate-tip Clostera pigra, Dark Tussock Dicallomera fascelina, Small Purple-barred Phytometra viridaria, and species ranked as Vulnerable, such as Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Zygaena lonicerae. Teal (Amber-listed), Woodcock (Red-listed), Snipe are among the breeding birds present. Merlin (Amber-listed), Buzzard, Kestrel (Red-listed), Sparrowhawk, Jay, Raven and Linnet (Amber-listed) occur here.

One of the pleasures of being in an area of high biodiversity is encountering the sheer range and abundance of invertebrates. Yesterday, for example, there were hundreds of young grasshoppers, their abundance a reassurance of the health of the habitats at Lullybeg. Recording what is observed using a camera is a great way to build memories of what is present, and a great way to record species one is unsure of for identification later, using reference texts on online resources. The quest for that perfect photograph, capturing a wild animal at its best, is another motivation for many nature lovers.

Here are some images from the reserve taken this week. Enjoy!

All images copyright J. Harding

This Brimstone caterpillar is well grown, and will soon leave this Alder Buckthorn plant to pupate, although the larvae occasionally pupate on the plant, near the base.
This Red-necked Footman moth is perching on a Devil’s-bit Scabious leaf. These moths teem in their dozens on the tree canopy, where mating occurs.
Marsh Fritillary eggs on the underside of a Devil’s-bit Scabious leaf. Judging from their darker colour, these were laid several days ago. Freshly laid eggs are bright yellow.
A female Marsh Fritillary resting in dull weather. She has laid her first egg batch and will attempt to lay again, after feeding for a few days to mature the second stock of eggs.
The Marbled White-spot moth is regularly disturbed from low shrubs and tall grasses at Lullybeg.
This young Emperor Moth larva is feeding on bramble. They can be found on the reserve feeding on Meadowsweet, Grey Willow, Downy Birch, and Alder Buckthorn.
The first Ringlet recorded on the reserve in 2022, was seen on June 17th. The reserve holds an enormous population of this gentle grassland inhabitant.
The striking Cinnabar moth, seen on June 17th, is a nocturnal flyer often disturbed during daylight.
This is a Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moth on Red Clover, seen on June 17th. This moth is ranked Vulnerable on the 2016 Irish moth Red List (Ireland Red List No. 9 Macro-moths (Lepidoptera)).
Forest Shield Bug on Downy Birch, Lullybeg Reserve.
Flower-rich grassland on Lullybeg Reserve. The Rough Hawkbit flowers are used by Marsh Fritillaries for their nectar, especially by females that have laid their eggs and are maturing their next batch in preparation for further egg-laying. Unfortunately, the spider Misumena vatia often chooses this flower lying in wait for an unsuspecting insect.

 

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