Maurice Hughes

It was with great sadness that we heard about the passing of our friend Maurice Hughes on Wednesday 18th January. Maurice was the first regional officer for Butterfly Conservation in Northern Ireland and was hugely influential to all of us at Allen and Mellon.  It was Maurice who introduced Dave and I to the joys of finding and surveying Marsh Fritillary larval webs. Following that we worked together on many Marsh Fritillary projects across Ireland, forming a formidable team along with Anna Hart and Will Woodrow.

Maurice worked tirelessly to champion the Marsh Fritillary and its conservation in Northern Ireland with decision makers, landowners and the public.  His efforts have resulted in this being one of our most high profile butterfly species and his work has been carried on by BCNI through Catherine Bertrand and others.

Maurice played a major role in the discovery of the Cryptic Wood White in Ireland, working with Brian Nelson to obtain valuable data on this species.  He was also at the forefront of the huge surge of interest in moth recording here.  Micro-moths in particular were so poorly recorded before Maurice stepped in, securing funding for the first micro-moth checklist for NI, which was compiled by Ken Bond and published in 2009.

Maurice enjoyed moth trapping and we had many exciting moth-ing sessions together.  On our more ambitious expeditions we all benefited from his technical expertise and ability to organize complex logistics. Most memorably, Maurice was a member of the team that re-discovered the White Prominent moth in County Kerry in 2008.  The video of that discovery can be viewed on this website and provides a poignant reminder of happy days in the field with a real gentleman and a true friend.

Another new species for Ireland is found

Allen and Mellon Environmental have once again been involved in the discovery of a species new to Ireland.  Clive Mellon trapped a specimen of the micro-moth Cochylidia implicitana during a bioblitz at Copeland Bird Observatory on 11th June 2016.  Clive was on Lighthouse Island to record moths over a two-day period along with John O'Boyle, Chair of Butterfly Conservation NI.  The moth was in a heath trap with 6W actinic bulb which had been set near the shoreline.  It was not familiar to Clive and so the specimen was retained.  The identification of the moth was confirmed in the past few days after it was dissected by the Northern Ireland micro-moth recorder John McClean. 

By Donald Hobern - Flickr: Cochylidia implicitana, CC BY 2.0

By Donald Hobern - Flickr: Cochylidia implicitana, CC BY 2.0

The confirmation was particularly timely as it brought the Irish micro-moth list to the landmark total of 900 species, with 673 of these recorded in Northern Ireland.  In the UK, the species occurs mainly in southern England where it is associated with waste ground and roadside verges.  Its main larval food plant is mayweed (either Matricaria or Tripleurospermum) and sea mayweed (Tripleurospermum maritimum) was common where it was taken.  This plant is common around our coasts, raising the possibility that the moth may be more widespread.

Cochylidia implicitana habitat at Copeland Bird Observatory

Cochylidia implicitana habitat at Copeland Bird Observatory

Dissection plate of Cochylidia implicitana by John McClean

Dissection plate of Cochylidia implicitana by John McClean

Carrier bag levy funding announced

On 30th November the Environment Minister Michelle McIlveen announced the allocation of £2.6 million to environmental projects across Northern Ireland in 2017/18.  This is taken from the revenue raised by the carrier bag levy which is proving to be a vital source of environmental funding in the face of an overall reduction in spending on our environment.  Last year many organisations benefited from the fund and it is good news that further funding will be available next year. There are two strands to the funding:

  1. Protection and enhancement of habitats, species and landscape
  2. Promoting health, well-being, resource efficiency and sustainable economic development.

Early freeze at Eshywulligan

Snow has come early this winter to our rural outpost at Eshywulligan, County Fermanagh.  Director Clive Mellon was in the area to work on ornithological monitoring at nearby Teiges Mountain when heavy snow set in, causing the abandonment of the monitoring session.   Clive said 

It was spectacular to look at but I was in danger of being snowed in, so I had to beat a hasty retreat. It would have been folly to try and reach the site even with 4WD, so I had to abandon the survey.

Bird monitoring at the Teiges Mountain Wind Farm site will resume next week.

Snow at Eshywulligan last week

Snow at Eshywulligan last week