Over 2000 plant and wildlife observations have been recorded online by members of the public in response to a plea from Exmoor National Park Authority to help rescue vital conservation projects that have been hit by the coronavirus lockdown through volunteers being unable to carry out their usual monitoring. People were asked to help by joining the National Park’s WildWatch project on iNaturalist and using the app to log any sightings while out on Exmoor.
To date this has resulted in 227 people logging 2024 observations of 818 different species on the platform. A further 417 people, including professional botanists and National Park conservation volunteers, got involved in helping verify the sightings to get the data up to a standard where it could be used to inform conservation efforts, such as problem invasive species in the National Park.
In a video shared on social media this week to thank contributors, Exmoor National Park Outreach Officer Patrick Watts-Mabbott, said: “We’ve had an amazing response to our ‘Exmoor Wildwatch’ and ‘Exmoor from Home’ projects on iNaturalist. On Friday night we went over 2000 wildlife observations between the two projects and still climbing.”
Top sightings include Eye Bright, an ancient herbal remedy with anti-inflammatory properties, and the charmingly named Dog Vomit Slime Mold – single-celled amoeba-like organisms that come together to form fungi-like sporing masses.
Patrick added: “I could talk about the amazing orchids, minotaur beetles, moss, grasshoppers, birds, butterflies, reptiles and even butterfly eggs that have been spotted. But as we are on Exmoor we’d better look at the iconic bell heather that is just starting to bloom. By mid-August places like Brendon Common, Dunkery Beacon and Winsford Hill, will be purple and buzzing with bees.
“So if you’re planning a visit to Exmoor this year, download the iNaturalist app from the usual places and search the projects for ‘Exmoor Wildwatch’. Then get recording. There’s no need to know everything you find, just get some good photos, ideally from different angles, and upload them. Our volunteers will help you identify them.”
Free wildlife spotter guides are from National Park Centres in Lynmouth, Dunster and Dulverton or online at www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/Whats-Special/exmoor-wildwatch.