Devon Wildlife Trust Purple moor-grass and rush pasture

This distinctive type of damp pasture is generally found on commons, as a component of lowland fen, or in undeveloped corners of otherwise intensively farmed landscapes.

In late spring and summer, the dark rushes contrast against the soft green of young purple-moor grass, and the sward is speckled yellow and purple with wildflowers; an important nectar source for a variety of uncommon insects. In the west of the country, look for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly where there is a mix of short grass and taller tussocks. Its caterpillars spin distinctive webs on or near its food plant (devil’s-bit scabious), which are easy to see in late summer. The elusive day-flying narrow-bordered bee-hawkmoth, a bumblebee mimic, may also be seen hovering at flowers on sunny days. 

Devon Local Nature Partnership Devon whitebeam (Sorbus devoniensis) and allied species. Nationally Scarce, most of the allied species are Nationally Rare. Devon Whitebeam is endemic to the British Isles, being found nowhere else in the world. The tree is largely restricted to Devon (especially north Devon) and to a small area of south-east Ireland. In Devon most trees occur in hedges, although some grow open woodland. The species is representative of a suite of other rare or scarce whitebeams restricted wholly or mainly to Devon, including English Whitebeam Sorbus anglica, Grey-leaved Whitebeam Sorbus porrigentiformis, Rock Whitebeam Sorbus rupicola, Bloody Whitebeam Sorbus vexans, Slender Whitebeam Sorbus subcuneata, Watersmeet Whitebeam Sorbus admonitor and Margeret’s Whitebeam Sorbus margaretae. The county population of Devon Whitebeam appears stable, with new sites being found every year. Natural regeneration was noted under two trees on Roborough Common in 2018. Populations of allied species are probably stable too, although some of these are very small. 

Butterfly Conservation It is worth looking up at prominent Ash trees along wood edges to see if small clusters of adults may be flitting around. They congregate to mate and feed on aphid honeydew. Adults also sometimes feed lower down on flowers such as Hemp-agrimony, Common Fleabane and Bramble. The females are most frequently seen as they disperse widely along hedgerows where they lay conspicuous white eggs on young Blackthorn shoots.

The butterfly often rests with its wings closed showing orange-brown underwings with two wavy white streaks and small tails. Uppersides are brown with an orange mark.

It is locally distributed in southern Britain and mid-west Ireland and has undergone a substantial decline due to hedgerow removal and annual flailing, which removes eggs. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The Silver Y is a medium-sized moth that can be seen on warm days throughout the year, although it is most common during the late summer. At times, this migrant may be a very common visitor, especially in flowery grasslands, sand dunes and gardens. It can often be seen flying during the daytime, feeding on nectar from plants, such as Buddleia and Lavender, but also flies at night. The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of plants, including Stinging nettles, clover and cabbages. It breeds here, but the early stages cannot survive our winter.

How to identify

When at rest, the Silver Y holds its wings back along its body in a tent-like shape. The wings are patterned with dark grey, silver and brown, and display a characteristic, silver, Y-shaped mark on the forewings. 

Devon Wildlife Trust A giant of the sea turtle world, leatherback turtles are ocean wanderers searching the seas for jellyfish. Unlike other sea turtles, leatherback turtles don’t mind the cold! This means they can dive to great depths where the water is a lot colder to get first pick of all the deep sea jellyfish.

This giant of the sea turtle world travels alone, only coming together with other turtles to breed. They lay their eggs on beaches and leave them unsupervised, leaving the baby turtles to make their way to the sea alone once they hatch. These unique animals are specially adapted to be able to cope with colder seas, which means they are able to dive to great depths in order to hunt deep sea jellyfish. They have an incredible (and slightly gruesome) way of making sure they never lose a meal – they have downward facing spines inside their throat that stops prey getting out! Unfortunately, the leatherback turtle can get confused and accidentally eat plastic bags or balloons as they look like jellyfish. These plastic items then get stuck in their throats and can cause serious health problems for the turtle.

How to Identify

A large black turtle with white dots all over the body, flippers and head. They have a lighter underbelly with a pink colouration on the underthroat and chin. Their front flippers can reach 2.5m. Other sea turtle species rarely visit UK waters, but are distinct from leatherbacks as they have a hard shell and are green/brown in colour. Leatherbacks lack a hard shell and have leathery skin covering their backs. 

Devon Wildlife Trust Our only venomous snake, the shy adder can be spotted basking in the sunshine in woodland glades and on heathlands. An adder bite is a very rare occurrence, and can be painful, but is almost never fatal.

The adder is a relatively small, stocky snake that prefers woodland, heathland and moorland habitats. It hunts lizards and small mammals, as well as ground-nesting birds, such as skylark and meadow pipit. In spring, male adders perform a 'dance' during which they duel to fend off competition to mate. Females incubate the eggs internally, 'giving birth' to three to twenty live young. Adders hibernate from October, emerging in the first warm days of March, which is the easiest time of year to find them basking on a log or under a warm rock.

How to Identify

The adder is a greyish snake, with a dark and very distinct zig-zag pattern down its back, and a red eye. Males tend to be more silvery-grey in colour, while females are more light or reddish-brown. Black (melanistic) forms are sometimes spotted. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The red admiral is an unmistakeable garden visitor. This black-and-red beauty may be seen feeding on flowers on warm days all year-round. Adults are mostly migrants, but some do hibernate here. A fairly large black, white and red butterfly, the red admiral is an impressive visitor to our gardens where it can be spotted feeding on buddleia and other flowers. It will also frequent all kinds of other habitats, from seashores to mountains! Adults sometimes hibernate, and may be seen flying on warm days throughout the year, although they are most common in the summer and early autumn. The caterpillars feed on common nettles.

How to identify

The red admiral is mainly black, with broad, red stripes on the hindwings and forewings, and white spots near the tips of the forewings. 

Devon Wildlife Trust The large skipper is a small, orange butterfly, similar to the small skipper. Adults fly between June and August, when they can often be seen resting in sunny positions and long grass, or feeding on flowers such as bramble. Large skippers can be found on rough grassland and sand dunes, along roadside verges and woodland edges, in large gardens, or anywhere else with plenty of grasses. They lay their eggs on grass blades. Foodplants of the caterpillars include cock's-foot, purple moor-grass and false broom.

How to identify

The large skipper has russet-brown wings edged with large, dark brown patches and dotted with small, light orange patches. This pattern helps distinguish them from the small and Essex skippers. Males have a small black stripe in the middle of their forewings.

Devon Wildlife Trust The comma is a medium-sized orange-and-brown butterfly. It gets its name from the comma-shaped white spots on the underneath of its wings. It is on the wing throughout the year, having several broods and overwintering as an adult. It is a common and widespread butterfly of woodland edges, particularly during the spring and autumn. The caterpillars feed on common nettles, elms and willows.

They have brown and white flecks that make them look like bird-droppings and help to camouflage them.

How to identify

The comma is unmistakeable: ragged, orange wings with brown spots distinguish it from similar species. Its underside has cryptic brown colouring, making it look like a dead leaf.

Devon Wildlife Trust The dazzling silver-studded blue is a rare butterfly of heathland habitats, mainly in southern England. It has undergone severe population declines in recent years. The silver-studded blue emerges in June and is usually on the wing until late August. It is a rare butterfly, generally found in heathland habitats that have shorter, sparsely vegetated areas. It is restricted to close-knit colonies in southern England and Wales. Two subspecies can be found in its range, while two others are now extinct in the UK. The larvae feed on a wide variety of plants, such as Bell Heather, Cross-leaved Heath and gorses.

How to identify

The silver-studded blue is a small butterfly which gets its name from the light blue reflective 'studs' (scales) found on the underside of the wings. The upper wings are blue with a dark outer rim. Males are bluer than females, which are more of a dull brown. 

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