The Atlas Project was launched in 2010, with the objective to establish a framework for
the accurate mapping of plant species on and around Shotover Hill, and at the same time
provide further opportunities for SW members’ in botanical surveying.
The resulting distribution maps aid understanding of species and habitats, support
publications, and help with the planning and delivery of student project work.
Inevitably, getting out to visit every 50m square in the Atlas area threw up some new
and interesting records such as the discovery of a fern that has not been recorded on
Shotover since Boswell noted it down 1884.
- Over 400 vascular plants species included
- 600 fifty metre grid squares (150 hectares) including Brasenose Wood and Shotover Hill SSSI
- Shotover Wildlife’s long history of detailed surveying at Shotover has made it possible to import many thousands of records from previous work
- A new and accurate map of the area has been produced using multiple GPSs (Global Positioning Systems)
- Plant species surveying is based on the same multiple GPS system that has been used for the accurate mapping
- The mapping has illustrated the distribution of species associated with the various habitats of the area: heath, acidic grassland, woodland, marsh,
hedgerow and meadow.
for a map showing the clear habitat preferences of Tufted Hair-grass across the SSSI.
Shotover Wildlife was one of the first groups in the UK to receive a 'Sharing Heritage' award from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Shotover Natural Heritage initiative focused on insects in particular, and had the opportunity to compare the results with the work of Oxford University naturalists of over 100 years ago.
This study is the only one of its kind to follow in the footsteps of eminent Oxford naturalists of the Victorian and Edwardian era, who would
travel the short distance from the University to Shotover Hill to study the wildlife of this locally-unique habitat. Old diaries and field notebooks, preserved at the famous Hope Entomological Library at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, have played a key role.
The project work has helped to establish a new benchmark of knowledge for the insect fauna of Shotover. Where survey work can be compared
with historic records of 100 years ago, these studies contribute important biological indications of a changing world, including climate, pollution
and agricultural policies and developments.
"Shotover is very fortunate to have had so many eminent naturalists work here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Following in the
footsteps of the early recorders not only establishes a fascinating link to the past, it is also an important record of how things have changed
Ivan Wright, SW Chairman
The Project Work
- field work on Shotover targeted at under-recorded species.
- assistance from visiting experts to help SW members with survey techniques.
- expert identification of target species.
- researching historic records of insects using old diaries and other archives.
- distribution of publications including new SW leaflets for the target species.
- training for local people in the surveying and study of insects.
Wildlife recorders are seldom able to place their results in the context of a long history of recording. This project was a rare
opportunity to engage more widely with the heritage aspect of their wildlife recording, and gave the community an additional and fascinating way
in which to appreciate the wildlife heritage of Shotover.
Notable results so far...
"Insect identification is always satisfying, but at an important site like Shotover, we quite often find something rare that hasn't been seen there for
over 100 years. We recently found a beetle 96 years to the week since its only other record on the Hill."
Ivan Wright, SW Chairman
Terrestrial Bugs (Hemiptera) training day
This was great fun as we were swept along by the trainer's limitless enthusiasm for all things entomological.
Yet in this short time we added 6 new Bug species to the all-time Shotover list and a species not seen since before 1939 - just what we needed for the
Among the new species was the sawfly Croesus septentrionalis
. The adult sawfly (see right) is about 9mm long, and has the femora and tibia of
its back legs expanded into wide flat plates, especially the male. The larvae are known for their curious display when threatened - all raising their
tales at the same angle.
A NEW FLY TO BRITAIN
...and almost a new species to world science!
Our best result has been the recording of a new species of fly to Britain. The small leaf/stem mining fly, Ophiomyia skanensis (similar to that below left) was caught in the Malaise Trap in Long Marsh in August last year, and identified by our commissioned dipterist David Gibbs. Ophiomyia skanensis was first recognised about 40 years ago from a specimen in Scandinavia, and since then has been recorded just a few times in central Europe.
Our most tantalising and 'almost best' result is the possibility of a new species to science, but unfortunately this is on the basis of a single specimen and does not represent enough material for the naming of a new species. The Sapromyza fly (similar to that below right) was caught in a Malaise Trap last September, near to the heather in Mary Sadler's Field. All we can say so far is that our fly is unlike any other known species of the Palaearctic region.
Both flies are a product of our popular Sunday insect sorting sessions. Indeed these sessions, together with the identification work of David Gibbs, have been a major contribution to the project and our diptera records. This aspect alone has added 220 previously-unrecorded species to the Shotover list, and a further 80 species not recorded since the 1920s.
True Flies training day
This day was also very productive. Again new species were added to the all-time Shotover list, including a scarce Tachinid fly, Nowickia ferox
On one of the regular Shotover Wildlife '2nd Sunday' Field Days, one of our members netted the small weevil Hadroplontus litura
This beetle had only been recorded once before on Shotover - by Commander J.J.Walker and had the beetle been found on the day before, it would have
been exactly 96 years between our record and J.J.'s.
Results from beetle surveying have been spectacular. Over 12 years SW has doubled the number of known beetles on Shotover to over 900 species! Yet
over 200 of these species have not been seen since 1930. Re-recording rare species that haven't been seen on Shotover for 100 years is not only important
for the habitat, but is also very satisfying for those involved.
Useful Links: SW Leaflets -
Venerable Naturalists on Shotover (572KB)
About the Project
The aim of the project has been to record the trees on and around Shotover that have historic, cultural and wildlife interest and to explore the great diversity of wildlife that these grand old structures support.
The project has helped raise awareness of our most special trees for the enjoyment of
future generations. Here are some of Shotover's
Shotover Wildlife has delivered an important project to convert areas of bracken to
acidic grassland in Shotover Country Park and Horspath Parish. Lowland acidic
) is a nationally recognised habitat,
and is characterised by short grass, locally rare flowers
) that are specific to the new habitat, and patches
of bare soil. The bare soil is particularly important for Shotover’s rare insects
). Compared to the areas of bracken, the
improvement to wildlife diversity has been considerable.
An integral part of this project has been to create pleasant new places to sit, and
areas to enjoy, while walking on Horspath Common.
The project has been enthusiastically supported by naturalists for two reasons. Firstly,
the area is within a SSSI
), and secondly,
much of the wildlife that is benefitting from the project has declined in the UK from loss
of habitat. Although most of these species are already on Shotover, many are in decline
here too. This is because the acidic grassland of the past has been gradually replaced by
bracken and scrub since grazing ceased in the last century.
Over recent years, and particularly in 2008, members of Shotover Wildlife surveyed
and recorded wildlife over the whole area to make sure that the work would not harm
existing plants or animals. Also, by comparing our work with that of previous
) we were able to get an idea of how species
have declined or been lost over time, and investigate the reasons for these changes.
Most of the heavy project work was done by mechanical excavator, and has removed the
bracken and topsoil. This material was used to create special new habitats for a
variety of animals.
The Shotover Wildlife Grassland Habitat Project was supported by the Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment and the Waste Recycling Group through the Landfill Communities Fund.