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The fritillary counts are upon us

We are about to start our annual April adventure countuing snakehead fritillaries around the country, kicking off with the Lugg Meadows in Herefordshire. The Lugg Meadows are a very ancient floodplain meadow, thought to have created a large part of the wealth than enabled Hereford Cathedral to be built.

The fritillary population here is predominantly white and restricted to a small part of the meadow, in three main groups. It is entirely possible that there are more fritillaries on this site, but that perhaps rarely flower. The site is so big, and non-flowering plants so much like grass, that it would be very hard to find them without a huge investment of time and volunteers. So, since 2012, we have focussed on the three visible areas, and working with the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, established a volunteer count group who have come back annually alongside the HWT's Family Fritilary Day, to survey 100 qudrats measuring 1 x 1 m. The Lugg population has proved stable against floods, remaining at a relatively steady 2-300 plants. It was a calm year last year weatherwise, so we hope this year for a good number of flowering plants, as long as the floods hold off long enough for our volunteers to get down on their knees on Saturday. 

The way we count the plants is the same as our 2 other count sites, Clattinger Farm (this Sunday 17th April) and North Meadow (Thursday 21st April). All are counted using a robust scientific method, re-visiting exactly the same locations each year. We know this is possible as the dGPS that we use is highly accurate, and when there have been no floods between years, sometimes the GPS will find the same hole used last year for the bamboo marker cane! Its that good!

The counts are all supervised by scientists and 15% of the quadrats counted are re-checked. So far we have not found much in the way of in-accuaracy, and where we have, we have put in place methods to refine the ID and quadrat locations.

So, if you want to be part of a genuine piece of scientific research, come and join us! Find out more here http://www.floodplainmeadows.org.uk/about-meadows/wildlife/snakeshead-fritillaries 

The photo shows fritillaries at North Meadow last week. Wet, but not flooded in all areas. we hope the weather dries out a little there before next Thursday. 

Emma's image: