Early Summer at Levin Down
By Rob Eadie
Volunteer Reserve Manager, Levin Down
It has been an excellent spring and early summer season on Levin Down nature reserve, full of life and colour. I have been fortunate enough to visit this chalky hillside regularly over the past months, discovering and recording its natural history, and working with other volunteers to restore and maintain the rare chalk habitats and important Juniper colony, that make this reserve so special.
There is great insect diversity across the reserve and butterfly numbers in particular have been a joy to behold. My favourites include Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, iridescent Green Hairstreaks, Marbled Whites and the exquisite Small Blues. Dark Green Fritillaries have been abundant this year, with forty freshly emerged individuals being observed on one day!
I have discovered a number of wonderful beetles and bugs on my walks, including Devils Coach Horse, Lesser Stag beetle and the vivid Red and Black Froghopper, cercopis vulnerata. However, most superb must be the Longhorn beetle, stenurella melanura, found on wild rose.
As full summer approaches the floral mosaics of Levin are reaching their colourful best, with large patches of Bird's-foot Trefoil and Kidney Vetch on the warmer slopes, and also Squinancywort, Wild Thyme and the beautiful pink flowered Centaury. The succession of orchids has been a pleasure to witness, beginning in April with “glades” of Early Purple orchids, followed by Common Spotted and Pyramidal orchids. It was also a delight to find a small group of rare Chalk Fragrant orchids.
There has been an exciting small mammal discovery this year. Whilst raking on the south slope a volunteer uncovered a fresh Harvest Mouse nest beneath a grass tussock. Although the current occupant was a bumblebee, this represents the first recorded evidence of the harvest mouse on Levin.
With its superb views across the surrounding hills and valleys and wealth of wildlife Levin is an enjoyable place to spend a working day at any time of year. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Sussex Wildlife Trust for more information.