Highlights from the 2019 Lee Abbey BioBlitz reports

19 September 2019
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Category News
19 September 2019, Comments 1

A team of researchers from ARUK and our Partners in Action spent a week at Lee Abbey in May surveying and identifying as many species of plants and wildlife that we could. We hope our report will help Lee Abbey as they continue to strive for the best land management practice in order to benefit the plants and animals which make their home on the estate.

We conducted plant surveys, an intertidal survey of Lee Bay, a breeding bird survey, moth trapping surveys, a daytime invertebrate survey, bat monitoring, small mammal trapping, reptile surveys, and torchlit amphibian surveys.

Here’s a summary of some of our newsworthy highlights:


The work Lee Abbey has been doing to increase ‘rough edges’ has paid off and is benefiting numerous species, including plants, birds, insects, mammals such as voles and bats, and owls.

The sustainable forestry operations have benefited breeding birds as well as butterflies and woodland plants.

Lee Abbey has some rare Atlantic oak woodland habitat- once widespread throughout Europe, now this rare habitat has it’s remaining stronghold in Britain and Ireland, particularly in the west and north. Lee Abbey’s wood is part of a larger stretch of this habitat along the Exmoor coast, and is nationally important. There are plants and birds which specifically rely on this habitat type.

Lee Bay

The bay is an unspoilt and natural intertidal habitat, with a diversity of anemone species (three) and over seven species of seaweed and hundreds of thousands of barnacles. Lee Bay is protected from polluting runoff by the good farming practices in action at Lee Abbey, and from beach pollution by regular community beach cleans.

Lee Bay, despite the care and protection of the community, is likely to be increasingly affected by climate change due to warming sea temperatures. The BioBlitz recorded Lee Abbey’s first wireweed sighting, an invasive seaweed which outcompetes native species in warmer waters.


Rare plant species found include:

Sea Spleenwort


Musk Stork’s-bill

White Ramping-fumitory

Tunbridge Filmy-fern

Ivy Broomrape

Greater Broomrape


Rock Stonecrop

Slender Tare

45 species of ancient woodland indicator plants

Over 300 species of plants in total.


We didn’t find any adders, but they are known to be on site. The reptile survey was a bit disappointing, but not unexpected as the refugia used for surveying were only placed in late spring and the reptiles may not have had time to find them and begin using them.

The work to help adders at Lee Abbey is part of the ARUK Target 10 Project to help widespread but declining species (refugia were funded by ARUK).


We were encouraged by the high numbers of toad and frog tadpoles found onsite, as well as large numbers of palmate newts.


Breeding birds- nationally red or amber listed



Tawny Owl

House Martin

Grey Wagtail



Com Redstart

Song Thrush

Mistle Thrush

Willow Warbler

Wood Warbler

Pied Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Marsh Tit

House Sparrow







Mistle Thrush

House Sparrow





Herring Gull



13 Red listed species in total

10 Amber listed species

Also, a survey of the house martin colony found 19 active nests, which places the number of breeding adults at about 40, making this one of the most important house martin colonies in North Devon.

We also saw a peregrine falcon, sparrowhawk, gannet, Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a guillemot, though they were not breeding on the estate.


We trapped bank voles which were using tall grass habitat near the main house.

We enjoyed watching the bats feeding, and recorded seven species of bat, including the endangered Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats, which have nationally important maternity roosting colonies on the estate. The greater horseshoe bat is one of the rarest mammals in the UK. They benefit from the ‘rough edges’ as they feed on the night flying insects which use it such as moths.


We had an interesting variety of insects, and were encouraged to see the beneficial effects of the ‘rough edges’ on the verges and around the lawns!

56 species of moths in the moth traps alone, plus day flying species found around the estate.

Three section 41 moths-

Brindled Beauty

Buff Ermine

White Ermine

National research on these is underway as these species are in decline.

One response on “Highlights from the 2019 Lee Abbey BioBlitz reports

  1. Andrew Mann says:

    Fantastic work from the team involved. This will help to underscore the presentation I give when I lead my birdwatching breaks at Lee Abbey next year. I’ll certainly be looking out for the breeding species you have identified on the week at the end of April. Thank you!