Wildlife Surveying at Watercress Farm


Belmont’s wildlife surveying programme began in 2020 after several members of the local community were interested in supporting the rewilding ambition at Watercress Farm. Several volunteers visited the site and volunteered to undertake responsibility for recording groups of other taxa in which they had interest and experience.

Each of these surveying groups has a “species-lead”, an experienced amateur, who is responsible for organising the surveys and compiling the records. The volunteers currently survey the following species groups:

  • Birds. Butterflies and Odonata. Plants. Fungi. Mammals. Bats. Moths. Other Invertebrates (excluding moths, butterflies and dragonflies). Reptiles and Amphibians. Fish & Crustaceans and River Quality.

All species groups have recorded species using recognised techniques for the particular taxa. Several records have also been obtained by field sightings or photographs taken during visits.


Ecological surveying at Watercress Farm was extremely busy throughout the year with surveys taking place weekly in some spring and summer months. In total, 133 wildlife volunteers took part in 80 surveying sessions throughout the year. This accumulated to 630 hours of wildlife surveying in the rewilding project.

It’s been an exciting year at Watercress Farm with the wetland creation project completed. We were unsure how much this would affect wildlife recording at the site, and even though we had to reduce the number of surveys at certain points in the year, we were extremely excited to record a 21% increase in the majority of plants and animals within the site. In 2023, the number of species increased by 281 bringing the total species recorded in the rewilding project to 1612.

1612 species of animals and plants recorded so far


As of 31 January 2024, the total number of wildlife species recorded within the rewilding project are:

  • 280 species of plant and fungi (a 41% increase from the 2022 total)
  • 6 species of reptiles and amphibians (a 50% increase from the 2022 total)
  • 13 species of mammals (an 18% increase from the 2022 total)
  • 14 species of bats (a 0% increase from the 2022 total)
Species numbers
  • 738 species of other invertebrates (a 41% increase from the 2022 total)
  • 4 species of fish and crustaceans (a 33% increase from the 2022 total)
  • 86 species of birds (an 8.9% increase from the 2022 total)
  • 471 species of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies (a 33% increase from the 2022 total)
Species Numbers 2

Several new sightings from the surveying sessions include:

  • Green Sandpiper, Snipe and Great White Egret ​
  • Silver-washed Fritillary and Essex Skipper ​
  • Golden-Ringed dragonfly ​
  • Hummingbird Hawkmoth and Lunar Hornet moth​
  • Dicyphus tamaninii and Salicarus roseri bugs ​


  • In total, 4,334 individuals of 24 species of butterflies have been recorded. Over the two transects (Poplar Wood & the Sidings) there were also 2,313 dragonflies and damselflies observed from 18 different species. ​
  • Around 15% of the 400 native resident moth species recorded so far (approx. 60 species) are described as either local or thinly distributed in the Bristol Region. One moth species recorded onsite that was new to the Bristol Region (and rare across Britain) was the Triaxomasia Caprimulgella (Tree Hollow Moth). This reinforces the importance of the site for moth diversity.
  • 3 new species of bird (Green Sandpiper, Snipe and Great White Egret) were recorded within the rewetted fields as a result of the wetland project and this will only increase in the forthcoming years. However, the change in land use in this field has affected an area favoured by wintering Meadow Pipits, Linnet, Skylark, Stonechat and Yellowhammer. ​Instead, the wetland will provide an important additional resource for passage migrants and potentially a breeding habitat for a new range of birds such as Reed and Sedge Warblers.
  • To date, 240 species of plants have been recorded within the site. The most diverse vegetation is on the railway sidings, which comprise less than 10% of the site area. Many plants presumably arrived here before the recent wave of post-war agricultural intensification.
  • It is exciting to have a record of newts on site as we believe the site has potential for Great Crested Newt, a European protected species which we look forward to recording closely in 2024.


2023 was a positive year for ecological surveying. Not only did the number of recorded species increase, but the number of supportive volunteers within our community grew too. Biodiversity is slowly increasing within the site from natural process restoration; however, it will be extremely interesting to observe and record any emerging trends or changes from the inclusion of the wetland. This new habitat will hopefully provide a home for feeding, breeding and shelter for many new species in the forthcoming years.

A big thank you to our wildlife volunteers for their time, dedication and effort this year. And special thanks to species-leads, Bob Fleetwood, Alistair Frazer, Robin Martin, Jean Oliver, Paul Chapman, Sian Parry, Charlie Philips, Sarah Roberts, Clare Mockridge, Suzanne Elson, Jo-Hannah Rees, Peter Coleman Smith and Luke Ramsay for your reporting contributions.