Monday, 6 June 2016

Garden Bio Blitz 2016

It's the first weekend of June and it's time to record as many species as I can for the Garden BioBlitz.  I really needed to go into town on Saturday morning and fine weather was forecast for Sunday, so my 24 hours ran from 2:15pm on Saturday to the same time on Sunday. 

Because I have just started doing the WildLifeTrust's #30DaysWild, this has been a very wild-life intensive few days.  Although I had a pleasant visit to a buttercup field in Birmingham, I was disappointed that the bluetits that nested in the box on the side of the house had gone before I came back to Uckfield.

BioBlitzing our garden - A lovely Sunday morning.
Before I started, I set myself some objectives:
  • To record more species than I saw last year (127)
  • To pay more attention to ground-level minibeasts and get a centipede onto my list.
  • To detect a bat with the detector I got for Christmas.
Blackbird sunbathing.
My first BioBlitz sighting for 2016 was a pair of blackbirds sunning themselves. The female was on the grass and the male had spread himself out along one of the branches of our conifer.

Germander Speedwell in an uncultivated corner.
I did a quick round of the whole garden, ticking off flowers from my 2015 list. I hadn't particularly noticed during the year but we have had some casualties, probably due to our own tidying, which is 'assisted' by a visiting fallow deer.  On the other hand, I have recorded two self-sown trees, beech and rowen, for the first time.

Common Carder Bee feeding on Iris Sibirica
After this, I started looking at the minibeasts, particularly pollinators, that land on the flowers and leaves in the garden. I found myself fascinated by a Common Carder Bee feeding on an Iris Sibirica, its weight opening and closing the flower as it climbed in and out of its petals.

Western Yellow Centipede (Stigmatogaster subterranean)
It was only about 5pm when the light started dropping. It was time to find a centipede. I dug around in the "ready-to-use" compost from our heap and found a wriggling orange ribbon. I flicked it into a little pot, figured out which end was the head, took a photo and returned it to its home. 

After setting up beetle traps,  it was time to go indoors and start processing results.  by the end of the evening, I had identified 102 species had about 15 photos of unidentified creatures.

The Bushnell 'traps' a fox while I sleep off the day's efforts.
At 9:45pm I was outside again, bat detector in hand. I always get stupidly excited when detecting - waiting for those click-slap-click noises that herald the arrival of a bat. I waited and waited. Then just before 10pm, few weak squelchy clicks. My excitement mounted as I tried to pinpoint the direction. The clicks got stronger and louder and - there it was! A Common Pipistrelle, fluttering in the gloom - the perfect end to the first few hours of my Garden BioBlitz. It was time to leave the garden to the creatures of the night.

Beetle trap with Nebria Brevicallis in pot.
Sunday morning was bright and, having slept like a log, started a little later than I intended so I missed the early shift. I focussed my efforts at ground level and found black beetles in my beetle traps, slugs under paving slabs, and woodlice under garden ornaments.

Swollen-Thighed Beetle
Some beetles live a sunnier life. Amongst our flowers, I found several shiny green Swollen-Thighed Beetles. Whilst searching, I could hear the "dee-dee-dee" of bluetits calling each other. I kept looking up but, frustratingly, didn't see anything in our thick trees.

Hawthorn Shieldbug rocking 80's-style shoulder pads.
As I searched round shrubs and trees in the garden, I found three different species of shield bugs. The Hawthorn Shieldbug's block colours and pointed shoulders always remind me of the daft fashions we wore in the eighties. I tried shaking the trees but only the tiniest of insects came down.

Baby blue tit well disguised in the dappled light and birch leaves.
I was in the last stages, just mopping up the last few wild plants, when I heard "dee-dee-dee" and saw a flicker of movement in our birch trees. There was an adult bird finding insects where the clumsy human had failed and then ... two little balls of fluff emerged to be fed. I'm assuming that this is our bird box family and I was delighted to see them.

I've managed to meet my objectives having:
  • identified 131 species with more to come - however finding them took more effort this year
  • used beetle traps and dug around in the compost heap to find ground-level creatures including an implausibly long centipede
  • detected and watched a bat.
There are more details about the results in Garden BioBlitz 2016 - What did I find out?

I've also enjoyed a day "playing in the garden" - making beetle traps and dipping ponds. I exchanged photos and IDs with others across the country who were BioBlitzing their own gardens or taking part in #30DaysWild. I've learnt to identify some more of the creatures with whom I share the garden and greeted some who I thought had left without saying goodbye.  Quite simply, a lovely way to spend 24 hours in June.

There are plenty more #30DaysWild blogs at MyWildLife.


  1. looks like you had a great time! The swollen thighed beetle is an impressive looking creature!

  2. It was fun - and good exercise too. The swollen thighed beetles are very obliging about standing on colourful flowers from ground level to a couple of foot in the air. They're pretty widespread so its worth looking out for them.