Saturday, 17 June 2017

Garden BioBlitz 2017

It was the first weekend of June, which meant it was time for the Garden Bioblitz giving me 24 hours to find as many wild species in my garden as possible. I have been doing the Bioblitz every year since 2014.
3rd June 2017 - 9am - let the Bioblitz commence
This year I wanted to:
  • beat last year's total of 144 wild species identified
  • successfully identify some tiny bugs that the iRecord verifier had been forced to reject because of my inadequate photographs
  • make more precise identification of plants in my garden especially grasses.
Hoverfly (Eupeodes) - a useful pollinator.
I started at about 9am on Saturday to try and find insects.  I was able to photograph some hoverflies and bees before they really warmed up and got too fast for me.  While I was exploring for insects, I could hear the birds calling in the trees. Thanks to what I have learnt on birdsong walks (guided by David of the Uckfield Local Nature Reserves Supporters Group) I found it easier to figure out where the calls come from and identify the bird. This means I got a couple of extra bird species compared to last year.

Leaf hopper - Iassus lanio
Our visiting birds are forever searching our oak and birch trees for insects to eat. I used a hook, hastily improvised from a packaging tube and a coat hanger to shake some branches. My catch included a number of tiny bugs and spiders. This time my replacement macro lens gave me a good enough photo to identify the Leaf Hopper shown above.

Corizus hyoscyami - Cinnamon Bug
I was a little disappointed not to find any Shield Bugs but I did find a colourful Cinnamon Bug amongst our flowers.

White-tailed Bumble Bee on ceanothus.
One of our star plants for bees is Mum's ceanothus. This was covered in different types of bees, such as the White Tailed Bumblebee shown, all day. After photographing the bees it was time to start checking the wildflowers. This is easier and quicker because, over the years, I have developed a list of what I expect to find. This year, because I have had some useful advice from the Sussex Botanical Recording Society I have been able add a few extras. For example, I have used the guides on the bottom left hand corner of BSBI Identification page to identify grasses more precisely.  Species new to my list included Fox Tail Grass and Perennial Rye Grass, both of which must have been in the garden for years without me noticing them.

Common Liverwort
Unexpectedly, I found a large colony of liverworts amongst the grasses on a sloping grass bank.

Frog tadpole
Doing a pond dip really brings out the big kid in me. I was delighted to find 15 fat tadpoles in one scoop.

Arion Rufus - Large Red Slug from underside
Mum called me over because she had found some slugs under her pots.  I photographed them from 3 angles as advised by Chris De Feu in February's Biological Recorders' Seminar. The bigger of the two was from one of those groups that are difficult to sort out but is probably Arion Rufus. Although they are big and very obvious in the garden, they do relatively little damage because they live on rotting vegetation. It's the little brown ones you need to look out for. After taking portraits of my slimy little sitters, I set up my beetle traps and went inside for tea.

Toad, creeping through the leaves after dark.
As night was falling I went outside with my bat detector and detected a Common Pipistrelle. I heard some rustling behind me. Because there was no wind, this was seriously creepy. I slowly turned round, fearing that I would find a rat. Instead there was a toad moving through some dried-up leaves at the side of the house.  Toads eat insects, spiders, slugs and worms. Hopefully it is helping to keep our slug population down.

Millipede (Polydesmus)
The next morning, I got up early to check my beetle traps. I didn't find any beetles but I did find a millipede.  One last round of the garden yielded a few more insects and a forgotten wildflower and then it was time to enter my results.  So how did I do?

The National Results - I found 153 species in the garden.
I had just about beaten last year's record and, due to having replaced my 20-year old macro lens, had taken much better photos of the tiny bugs, enabling successful verification.  Thanks to other people, such as members of recording societies and Uckfield's own Nature Reserves group, I have been able to increase the number of species that I have recorded and share my own knowledge with others.

The 153 species I found broke down as follows.

My results broken down by group.

Before I close, I would like to give a big shout out to all the people who diligently sift through the records pushed into the system by people like me and verify or correct as required.

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