Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Blitz that Biodiversity – bio...di-what-lery?

The Safari helped out, along with the Pond Trail Officer, at the local college yesterday whose student Eco-group were holding a Bioblitz – a timed charge around a particular area/habitat with the aim of recording as much of the plant and animal life as possible. And wow did we record some stuff! We started at the college’s own pond and then moved on to the North Blackpool Pond Trail, very conveniently located ‘next door’, where we looked at another pond and a sunny grassy glade.
Before setting off with the students we were shown the area we were to be working in by a couple of the college’s estates team, one of whom surprised us by saying he moved a few pieces of timber that had been lying around for some time a couple of weeks ago and disturbed a Grass Snake about 18 inches to two feet long. Wow, wow and triple wow; there might still be a population left in town after all!!!
Around the first pond the plant life was prolific and eventually several species of lichens – don't ask us which! – found their way on to the list after some hawk-eyed hunting by one of the girls.
In the marshy area along one side of the pond Iris Sawfly caterpillars were busy devouring the leaves of Yellow Flag.

This wet patch also contained a few specimens of Lesser Reedmace (Typha angustifolia) which is the much less frequently found of the two species of Typha.
Cleggs were also added to the invertebrate list, some later succumbed to a violent death but at least one got a good drink of blood...we still have the lump to prove it!
Next up was the pond on the Pond Trail where two very large Ramshorns Snails were dragged out. Despite being heavily overgrazed the surrounding field came up with a good selection of plants especially around the margins which were less heavily grazed or protected by overhanging Brambles. Unfortunately the pond has an infestation of New Zealand Stonecrop which the horses have spread to all the other wet areas in the field, in particular the area which holds the scarce Tubular Water Dropwort; no flowers of which could be seen, they had probably all been grazed off.
The pond was buzzed by a pair of Swallows all the while we were working there, their metallic blue upperparts sparkling in the late afternoon sun.
A piece of long abandoned tent was found at the base of a Bramble thicket – turning it over we were a little disappointed to find only one small Toad – what: no mammals or newts, what's the world coming too?
The sheltered sunny glade gave us a few butterflies including Large Skippers and Meadow Browns.

"Wodda we get mister?..."
"A male Large Skipper lads."

The sweep netting team collected many Common Green Capsids but a little larger and browner was this weird looking thing. "No not her, silly...!"

"This!" When first seen it was tucking into a smaller fly with its long beak. No idea what it was but the suggestion of an Assassin Bug had us flicking through the field guide and we finally settled on it being a species of Damsel Bug. More intensive research this morning had us deciding on ‘probably’ Nabis ferus. Later a real expert came up with the proper IDNabis flavomarginatus. A look on the NBN Gateway suggests it could well be the first record for the Fylde; we don’t suppose anyone else has actually looked that hard at the local heteroptera. To be honest even after 45+ years experience we've never heard of Damsel Bugs until yesterday!
A great couple of hours or so in the company of some very enthusiastic students who hopefully will go on to add more 1sts for the Fylde as their ID skills develop.
Today we had a brief seawatch at Patch 2 in the morning getting nothing more than a couple of very distant Gannets.
At lunchtime we were joined by the youngsters and AB noticed a large flock of gulls fishing at middle distance. After some serious grilling we picked out a Kittiwake which AC missed, would have been a year tick for him. Fortunately another was found which he was able to get on to but it was only a dot in his bins it was that far away. As luck would have it a third was found this time much closer to the shore and he was relieved to be able to get a decent look at it.
We then set about the wildflower garden at work and soon discovered another Campion moth caterpillar rolled up in the safety of the seed pod of a Red Campion flowerhead...they do exactly what it says on the tin!!!
A serious looking Ichneumon Wasp, jet black with red legs hunted around us but we failed miserably with the camera.
AB found a cluster of (possibly) moth eggs laid under a leaf of the Fat Hen we were pulling out. A search of the data-base we have suggested the only species whose larvae feed exclusively on Atriplex and Orache species is Dark Spinach but that probably isn’t on the wing yet so they must be from something with a more catholic taste.

Also mothy - the youngsters told us they'd seen Blackneck at a couple of locations in town - 1st records as they aren't on this up-to-date map - Thanks to SP for the info.

Where to next? A beachy safari or two coming up.

In the meantime let us know whose sucking the lifeblood out of what in your outback.

No comments: