The day dawned wet and overcast, and as marquees and recording hub were set up, the steady drizzle continued.
Our site on Yarmouth Green gave excellent views over the Western Yar estuary taking in Mill Copse and Saltern Wood, both identified as prime sites for recording. The banners and feather flags attracted interest from people using the car park and walking along the pavement and they came over to see what was happening.
A programme of events had been planned, although not all were able to take place. Our insect recorders were there, with sweep nets at the ready, but it was just too wet to run successful ‘bug hunts’. Some had looked at the forecast and came out the previous afternoon to do some survey work. An excellent total of 24 hoverfly species was recordedand eight butterflies which certainly were not in evidence in the rain. Moth trapping on Monday night in Saltern Wood did not give large catch, but five of the total had not previously been recorded in this area.
Longworth Inspection boxes were put out in Mill Copse to monitor small mammals but none took up the offer of ‘bed and breakfast’. However, a bit of detective work looking at the remains of chewed shells indicated that bank voles, wood mice and field voles were about. When long-eared owl pellets collected previously from Mill Copse were dissected, they were found to contain parts of field vole skeletons.
'Walking the walls’ of the town and St James’s churchyard gave over 20 different lichens to add to our total. The spring woodland flowers, delayed by the cool spring, were still much in evidence. Mill Copse had a stunning display of early purple orchids; greater butterfly orchid and wood goldilocks, a woodland buttercup, were also seen.
Searching the shore at the water’s edge and boat trips along the Western Yar estuary proved popular. Apart from these activities, the local enthusiasts and experts spent many hours walking round recording all they could see. Now all the records are in, the grand total for the Bioblitz was 341 species - an outstanding total considering the conditions, and mark of their dedication!
This year’s Bioblitz is planned to take place on Tuesday 28th May in Yarmouth from 10am to 4pm. The recording hub and information point will be based at the Eco-challenger and marquee on Yarmouth Green. A number of local organisations are attending including the Wildlife Trust, Wight Squirrel Project, Natural Enterprise, Medina Valley Centre, Wight Nature Fund and various activities and walks are planned. The recording area includes Norton Spit, Saltern Wood, Mill Copse, the northern part of the cycleway and the town of Yarmouth
Over 900 species have previously been recorded from the target area. Some of these species won’t be around in May but there are still plenty of things to look for. Some groups are definitely under-recorded, so whatever your interest, please do some recording and let us know what you find. Expert help will be on hand to assist with identification.
Previous species totals for Bioblitzes are Firestone Copse 447 (2010) Brading Down 330 (2011) and Compton 396 (2012)
Saturday 2nd February 2013 saw 70 local enthusiasts pack into the Arreton Community Centre for the Annual Recorders’ Conference, the highest attendance so far. After a welcome from Matthew Chatfield, chairman of the IW Biodiversity Partnership, the audience settled down to hear a variety of talks.
Les Street was the first speaker, on Lichens on the Isle of Wight. He started with an overview of their biology and showed photographs of their range of structure and form. They grow on stone walls, tree bark, twigs and soil and the Island has some excellent sites for lichens including churchyards, the rocks at St Catherine’s Point and the cliff top grassland on Tennyson Down.
There have been some interesting discoveries in recently years; in particular Teloschistes chryphthalmus, Golden-eyed lichen, which has been re-found after 130 years and Bacidia incompta, thought to be extinct, has been found in the fissures of bark of an old oak tree at Newtown. Les finished his talk by encouraging us to look more closely at lichens through a hand lens and he recommended the British Lichen Society as an organisation which will help individuals to gain expertise. Les and Sheila will be looking to set up an Island lichen group later in the year.
Before the tea break Colin Pope showed some maps of the records of relatively common bird species held in a database. Blackbirds are definitely under-reported and there was discussion of the best way of submitting records for common birds. Robin Attrill asked for any more 2012 bird records to be sent to him so they could contribute to the data being analysed for the bird report.
During the break there was the opportunity to look at the displays. The bat hospital had brought some live bats which were as popular as ever; photographs and herbarium specimens were put out for inspection; and Les and Sheila Street were on hand to explain more about lichens.
Afterwards, Jemma Batten from Black Sheep Countryside Management explained how data collection and recording are crucially important in the development of farm environment plans and landscape restoration projects. These environmental stewardship schemes enable action to be taken to improve habitats and the populations of particular species. Records made by individuals and recording groups which have been passed on the local records centres can be made available to land managers to help them decide on action which needs to be taken. This may require further survey work, and the records from this are again passed on to the local records centre, to increase the total knowledge of the site. The knowledge of the distribution of species is used to target action where it is likely to be most beneficial.
Finally Jon Whitehurst described his research into the distribution and abundance of bat species in Parkhurst Forest. Work carried out by Ian Davison-Watts a number of years ago provided a starting point for the studies and the major objectives have been
• To carry out a systematic survey of the bat species presence in the Parkhurst Forest
• To generate a species presence distribution model linking presence to habitat features.
• To demonstrate the value of “maximum entropy modelling” at a micro-scale (7.5mx7.5m resolution)
The habitats of the forest have been categorised and mapped on a geographic information system (GIS). Systematic recording along transects through the forest using bat detectors and night vision equipment has been carried out. The identification of bats from call has provided some technical challenges which have been resolved with assistance from national experts. There is evidence of 14 species of bat being present, including one not previously recorded on the Isle of Wight, Alcathoe’s Bat, a recently recognised species. Further evidence is being sought to confirm this identification.
Most notable is the very high number of Barbastelle bats (twice the expected number based on normalised national population) but more work is needed to establish significance of the under-represented Brown Long Eared bats
The key areas of bat activity and the dominant habitat links have been established. In particular the distance to the exterior edge distance is key for several species. Jon will be continuing his studies to refine the data further and is looking at applying his model to other woodland areas on the Island.
The Recorders’ Conference for 2014 has been booked for Saturday 1st February at the Arreton community Centre and we look forward to seeing you there.
You are invited to attend the 7th Isle of Wight Recorders’ Conference on Saturday 2nd February 2013 2 - 4.30pm at the Community Centre, Main Rd, Arreton
Agri-environment schemes and biodiversity
Jemma Batten Black Sheep Countryside Management
Lichens on the Isle of Wight
Les and Sheila Street
The Parkhurst Forest Bat Project
There will be an interval for tea and cake and the opportunity to look at displays and chat to fellow enthusiasts
Please bring photographs or mounted specimens of last year‘s interesting Island wildlife finds (or items that provided a challenge to identify) to share with your fellow recorders on the Island Wildlife display table.
If you or your organisation would like to contribute to the display please contact Anne Marston at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 821000 ex 8722
395 species were recorded in total from this year’s Bioblitz area, based at the popular Compton Bay beach access along the Military Road.
Local experts and guided groups set out from the recording hub to explore rock pools, cliff tops, marshy areas, hedgerows, field margins and road verges. The search area covered the coastal strip from the high chalk cliffs at Afton Down to the slumping clay cliffs at Roughland, just south of Brook Chine, and the farmland immediately inland.
As in previous years, plants made up the largest number of species seen, accounting for 233 species and 58% of the total. They are generally large, familiar species and stay still while you identify them!
On the other hand the tiny ants, bees, wasps, bugs and beetles, which make their home on the soft cliffs, often need an expert to find and put a name to them. There were some day-flying moths but most were attracted to a light trap set up the previous evening.
It’s difficult to pick out species for special mention but blue pimpernel, ladies bedstraw, common restharrow and greater knapweed provided splashes of colour on the cliff top and provided nectar sources for an Essex skipper (distinguished by the black tips of its antennae) and a good number of meadow browns and small skippers.
The great green bush cricket was probably the largest insect seen and the tiny black ‘thunderflies’ some of the smallest.
On the seashore, the crabs - spider crabs, shore crabs and hermit crabs - were as popular as ever and a blenny and an eel also caused some excitement!
This is the third Bioblitz event for the Isle of Wight. The others - Go wild in the Woods at Firestone Copse in 2010 saw 447 species recorded, and last year Go wild on the Downs at Brading Down notched up 330 species.
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