How many species are there at Brandon Marsh…? #30DaysWild

Any guesses?

On Saturday 20th June we held a BioBlitz at Brandon Marsh Nature Centre. For anyone who doesn’t know, a BioBlitz is a race against time to find as many species as possible in a set period of time – for us just six and a half hours.

Survey equipment
Survey equipment
FSC guides - an invaluable resource for the would-be surveyor
FSC guides – an invaluable resource for the would-be surveyor

With the help of survey equipment that could be borrowed from basecamp, and experts from a whole range of natural history groups who were on hand to help to identify unknown species, visitors braved the rain and headed off to do their own surveys of Brandon Marsh. Guided walks also yielded a large number of species, and gave some fantastic in-the-field advice to all who were looking to learn more about a specialist subject, anything from botany, to reptiles and amphibians, birds, and mammals.

Tanya from Warwickshire Mammal Group explains how longworth traps work. The traps are filled with bedding material and food, and left overnight. When the small mammal walks in to take advantage of the feast the door closes the behind them, allowing surveyors to find out who is in there in the morning.
Tanya from Warwickshire Mammal Group explains how longworth traps work. The traps are filled with bedding material and food, and left overnight. When the small mammal walks in to take advantage of the feast the door closes the behind them, allowing surveyors to find out who is in there in the morning.
Ben from Warwickshire Mammal Group takes a closer look at a bank vole. The surveyors are trained in handling small mammals, and holding them by the scruff off the neck relaxes them because it is how parents carry their young. At the BioBlitz we found this bank vole, a field vole and a common shrew. Bank voles can be identified by their chestnut coloured fur.
Ben from Warwickshire Mammal Group takes a closer look at a bank vole. The surveyors are trained in handling small mammals, and holding them by the scruff off the neck relaxes them because it is how parents carry their young. At the BioBlitz we found this bank vole, a field vole and a common shrew. Bank voles can be identified by their chestnut coloured fur.

So what was the magic number? Well, after checking longworth traps, going pond dipping, looking under reptile refugia, watching from the bird hides, and scouring the meadow, the wetland, and the woodland, we recorded…..

291 species!

It was a fantastic result, especially for a remarkably wet June day. To take the a look at all the different species we found, just click the link –> Brandon_Bioblitz_2015.

Ian from WART (Warwickshire Amphibian and Reptile Team) leads a pond dipping session. Although we didn't see any newts (most have returned to land following the breeding season), we found some dragonfly larvae, pond skaters and quite a few snails!
Ian from WART (Warwickshire Amphibian and Reptile Team) leads a pond dipping session. Although we didn’t see any newts (most have returned to land following the breeding season), we found some dragonfly larvae, pond skaters and quite a few snails!

However, despite this success we’re convinced that we didn’t manage to find everything. In fact we’re certain of it. Different weathers, different times of day (and of course just more hours!) allow you to see, or at least see evidence of, a much wider variety of species. And that’s where you can help us! We’re always keen to hear of sightings from any of our nature reserves, and you can even get stuck in with our day to day surveys. Sightings and survey information help us to understand where certain species are, and therefore to evaluate and improve the management of our reserves to ensure that we’re doing the best possible job for wildlife.

The magnificent bee orchid, one of the 3 species of orchid recorded during the BioBlitz. The orchid is adapted to mimic a bee feeding on a flower, in an attempt to lure in male bees who are hoping to find a mate. When the bees land and attempt to mate they will leave behind their pollen, therefore pollinating the orchid. However, in the UK we don't have the right species of bee, so bee orchids are actually self-pollinating here!
The magnificent bee orchid, one of the 3 species of orchid recorded during the BioBlitz. The orchid is adapted to mimic a bee feeding on a flower, in an attempt to lure in male bees who are hoping to find a mate. When the bees land and attempt to mate they will leave behind their pollen, therefore pollinating the orchid. However, in the UK we don’t have the right species of bee, so bee orchids are actually self-pollinating here!

So what can you do?

  • Fill in our sightings form on our website – what have you seen? Anything goes!
  • Find out about our volunteering opportunities to get more involved in wildlife surveys – including joining our dedicated volunteer group, Survey Force. There’s no minimum time commitment and no expertise required (we’ll provide plenty of help and training), and you get first dibs on fantastic free training workshops that will give you access to new skills.
All the natural history groups who attended the BioBlitz and provided their expert assistance
All the natural history groups who attended the BioBlitz and provided their expert assistance

As a final note, we would just like to say an enormous thank you to all the groups and volunteers who came and supported the BioBlitz, those who led the guided walks and the representatives from OPAL and the Rutland Osprey Project who gave the talks. Please do contact any of these groups if you think that you would like to know more about their work or get involved. Thanks also to Birmingham Airport for their donation of £250 to buy new equipment, and to Sainsbury’s in Canley who donated much-needed refreshments for our volunteers.

See you all soon – out surveying no doubt!

Emma

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