Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Record-breaking recorders

In the last 2 weeks I have been on holiday, been pretty unwell and been extremely busy preparing for the initial Biodiversity Benchmark audit here at Gatwick. As a result I haven't been able to get out in the field much, but happily I got my natural history fix last weekend after a biological recording day at the Knepp Estate in West Grinstead.
Mark Telfer and other pan-species listers, beating vegetation and catching invertebrates

Here I met an eclectic bunch of diligent, passionate and frankly hard-core naturalists, some of who are professional conservationists or ecologists, many who simply love the natural world and set themselves the lifetime challenge of observing as much of it as possible. These are the pan-species listers and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them to get a snapshot into their pursuits; from lichens and fungi, to beetles, birds and everything in between.

Mark using a pooter to collect up the tiny deadwood beetles for identification

 These guys and girls contribute an incredible amount to species records around Britain, often collecting data on lesser-known organisms and even discovering new unrecorded species. (Some may call it odd, I call it diligence that they travel so far in order to find a not-so-fresh deer carcass, donning their gloves and giving it a thorough cavity search for carrion-feeding invertebrates dwelling inside...) You can meet them and follow their progress on Mark Telfer's website: http://markgtelfer.co.uk/listing/
   I am rather new to ecology and seemingly much too distracted and indecisive right now to choose one species group to focus on learning. Below are my photos from the weekend, a very small sample of the showier species which we recorded:

Beetles:
A wasp-mimicking species of Longhorn Beetle (Clytus arietis)

Black-headed Cardinal (Pyrochroa coccinea)

Malachite Beetle Malachius bipustulatus (this one gave me a tiny nip)

Dragonflies and Damselflies (netted with my new insect net):

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)

Male and female Azure Damselflies in tandem (Coenagrion puella)

Female Scarce Chaser Dragonfly (Libellula fulva)

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

Moths (mostly from the overnight moth traps):

Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata)

Longhorn Moth (Nemophora degeerella)

Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae)

Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina)

White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda)

Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula)

Poplar Hawkmoth (Laothoe populi)

Iron Prominent (Notodonta dromedarius)

 A rewilding project has been in place at the Knepp Estate for 13 years, based on a natural grazing regime in the old agricultural grasslands and the restoration of the River Adur floodplain to its natural function. This involves stepping back from hands-on land management, intervening as little as possible and letting nature dictate what happens. The idea is then to annually record the species and observe any of the changes over time in what turns up.

The wild Exmoor Ponies which freely roam the Knepp Estate

This exciting and long-term project contrasts greatly with our here method at Gatwick: our habitats are very small, fragmented and at times affected by airport operations, so we have to intervene in order to keep the ecosystems functioning. It has all been a great education for me on the different methods of wildlife conservation and countryside management. You can read more about Knepp Wildland project here www.knepp.co.uk