Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Roving Records - March 2015

Always at this time of the year I get severe fomo (fear of missing out) with online social networks kicking off about signs of spring. This week Mum galvanised me into action, dragging me away from the endless deskwork and in the last two days we've placed out around 100 reptile surveying mats and tins between us.

Reptile tin next to log pile

Wandering around in Ashley's Field, large queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) were exploding up from the ground as we walked by.


A pair of Common Buzzards were calling noisily overhead in a soaring territorial display. I then finally heard my first Chiffchaff song of the year, having been duped by a Great Tit who last week was expertly mimicking the call.


Common Frog (Rana temporaria) spawn in wheel ruts, North West Zone

So now the amphibians are out and about at Gatwick, this means their reptilian predators are not far behind them! 

Sue's got some tagging skills fam...

Spray paint is used to number reptile mats cut from shed roofing felt. We place them in the most likely spots to tempt our reptilian friends; generally by low scrub or brash piles on the side where the sun hits.

Reptile charging pad

A few of the mats were left out over winter, so we had a quick check hoping for our first glimpse of a Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) this year. This was what we found...

Practising my new found carabid-wrangling skills; a colourful Poecilus aka 'Greenclock' Beetle

Wolf Spiders (Pardosa sp.) are also hiding out under mats in large numbers

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

...Sadly no snakey. Yet.

Path through to Upper Picketts - finally drying out

Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

Nice to see that our standing deadwood habitat is being put to good use

video
Didn't dare to get too close without the suit!

The background static noise to this video is actually the sound of the Gatsbees (Gatwick's honeybees), which are wide awake and busily collecting Willow pollen for their new broods. At this time of year, the early flowering Willow and Blackthorn are an incredibly important nectar source for the earliest emerging species of bees and flies. Time again for the sweep-net to come out of hibernation!