Monday, 16 May 2016

Why i-Record wildlife

This week has been a monumental one for many biological recorders, thanks to the new fantastic phone app by the innovative iRecord team (seriously my favourite people right now)...

Links for phone downloads here:

Why am I so excited about this (free) app? Because it effectively cuts down on hours and hours (and cups of coffee and biscuits), spent entering data into excel spreadsheets or online at the desk. Instead, you can input wildlife records swiftly and with ease while out and about, maximising time spent out in the field (hey, you could even lose weight using this app!). It's basically why I chose a hefty Samsung S5 after renewing my phone contract - to be iRecord-ready!!

Entering a biological record

The interface is clean and simple; the fields are editable just by tapping on them, but you can lock any for repeated use. The entire database of UK wildlife (scientific and common names) is pre-loaded, and it draws the locations from the phone GPS, with the added option to just select a point on a map. 

Easy to create, edit or delete whole lists of wildlife records

Most pivotally, it works offline, so all data is automatically saved onto the device, ready for when you escape the 4G-blackspot or regain WiFi. A single tap, and all of your day's wildlife sightings are uploaded to the iRecord database, ready to be verified and feed into national wildlife recording schemes!
  For my work at Gatwick this has arrived in the nick of time, as things go crazy on our two biodiversity sites at the peak of breeding season and ecological surveys are back-to-back.
Great Crested Newt egg on a leaf (photo by Rina Quinlan)

Other recent highlights include Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus), returning to breed in Pond 3 after the humane removal of hundreds of fish just last year. A successful ending to this pond project, and no better seal of approval from our newts! Many thanks to all who were involved.

BAM! Record goes in.

Our first male Long-horned Bees (Eucera longicornis) have also emerged last week; quite perfectly timed with the first flowers opening of Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) upon which these bees specifically nectar. Such amazing processes which happen beyond our detection!

Long-horned Bee with Common Vetch flower

BAM! Another record in. 

Gatwick has recently contributed a Buglife case study for this charismatic bee; you can find the publication and read more about our targeted habitat management by clicking here: Long-horned Bee at Gatwick Airport.

Eucera longicornis and a BA plane, Gatwick's North West Zone. 12/05/16

Cuckoo bees, other parasites and predators of solitary bees are also out in force and I'm only just learning about all the different varieties. Now that I'm saving on the data entry time (I <3 you iRecord!), I can finally put the guide to Bees by Steven Falk to good use. I think the lady pictured below is a Painted Nomad (Nomada fucata).. I'm happy to be corrected!

Just to top off a momentous week, we are now up to two male Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) singing clearly in the North West Zone... and potentially even a third! I'll continue checking the site after evening moth and newt surveys; it would be incredible if they managed to breed here.

On the subject of Nightingales, I was recently shown this link by David Plummer - it's a famous recording of Nightingales signing in a Surrey garden on May 19th 1942. In the background, at about 2 minutes 30 seconds in, 197 Wellington and Lancaster bombers can be heard flying overhead on a raid to Germany. When you think about the violence and destruction these planes were portending, it gives the Nightingale song a rather melancholic edge.

Perhaps not so far from the site where that recording was taken, we unwittingly created a an updated version with a sound backdrop of a modern aerodrome.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

And a Nightingale sang in... Gatwick Airport?!

Roving Records: North West Zone 3rd May 2016

There are certain clues that it will be a day of burgeoning wildlife, such as an incredibly warm morning after an extended cold snap. As soon as we got out of the car we spotted a flock of Swifts (Apus apus) high overhead, screaming as they drifted northwards - the first of 2016 for our site.

Scrub and grassland west of Brockley Wood

We wandered through a cacophony of different warbler songs; Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Garden Warbler could all be heard here.

Reed beds along the River Mole

Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) are summer visitors from Sub-Saharan Africa, and they have now begun their chugging tunes along the River Mole...

A young male Kestrel seemed to watch us disapprovingly, until the alarm calls of small woodland birds caused it to move on.

My 2nd worst picture ever taken of a Kestrel (yes, there are worse)

Walking our usual reptile transect, we counted 6 Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) under the refugia, including a massive adult female and 2 tiny juveniles (probably last year's hatchlings). There was no sign of the unusually striped or black individuals from last year.

A faded yellow collar on a Grass Snake can indicate an aged individual

Of course, it is not just the reptiles using these mats...

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

A young vole, possibly Short-tailed Vole (Microtus agrestis)

Glow-worm larva (Lampyris noctiluca)

Donald meets his first ever Glow-worm

As we stood up from replacing a reptile mat, a low, bubbling call made Donald and myself exchange the exact same quizzical look, and a hesitation to be the first to speak...

   'That's a.....'
   'Nightingale!' Donald finished.

As if on cue, a wonderful stream of notes, then it blasted into full song. This really is an exciting find, so as soon as got back to the computer I trawled Gatwick's old ecological reports... yes, this is a new species for the site! 

I popped back around 11pm last night with Katherine to take this recording

We suspect this male might be a bit out on a limb here, so fingers crossed that a passing female hears him too. Although they can be heard in the daytime, they are definitely best heard at night, when all the other birds have quietened down.
Nightingale from The RSPB on Vimeo.

Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) are a rapidly declining species in UK, largely due to the loss of their out-grown, scrubby habitats. Fortunately a few nature reserves such as the Knepp Re-wilding project have become hotspots for these birds. They only tend to sing from May until early June, so get your Nightingale fix now and book onto a Knepp Safari !