Wednesday 15 June 2016

Gatwick Goes Wild in 2016

As part of The Wildlife Trusts' 30 Days Wild campaign, the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership held a six-day program of events in early June, engaging airport staff with the wealth of wildlife on their doorstep. Everyone got really stuck in and despite the occasional rain shower, we had rewarding encounters with small mammals, Grass Snakes, Banded Demoiselles, Long-horned Bees and Harvest Mice!

A huge thank you to Tom S., Tom F., Kevin, Lucy, Martyn and Richard for hosting this series of events and to all the volunteers and attendees for making the effort to visit. Below are a few picture highlights from the week....

Day 1. Small mammals and Harvest Mice

The morning was spent checking 10 longworth traps, identifying and releasing the occupants. On this occasion, we only trapped one small Wood Mouse...

Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)

The wet weather meant not many insects were out on the wing, but closely checking the vegetation we found things roosting up, trying to keep dry...

A Snakefly! I don't think I've ever seen one of these before. Apparently we have 4 species in the UK

Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) clinging on to a Bluebell in the rain

The wildlife was not the only thing caught out by the rain...

Mr Simpson; 'All the gear, no idea!'


Lucy's talk with the Harvest Mice in Gatwck's offices went down very well, although the journey to the meeting room took a little longer than we anticipated...

Erm, which way to departures?

In the meeting room at Gatwick's South Terminal offices

Lucy is an animal keeper and charismatic speaker at the British Wildlife Centre, who kindly gave up her free time to visit us with her captive-bred Harvest Mice. These little guys will be released into the wild once they are fully grown.

Harvest Mice (Micromys minutus)

Day 2: Family bushcraft day

Tom Simpson has a secret forest school, hidden away in Goat Meadow, land east of the runway. We were invited to visit his site, tracking the wildlife and learning how to build a safe and sturdy shelter for protection from the elements... 

Tree leaf identification

A little moth caught by young Oliver - the Common Tubic (Alabonia geofrella)

Roe Deer tracks (Capreolus capreolus)

The super-shelter was constructed in the nick of time, as it began to pour down with rain!

By the afternoon, even the interior was being well insulated! But what good is a shelter without a flag? 

Leaf-printing with natural materials

Some sort of semaphore system?

As a final reward at the end of the day, we found this sleepy curled-up Grass Snake under a refugia...

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) with the distinctive bright yellow collar

Day 3: Riverside Walk

 A short walk away from the South Terminal, we met up with Tom Forward at Riverside Garden Park. We examined the contents of the moth trap Tom had placed out the previous evening, then took a quick stroll to see what else might be hiding out in the nearby grasslands...

Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma)

Tom does an excellent Kingfisher impersonation (the call that is, not the flight)

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) male

One of our most colourful bumblebees - Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) male

Day 4: Even more mammals

The camera trap from the night before brought us some lovely footage of a male Roe Deer...

Over to the traps. and this time we had caught 4 different species of small rodent - Wood Mouse, Yellow-necked Mouse, Short-tail Vole and Bank Vole.

Short tailed Vole (Microtus agrestis)

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis)

...and at lunchtime there was more Harvest Mouse action in the Gatwick meeting rooms

Even local celebrity TinyBirder had heard about it and came to see for himself...

Afternoon: Bat box checks

We had a fantastic walk through the River Mole woodlands, accompanying Kevin Lerwill and local bat ecologist Martyn Cooke as they checked the new bat boxes.

Woodland birds were in full song, and the ground flora was rich with ancient woodland indicator species.

Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula)

Bat box on an Oak tree

We were incredibly fortunate to be able to see a Soprano Pipistrelle in the hand; great confirmation that our bat boxes are being put to good use! 

Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)

Saturday & Sunday: BeeWalk Training

Richard Comont from Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) visited us again a year on, delivering another weekend of Bumblebee identification training. Richard is a brilliant entomologist and another Pan-species Lister, so it's always a privilege to spend time out in the field with him.

This very popular course is run by the BBCT for free each year, at different locations around the UK...

Destinations Place, South Terminal Offices

In the afternoon we nipped over to the River Mole site, and luckily for us the weather was warming up...

Early Bumblebee (Bombus patorum) on Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen (Bombus terrestris)

Another cool find was this Rhinoceros Beetle (Sinodendron cylindricum)

We were also lucky to be able to provide Richard with a new tick for his life-list; Gatwick's very own Long-horned Bees!  

Long-horned Bee (Eucera longicornis)

Truly one of the best weeks I've ever had at work, I really hope it was as much fun for everyone else!

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