First Garden Bioblitz (2013) a big success

The 23 million gardens in Britain contain 5 million bird boxes and 29 million trees in their million acres.  Although much of what most people think of as wildlife ­ the likes of badgers, osprey, and deer ­ are more associated with wilder areas, there are plenty of smaller species quite at home living alongside people.  While hedges and fences serve as boundaries in human terms, they're a trifling obstacle to most (although not all) wildlife.  At the smaller end of the spectrum, scrubby corners of the lawn can host entire populations of snails, springtails and similar, undisturbed by the outside world, while birds, butterflies and the like can happily soar or flutter up and down entire streets or more.

First national Garden Bioblitz

On the weekend of the 1-2 June 2013, the first nationwide Garden Bioblitz to survey the wildlife of Britain’s gardens took place.  For 24 hours over the weekend, hundreds of people all over the UK scoured their gardens for wildlife of all shapes and sizes ­ birds in the trees, ants in the lawn, bees on flowers, and the trees and flowers themselves were all spotted and recorded. By the end of the recording period, 495 people had submitted 22,632 records of 2,424 taxa, of which 1,743 have been identified to species.

National publicity and online recording

Using the Biological Records Centre’s (BRC’s) new cross-taxa recording website, iRecord, a team of five of us (Liz Shaw, John van Breda, Jane Adams, Ryan Clark & Richard Comont) spent the spring setting everything up.  We wanted the bioblitz to be accessible to everyone, not just experienced naturalists, so a lot of effort went into simplifying the recording form on iRecord, and creating a checklist of 20 common garden species for beginners to look out for. We also put a lot of time into promoting the event on twitter, and via a series of blog posts for the National Trust, NBN, OPAL and the RSPB.  The event was mentioned in a bioblitz-themed edition of BBC Wildlife magazine, and, on the Thursday before the big event, BBC 2’s Springwatch finished with a five-minute section of the presenters carrying out their own Garden Bioblitz.

A social media virtual field trip

When the big day came, the social media aspect made the Garden Bioblitz feel like a virtual field trip ­ people were scouring their gardens and sharing their findings and photographs of interesting specimens in real time. Identification became a fast, interactive process, with links to useful sites posted, experts weighing in on species ID (and pointing out when it’s just not possible from a photo!), and the excellent iSpot site in heavy use.

The totals

When the dust had settled, 1,743 species had been identified, with a further 681 identified to genus or above.  Plants were the biggest group (687 species), possibly reflecting the uncertain weather (and the comparative ease of working on something that doesn't fly off as soon as it sees you!), but insects were close behind on 605. Birds didn't quite reach three figures, with 92 species spotted. 

The full results can still be seen at the Garden Bioblitz Info Centre
 

Taxon Group

Species

Insect group

Species

Plants

687

Moths

159

Insects

605

Beetles

124

Other inverts

185

Flies

97

Birds

92

Bugs

77

Lichens

50

Bees, wasps & ants

71

Fungi

49

Butterflies

25

Mosses and liverworts

35

Springtails

18

Mammals

27

Dragonflies and damselflies

9

Amphibians and reptiles

8

Barkflies

5

Fish

4

Lacewings

5

Bacteria

1

Other species

15

Number of species found per group

Almost half the UK’s butterflies were seen, alongside more exotic creatures like scorpionflies, but the most-spotted group were moths, with 159 species putting in an appearance.  It was striking how few bees, moths, and particularly ladybirds were seen, despite many people looking out for them specially - last year's washout of a summer, followed by a long, cold winter and spring (on top of the pre-existing long-term declines) seemed to have done nasty things to the populations of these charismatic insects.  Fortunately, the warm summer that we had from mid-June onwards seems to have at least partly restored populations to their normal levels!

Some interesting finds!

Some findings were particularly noteworthy.  There were garden Pine Martens (Martes martes) in Scotland, a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) in Norwich, and six records of Ravens (Corvus corax).  Roe (Capreolus capreolus), Fallow (Dama dama) and Muntjac Deer (Muntiacus reevesi) all showed up, along with the bright pink Rosy Woodlouse (Androniscus dentiger) and luminous yellow Brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteola). Several individuals of one of Britain’s biggest beetles, the Maybug (Melolontha melolontha), were spotted bumbling around lights, along with only the 20th British record of a tiny black-and-red  ladybird, Scymnus interruptus.

It's not the size of your garden that counts

David Fenwick's Penzance garden was particularly striking, a 10-metre by 10-metre square producing 189 species, including a springtail and flatworm both currently unnamed by science, and another half-dozen flatworm species more at home in Australia than Cornwall - clearly an amazing site!

Same time next year?

We’ve decided to go for the same weekend next year ­ 31st May-1st June.  Details will appear here on the Garden Bioblitz website over the next few months, and if you fancy attending a more traditional bioblitz, the program of next year’s events will soon be up on the Bristol Natural History Consortium website.

Thank you!

Once again, we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who made the Garden Bioblitz possible, and to all those who took part - we couldn’t have done it without you!
 

common frog

Common frog tadpole

small skipper rc 22-07-2012 14-28-02

Small skipper butterfly

lesser swallow prominent-004

Lesser swallow prominent

megachile centuncularis female

Megachile sp. - solitary bee

Badger - Jane Adams

Badger

speckled bush cricket 21-07-2012 12-12-52

Speckled bush cricket

long horn beetle strangalia maculata 21-07-2012 14-58-47

The Black & yellow long horn beetle

 
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