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Blitz that Biodiversity!

September 6, 2010

By Steve

No, it’s not a post by Becky of Sams Amazing Supersquad fame, It’s me, Steve – the bloke that runs the show!  Anyway, last weekend we held a BioBlitz in Corfe Mullen.  Don’t know what a BioBlitz is?

All together now, say 'BioBlitz!'

It might sound like a new eco version of a popular washing powder, but it’s actually far more exciting than that!

I’ll start by setting the scene…  It was May (I think) and Jane popped into the Urban Wildlife Centre for a meeting.  She casually drops into the conversation that she would like to organise a BioBlitz for Corfe Mullen and wouldn’t it be a great idea for the Wildlife Trust to be involved.  I have to say, yes I wholeheartedly agreed – it’s absolutely right up there with our engaging communities work.

You’re still none the wiser are you?  Well, a BioBlitz is simply a gathering of species records for a certain area over a specified amount of time.  Bristol led that way with a 24 hour Blitz, the New Forest did one recently, Lancashire have done a few (gluttons for punishment up there!).  There was some early talk about doing an East Dorset BioBlitz, which we quickly decided against – and I am so glad we did!

So, after a bit of thinking we decided to go ahead with it, for the end of August, covering the Parish of Corfe Mullen – for 12 hours.   Jane set to work, in her impressively organised way.  Before long she had a list of experts signed up to come along and identify bugs, plants, lichens, insects – you name it, Jane had an expert lined up for it!  She even managed to get the BBC to agree to come down and do some audio recording!

It's the man from the telly and the man from the radio

The day dawned bright.  Quite a relief really, as it was the first day for about a week when it didn’t rain.  Some say we were lucky, others say it was just that the weather front moved on.  Personally, I think Jane probably had something to do with it -probably had a tick against the box that said ‘Book good weather for the day’.

Arriving at BioBlitz HQ (otherwise known as the Village Hall) nice and early, there was already a bit of a buzz around the site.  Lots of people in the HQ, and the first records already filtering in ready to be uploaded into the database – so I did what any seasoned old professional does in these circumstances.  I put up the banners and the gazebos!

Some of the insects were rather small!

Jane, not surprisingly had found a celebrity to open the event. Hugh Miles ( the blokey from Springwatch, who did the fish films and got Chris Packham to wear a funny hat and shades) said a few words and off we all went in search of species..  There were people everywhere!  The Churches were popular and a guided walk on Upton Heath also came up with the goods.  Nicky led a walk to Pardy’s Copse, came back for a bite of lunch then headed off to do Stoney Down as well.  I got stuck into St Nicholas Church grounds before heading down to the River Stour, leading a walk at Bear Mead.

It was hectic!  Records poured in all day – and the poor volunteers who were putting all the data into the laptops where fighting a losing battle to stay on top of it all.  They all deserve medals for sticking at it throughout the day!

A quiet moment at Blitz HQ...

Bear Mead was fab!  I’ve never been there before, but walking along the river picking up species like kingfisher, brown hawker, dace, brown argus on such a lovely day really was a special time.  No signs of otters though, which pretty much every one of the 50 or so people at the site had wanted to find – not much chance in broad daylight of course, but one can always hope!

The time flew by and before long it was 8pm – time for me to lead the last walk of the day.  It was still a bit light for bats, so we walked over to a line of trees while I talked about how bats echolocate and how moths could hear bats..  I was in full flow when the detectors burst into life and a pipistrelle zoomed over our heads.  That was it, nobody was listening to me any more – there was a bat to listen to!  It was soon joined by another two bats, and in the good light you could see the brown colour very clearly.

We moved down to the Church grounds in the hope of picking up another species, and were rewarded by a Natterers bat feeding around the area of the duckpond.  It was at this point that a familiar friend flew over – a nightjar flying over Corfe Mullen!  It was to be the last record for the day -and a fitting end to what was a very busy, tiring and above all, rewarding 12 hours..

BBC Radio 4’s Saving Species programme has an item about the Corfe Mullen Bioblitz featuring brief interviews with Jane Adams, Nicky Hoar and others to be broadcast at 11am on Tuesday 7th Sept, repeated Thursday 9th at 9pm and available also on iplayer and as a podcast. Further details (and to hear again after these live dates) go to www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tmlh0

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Nicky permalink
    September 6, 2010 4:38 pm

    Great to hear about the bits I wasn’t at! My lot had a brilliant time too, discovering parts of the village we’d never seen before, finding a hornet’s nest, siskins in the pinewoods, zillions of butterflies and some amazing old trees and struggling with fungi identification…

  2. September 6, 2010 4:43 pm

    And the species count so far has reached just over 500! Yes, 500! and there’s still lots more recording forms for me to enter. What an amazing day. Thank you to everyone for being involved. Am I really that bossy? Don’t answer that! Jane

  3. September 6, 2010 5:34 pm

    That’s a fantastic total of over 500 species in one day. Great that you allowed that man with a ferret to move amongst you. I hope you enjoy the programme tomorrow. Andrew (the man from the radio)

  4. Hilly permalink
    September 6, 2010 8:13 pm

    Great write up Steve. It was a fantatsic day and I loved the way that folk made the most of the opportunity to network as well as collecting masses of data to give Jane lots of work to do. (Do tell me, was that the idea?) Now then, who is going to help get the next one organised? Can we enlist volunteers while we still have this amazing enthusiasm still bubbling away? Perhapsthe BBC could enlist some of their team of merry men and women who help with Spring Watch? We only covered a fraction of what Corfe Mullen has to offer and, as Steve says, there’s the rest of East Dorset beckoning. We desperately need these wildlife records to ensure we have evidence of how special our habitats are and to provide baseline data for informed decisions on mitigating climate change.

  5. September 7, 2010 7:31 am

    Hilly has reminded me that there is one record that no one seems to have written down, and that’s “Homo sapien”! Steve says above that there were people everywhere… so I’m not quite sure how many to record. They do seem to pop up in all sorts of habitats!

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