Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Long time no post!

Well it's been a pretty long time hasn't it? Apologies for the total lack of blogging for however many months...I have been away for much of the summer, where either a lack of internet, time or laptops has resulted in a distinct absence of blog posts here for quite some time.

Although I will get around to writing some full accounts of the places I've been and things I've seen, for now I'll just try to sum up my summer in a few sentences...back in early June, after returning to Bardsey for a week or so prior to university exams, I headed off on a family holiday to Scotland. We decided to set up camp on the delightful isles of Coll and Tiree, where we were surrounded by singing Corncrakes, quartering Hen Harriers, buzzing Snipe and piping Lapwings for a couple of weeks. I was then off to eastern Europe for the rest of the summer, working on an expedition by Operation Wallacea in the heart of Romania's stunning Transylvanian landscape. Here I would spend seven weeks running one of many different biodiversity surveys that is encompassed within the expedition: bird ringing. I took groups of students out every day to trap and ring a diverse range of bird species - showing and explaining how and why we use this technique to study bird populations, whilst at the same time trying to gain a better understanding of any changes going on within the area. I was able to join on other surveys whilst out there, from butterfly transects in lush meadows to looking for bats roosting in Saxon churches. The abundance of wildlife in a landscape so heavily maintained by traditional farming practices was breathtaking - lots more to come!

For now, a few images...

A typical Romanian scene - the village Malancrav in the Tarnavu Mare

A highlight of the trip: Brown Bear and cubs!


Romanian meadow

Yellow-bellied Toad

Cuckoo chick being fed by Marsh Warbler

Cows on their way out to pasture

White Storks in nest

Wild boar skull

Me with Hawfinch, and a highlight from the ringing side of things: Bee-eater!

Daia church spire at night

Aesculapian Snake

Convolvulus Hawkmoth

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Cornwall meanderings - revising hard

Although I am back on Bardsey Island at the moment, I thought I would write a quick blog post overviewing some of the brilliant wildlife that I was delighted to experience down in Falmouth after Easter, whilst 'revising' for exams...

Living on Bardsey for the last eight years, for all its many merits, has also meant that I haven't actually managed to get to a Bluebell wood in glorious spring bloom for a very long term. It was great to remedy this whilst back in Falmouth, and spend some time exploring countless beautiful woodlands adorned with carpets of Blue and White (Bluebell & Wild Garlic)

One of the brilliant things about being spring is the complete explosion of life, particularly at the smaller scale. It made for enjoyable procrastination from revising to be able to just pop out of the door and immediately be surrounded by a plethora of life forms to discover, photograph, identify, watch...I have included a very small selection in the collage above. 
You can find many more spring insect images in my Facebook album here

At the very top of my wish-list of animals to see whilst in the county this spring was the Basking Shark. I am lucky to be a crew member of Keith Leeve's brilliant AK Wildlife Cruises business, which runs out of Falmouth for four hour-long cruises around the surrounding coast to look for all manner of life. We had some superb weather for a couple of the cruises whilst I was around, and it enabled some pretty special encounters...

Basking Shark!

We saw plenty of Harbour Porpoise too

Another particular highlight from the cruises was watching three lovely Storm Petrels pattering the surface of a small oil slick as they fed. I have never seen Stormies out at sea, so it was great to see them in their element

I couldn't believe how pristine some of the Great Northern Divers out in the bay were! These summer-plumaged beauts should be in the arctic circle!

Closer to home (term-time), and I am very lucky to be situated close to some superb habitats for my local stomping grounds. Early morning and late evening walks were a particularly pleasant experience, and yielded some rewarding sights and scenes...
Spider webs of the species Tetragnatha obtusa in the early morning light

Argal Reservoir on a stunning evening - what you can't experience in this shot is the hundreds of Swallows and tens of Martins, Swifts and Noctule bats which spent the latter hours of dusk hawking on insects above the water's surface...

Noctules were brilliant to watch on the local reservoir, especially on calm evenings when their wing beats could be heard rustling above your head and their low-frequency echolocation prominently heard

Common Swift

A good number of House Martins set about making their dry mud nests on a nearby building where I live

Getting out and about around Cornwall with friends for photography, birding and exploratory sojourns was particularly enjoyable
one of the bays at Lizard point - the UK's most southerly point

Dalmatian Pelican! A bizarre and exhilarating bird to see in such a peculiar backdrop of the Cornish countryside

Blackbird chick

Checking one of the moth traps on campus

Brimstone moth

Green-winged Orchids at Predannack Airfield

Some brilliant Bat action, taking part in Cornwall Bat Group's check of some bat boxes in the north-east of the county. Brown Long-eared Bat is pictured top and right and left images

Black Oil Beetle

A standard cargo to take to uni, right? Moth trap, fins & snorkelling gear in a basket pannier...Cornwall is a great place! 

A parting shot of two Dandelions at sunrise

This may be my last post on the blog for a little while, as I am heading to north-west Scotland on a family holiday this Saturday; from here, I am then traveling to Romania, where I will be acting as bird ringing surveyor for Operation Wallacea on their expedition to Transylvania. I won't be back until early August, so see you then!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Tremough Bioblitz 2016

Yesterday was the day of our own #Bioblitz2016 here on campus. The day was filled with insect surveys, moth trapping, birding walks, sweep netting, pond dipping, bird ringing, bat recording and a host of activities indoors for those not so keen to brave the less-than-optimum conditions!

Despite the wet and somewhat breezy conditions to start the day off, the weather improved as the day progressed, and it turned out to be an immensely enjoyable, if a little exhausting, event! We recorded in excess of 250 species, although we are still working on the final tally. All species seen and identified were entered into the 'ERCCIS' database - that is, the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Our various activities during the day yielded some smart species, and it was great to get a good crowd of public visitors joining in with the surveys and learning about the importance of the natural world and recording everything you see! I have tried to include some of the highlights below, although they predominantly take the form of insects, as photographing birds was a little tricky in the wet weather. Please keep an eye on the Bioblitz page for more updates and hopefully a video overviewing the day's events...

The Bioblitz here on Tremough campus has been running for three years now, and is a great opportunity to discover the wealth of fauna and flora inhabiting our university grounds.

A selection of images from the day:
Cardinal Beetle! (and #Bioblitz promo!)

A new one for me, and arguably the highlight of the insect side of things: Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

Sweep netting for insects in the upper fields of campus

Will getting a closer look at an Andrena mining bee for a positive ID

There was a good turn out of people and students for some of the events. The bird ringing was, predictably, one of the most popular, and it was therefore a relief that the weather played ball in the end. We managed to catch 12 birds in total, including a Greenfinch and a Coal Tit

Aedeagus is the word...a tricky Wolf Spider proving hard to identify

Hair Shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum)

White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis)

Muslin Moth - amongst a handful of lepidoptera species recorded from the traps

A smart Red Weevil (Apion frumentarium) 

An Owl Midge of some description (Psychodidae sp.)

Rhingia campestris fly

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Yellow Dung Fly (Scathophagus stercorarius)

Green Dock Beetles (Gastrophysa viridula) - the lower individual is a female bursting with eggs!

One that has evaded identification so far...any help appreciated

 An assasin-like Bug, possibly Stenodema calcarata

Horsehair Worm - a bizarre worm whose larvae parasitise arthropods like Beetles, Crustaceans and Orthopterans (Grasshoppers)

A very smart Harvestman which I have never before seen: Nemastoma bimaculatum

In the evening we headed down to the nearby reservoirs, where we used bat detectors to reveal the presence of both Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, whilst the high-flying Noctules produced their audible echolocation calls overhead