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

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Exams are over!
Apologies for the complete lack of updates here on my blog over the last month or so - the last few weeks have largely been taking up preparing for spring exams, although the superb weather has made knuckling down to work somewhat tricky (especially with the likes of Basking Sharks, Dalmatian Pelicans, Otters and Badgers to see!). It was a big relief to finish out last exam this morning, and marks the end of my first year at the University of Exeter. It has been a great first year, with thoroughly interesting topics and some great people.

I am looking forward to re-commencing the degree this September, after what promises to be a busy but exciting summer! I will endeavour to write a few more regular blog posts in the ensuing weeks, and will attempt to catch up on some of the activity from here in Falmouth recently too. For now, here is a spring scene from our stunning campus grounds...

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Dalmatian Pelican!

After a morning's revision, I was just tucking into my lunch when I came across the bizarre image of a Dalmatian Pelican looking very out-of-place on the sea off St Ives from Saturday. Further news updates revealed that the bird was still present, and flying around Land's End at intervals! The decision between revision and seeing a pelican in the UK did not take too long to mull over, and I messaged Max Thompson to see if he would be up for taking a look at this curious visitor.

With a positive response from Max and a plan to head off in 30 minutes, I messaged around a handful more folk to see if anyone else would be up for the trip, and ended up picking up Jack Barton before heading off at around 1330. After half an hour, we stopped off at Marazion marsh to have a quick scan of the sea - with no sign of any huge white birds, we continued towards mainland Britain's most westerly point: Land's End.

The weather conditions were less than optimal as we pulled into the car park, with a strong and chilly easterly wind driving rain into our faces as we headed out in search of the bird. It had been over an hour since the previous report had come in on Birdguides, so we headed for an amble around the point, seeing Spotted Flycatchers, Sedge Warblers, Willow Warblers, and a nice surprise in the form of three Turtle Doves together in a ploughed field. There was, however, no sign of the pelican, although we came across several birders who had either just seen it or had been narrowly missing the bird all day.

The next few hours were somewhat frustrating as we chased after reports and pulled up at sites where gathered birders exclaimed that w'ed missed the bird 'by five minutes; it flew off east towards...'.
As time was running out and the afternoon wasted away, we took one last look at Land's End before heading home. As we were driving past Sennen Church and over the brow of a hill, I suddenly saw the enormous, ungainly figure of the Pelican in the distance through the front window - a rapid handbrake stall and a bundle out of the car saw us standing by the roadside and observing this truly bizarre sight: a Dalmation Pelican gliding over the English countryside...

The bird flew right over our heads, and then headed west over Land's End, apparently settling on a pond there some time later. Looking into the story having returned home that evening, it has been revealed that the Pelican in question - an adult - is likely to be the same bird which was seen over Gorzów Wielkopolski in Poland from 6 - 11 April this year. Presumably the same bird (with distinctive wear on the outer primaries) graced Germany three times between 16 April and 1 May, before heading over to France, where it was last seen on 30 May, 30km from the German border. 

It is certainly doing the rounds! I wonder where it will head off to next...?