Our dedicated volunteer and RSB member Jean Wilson MBE C.Biol FRSB reflects on the 2018 Bioblitz.
Flanked by primary school ecowarriors from the local area, Lancashire born Mike Harding was our guest celebrity at the beginning of the 24 hour BioBlitz. Mike is a renowned comedian, author, poet and presenter who has fished the rivers of the north of England for more than 60 years, he has noticed many negative changes in riparian habitats; as he told the gathering at the park, “We are drinking at the last chance saloon and activities such as the BioBlitz which raise awareness of environmental issues are to be applauded”. So at noon on Friday June 22nd under direction from Mike, the eight children each raised a placard bearing a letter to spell out the word BIOBLITZ! and so the official recording began.
The 2015 BioBlitz had been a comparatively modest affair compared to the aims of those of 2018, under the umbrella organisation of the Wyre Waters Catchment Partnership, a number of organisations were involved in the planning and execution including the Hillhouse International Love My Beach, RNLI, Royal Society of Biology, Wyre Council and Wyre Rivers Trust each contributing their own expertise, passion, commitment, time and money!
Under azure blue skies in beautiful sunshine amateur and professional Biologists gathered from far and wide to record, survey and validate the presence of species, from the microscopic phytoplankton to the impressive grey seal. Many of the areas were surveyed in the days prior to the actual BioBlitz because of restrictions of tides, availability of boats and equipment, so that only confirmation was needed in the BioBlitzing!!
The dedication of the volunteers was commendable, Ian Coote took a whole week off work to conduct detailed bird transects along the coast and river banks but he was dutifully rewarded by the presence of 2 Little Ringed Plovers, a Mute Swan with cygnets and a Greylag goose complete with collar. Tom Myerscough, Programme Manager for the Wyre Rivers Trust and 3 volunteers trekked one and a half miles out across the sands of Morecambe Bay to seine net in the Wyre channel, trapping and releasing Garfish, Plaice, Flounder, Herring and Sole. Over 100 small mammal traps were set each day for 3 days in the area enabling Alan and Hilary Bedford to list 30 Bank voles, 1 Field Vole, 29 Wood Mice and 1 common Shrew. A small number of Bank Voles and Wood Mice became celebrities in their own right when they settled down nicely to be subjects for the Wildlife Photography session run by Mike Clapham and Geoffrey Holroyd.
The opportunity to survey the industrial site of Hillhouse International with its particular and varied habitats was too tempting to resist for Eric Greenwood and David Earle, they also took pleasure in visiting the exposed clay drumlins on the right bank of the river near Burrows Marsh. Those who accompanied this dynamic botanical pairing could not help to be overwhelmed by their passion and enthusiasm, their eye for detail gave us the first ever sighting in VC60 of the bramble Rubus multifidus, Rubus latifolius was recorded at its southern limit, two other highlights recorded were Curled Dock Rumex crispus and a sub-species Plantago major intermedia. Other experts explored freshwater habitats, Chris and Jenny Gibson revealed their finding in the temporary laboratory set up in the Riverside Room. I had forgotten how enchanting Volvox could be! Barry Brigden and Malcolm Evans swept grassland for hoverflies, bees and butterflies, Karen Lawson and Paul Ellis trapped moths, Jennifer Sharples recorded salt marsh species, Charlie Pass engaged many with his late night bat walk.
The substantial marquee set up on site was the home for groups of volunteers and organisations who care about the River Wyre and its environs. On the Friday it resembled a school annexe, where the children were engaged in the construction of bug hotels and board games, members of the Royal Society of Biology carried out owl pellet dissections, the Over Wyre Art Society encouraged and guided in the painting of butterflies, Sea Life Blackpool highlighted the presence of sharks in local seas and explained their different life cycles, there was a nature walk along the banks of the estuary, Love My Beach demonstrated the right way to use a toilet! And the persistence of plastic in the oceans. The wildlife photography of some of the children with their iPads was definitely on a par with the professionals who brandished expensive cameras with substantial lenses.
On the Saturday these groups were joined by community organisations including the local General Practice PPG who highlighted the importance of pollinators in fruit production and the benefits of a healthy diet, giving away fruit and vegetables donated by local supermarkets, this group were appropriately placed next to the local beekeepers. The need for sustainable flood defences was demonstrated by Flood Action Groups from Churchtown and Thornton and issues associated with wildlife were demonstrated by Lancashire Wildlife Trust.
At the hub of all the surveying is Dr. David Wareing who is collecting the data, analysing the results and dispatching it to the relevant organisations, not an easy task especially when it comes to deciphering the handwriting of some recorders! At this moment in time we are on course for recording well over 400 species!
They say an army marches on its stomach and we are truly grateful to the catering excellence of Barbara Matley and Jackie Williams who ensured that all were fed and watered for the full 24 hours. Lunchtimes enabled the BioBlitzers to engage in fruitful discussions and to renew friendships. Feedback from schools and participants has been extremely positive, some asking “Are you doing it next year?”……….AGHHHH!!!
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