Back in June we organised The Ecology Centre’s first ever BioBlitz. This is a concept that has gained much popularity in recent years and can be defined as an intense period of biological surveying to record as many species as possible within a designated area. If you wish to conserve your wildlife, it helps if you know exactly what you’ve got and what its requirements are.
On a lovely warm Saturday morning a team of a dozen or so experts in fields ranging from millipedes to mosses, and most things in between, assembled around the loch and set out identifying everything they could find. Armed with hand-lenses, sweep-nets and specimen pots they returned to base several hours later with a staggering total of around 540 records.
Of course some species were recorded by more than one observer but, after collation and analysis, our grand total of different species comprised 156 plants, 35 birds, 81 butterflies and moths, 5 damselflies, about 50 flies of various types, 7 bees, 4 millipedes, 8 spiders and a handful of other miscellany.
One of the most notable plants found was western waterweed. Kinghorn Loch is its only known locality in Fife. Another goodie was lesser water-parsnip, a declining species with only one other site in the kingdom. Hedgerow crane’s-bill and wood speedwell were among other scarce plants discovered.
The most exciting bird was the peregrine falcon that was soaring around for ten minutes and just about managed to get itself on to the list by passing over the loch. It was nice to see a few swifts too, a bird now officially classed as “endangered” following a shocking 51% drop in UK numbers in just 20 years.
The event coincided with the monthly onsite moth survey organised by the Craigencalt Rural Community Trust and co-ordinated by Gerald Lincoln, so we were able to feed the results into our data. Nine overnight moth traps are spread around a variety of different habitats and the captives are inspected, identified and counted before release, unharmed of course, the following morning. Amongst the catch were Beautiful Golden Y, Flame Carpet, Scalloped Hazel and Muslin Footman (the Victorian naturalists who gave many of our British moths their common names had great imaginations!)
In contrast to a good variety of moths, it was disappointing to find only three species of butterfly, but happily there have been more around as the summer has progressed.
The survey produced a great array of different flies of all shapes and sizes, including bottle-flies, soldier-flies, hoverflies, snipeflies and scorpion flies. A Tetanocera ferruginea, a type of snail-eating fly found resting on a buttercup, was probably the first of its kind ever found in Fife. The hoverfly Chalcosyrphus nemorum has been found at only one other site. Some of the flies even out-shone the moths in terms of the weird and wonderful names that have been bestowed upon them. For the winner it’s hard to choose between the Downlooker Snipefly and the Murky-legged Black Legionnaire.
Our experts came up with an impressive five species of bumblebee as well as a mining bee and plenty of honeybees. Also worthy of mention are two types of earwig, several beetles, a Cream-spot Ladybird (which incidentally has the most tongue-twisting scientific name of the day: Calvia quattuordecimguttata) and even five different plant galls, defined by the British Plant Gall Society (who knew?!) as “an abnormal growth produced by a plant or other host under the influence of another organism”.
The BioBlitz really brought home to us just how much variety of life there is lurking amongst the vegetation, most of it unseen by the casual observer. The wealth of wildlife uncovered reassures us that the conservation measures being taken around the loch are paying dividends. Management of the land can be fine-tuned to attract even more species and we’ll be applying our minds to this over the next few months.
We hope to run another BioBlitz next year, probably at a slightly different time of year to catch a few species that may not have been around this time. Our grateful thanks go to everyone who took part and helped to make it such a great success.
More BioBlitz information will be available at our Summer Festival, to be held here at The Ecology Centre on Saturday the 8th of September from 12pm to 4pm.
A few photos from the day:
Cream Spot Ladybird