Have you heard of Chris Packham’s UK Bioblitz? If not, it’s essentially a ten-day tour of 50 wildlife sites scattered across Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, conducted in an effort to highlight the extent to which our nation’s wildlife is under threat. With all data collected on the whirlwind tour being used to create a benchmark that will help measure the rise and fall in numbers of different species in the future.
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending one such bioblitz as a representative of the Natural History Society of Northumbria and, after a most enjoyable day in the field, can safely say that I had a blast. Sure, it was lovely to meet Chris himself – he may well be one of the most courteous and knowledgeable media personalities I have ever met – but the real joy was watching myriad people, young and old, wholly engrossed in the natural world.
The event itself took place at Havannah and Three Hills Nature Reserve: a remarkable swath of woodland, lowland heath, meadow and wetland located on the fringe of Newcastle. An urban site boasting a spectacular array of wildlife, Havana is both accessible and incredibly diverse and it was delightful to delve a little further into its ecological makeup. With personal highlights including rare Stags-Horn Clubmoss, Willow Tit, Red Squirrel, a glut of Small Heath butterflies and my first Mottled Grasshopper – a common species yet one I have previously overlooked.
Elsewhere at Havana, diligent recorders of all ages sported smiles as they foraged for fungi, ogled Nursery-Web spiders and netted a host of invertebrates ranging from opulent looking froghoppers to familiar Six-spot Burnets. Roe Deer were seen, buzzards mewed overhead throughout our stay and both clegs and ticks made much less welcome appearances throughout. Including one of the latter found lodged on my knee upon my return home.
Bioblitzes are always good fun; though, beyond that, they serve two incredibly vital purposes: they facilitate the submission of vital ecological records to Environmental Records Committees – used to track natures pulse and advise on decisions likely to impact upon the natural world – and they engage and enthuse the public. This event did both, and while I do not yet know the total species count for the day, I do know that many people had a whale of a time. Learning from experts in a plethora of fields in a wonderful outdoor setting, it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?