A weekend of wildlife

– From bugs and bees to plants and trees

Last weekend, the Biodiversity Gardens Project hosted their annual BioBlitz event at Sutton Ecology Centre. The BioBlitz was aimed at gathering as many species records as possible within 24 hours from ‘citizen scientists’. People from all over the borough joined us to do their bit for wildlife and get the chance to meet our native species up close.

Friday evening – moth trapping and bat walk

To launch our BioBlitz event, we were joined by families, keen individuals and local wildlife experts for an evening with bats and moths at the Ecology Centre. Biodiversity Manager, Hendryk Jurk, led the evening with a fascinating talk on our local bat and moth species. Amazing facts were to be learnt, such as that caterpillars only have 6 legs and that bats are the only true flying mammal. As dusk approached, the group were supplied with bat detectors and were soon joined by a common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) swooping over their heads.  A check of the moth traps later on in the evening revealed mostly caddis flies. However, some interesting moth species were found nearby, including the beautiful white plume moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla), which looks rather angelic!

Saturday – main BioBlitz event

The main BioBlitz event saw the Ecology Centre grounds transformed into a life-sized board game with 3 zones (Aqua, Jade and Amber) to find and explore.

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On arrival, families were given the chance to hire our Nature Discovery Backpacks packed full of wildlife gadgets for kids to use on their exploration of the Ecology Centre. Everyone was equipped with a programme that detailed a map of the 3 zones and a ‘stamp’ page to collect once each zone had been visited. This entitled our intrepid wildlife explorers to a free copy of our Garden Wildlife Calendar.

The Aqua zone marked the starting point for our BioBlitzers, where they could grab some nets for a spot of pond dipping.  One boy managed to find a water scorpion (Nepa cinerea), a species of insect which superficially resembles a real scorpion but has a bite, rather than a sting!

The Jade zone encompassed the meadow area of the Ecology Centre and here people could explore the wonderful world of ‘marvellous meadows’.  The main event was the Butterfly Sweep, where children and adults could exercise their skills at butterfly catching, with one star butterfly catcher managing to capture 5 butterflies including a brown argus (Arcia agestis).This species is superficially similar to the female common blue, but is distinguished by the lack of white surrounding the orange markings on its upper side (see pic). Children (and adults) were also able to build their very own bee, using pipe cleaners, and take it with them on their journey through the Ecology Centre.

The Amber zone was located deep inside the woods of the Ecology Centre grounds and here people could take part in activities such as minibeast hunting and spider safaris. Local entomologist Stephen Thomas also amazed everyone with his giant stick insect collection, which he bought along to give people the chance to see an insect’s anatomy up close.

Throughout the day, there were also opportunities to attend short walks with local wildlife experts on moths, birds, dragonflies & damselflies, wildflowers and reptiles & amphibians. A whole range of interesting animals were to be seen, including a red kite (Milvus milvus) flying over the Ecology Centre, some rare chalk plants, slow worms (Anguis fragilis)and emperor dragonflies (Anex imperator).

Once BioBlitzers had visited each zone and collected their stamps, they submitted their records at the Aqua zone and were given a copy of our free Garden Wildlife Calendar and an Opal magnet as a prize for their efforts.

Overall the BioBlitz was a huge success with over 360 people attending, and many species records being submitted, which are now being verified by the Biodiversity Gardens team. Thanks to everyone who attended, we can get a better view of the distribution of our species and target our conservation efforts more wisely. We hope that everybody who came enjoyed themselves thoroughly and learnt something new about wildlife that they didn’t know before.

For a full list of our future events, visit https://suttonnature.wordpress.com/events/ and make your booking online at http://37.188.117.158/suttonecology/ .

Please leave your feedback below: we hope to make this an annual event so your support is greatly appreciated!

Robin Searle,
Biodiversity Assistant

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