Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Year

Today is the 7th of January, the end of the first week of a New Year. I meant to do this blog post on the 1st but that never quite happened. I have just spent a lovely 5 nights in Gateshead visiting someone very special to me. But as I sit here, alone, and write this it is freezing outside and the wind is icy cold. I am sat here with a cup of tea trying to warm up, and dreaming of spring. Well, what can I say about 2017! It has certainly been one of the most difficult years of my life so far, but has also had some real highs. Forgetting about the negatives (of which there have been too many to list), I am ending the year at the helm of a successful project that is making a difference to biological recording in Northamptonshire. I have spent a lot of my time running this project though and less time recording, so my challenge to myself for next year is to get outside more with work and generate more records. I haven’t done nearly as much recording as I would like to this year (6500 or so records), but thanks to a trip away to the Lake District with a group of botanists and a few visits to Cornwall, I recorded 370 new species in 2017 putting me on 2467 species seen alive in Britain (see breakdown below). I have said for a few years now that I want to get into bryophytes more to get myself out in the winter, but never seem to manage it. 2018 will be the year! I am not setting myself any specific targets this year on recording, I just want to enjoy it 🙂

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The main thing that has held me back this year is battling my mental health, wildlife is a big part of what keeps me going, but people also help an incredible amount, often without realising. So, thank you to everyone that is there for me. I will be continuing to work on my mental health, confidence and self-care in 2018. I am hoping a self-care and positives diary will help with this, along with more time spent outside. I have also taken up running again. I love the feeling running gives me but find it harder to motivate myself to run in winter. I am hoping to do a proper race in 2018 and get my first medal. I may even try the Bradenham Bolt which is 10k of mud and obstacles in the beautiful Chiltern hills. I got myself a pair of trail running shoes today so have no excuses now!

  2016 Total Number of Additions in 2017 2017 Total
Algae 3 0 3
Slime Moulds 1 0 1
Protists 0 0 0
Lichens 40 22 62
Fungi 64 6 70
Bryophytes 50 2 52
Vascular Plants 531 154 685
Sponges 0 0 0
Comb-jellies 0 0 0
Cnidarians 3 0 3
Molluscs 62 3 65
Bryozoans 0 0 0
Annelid Worms 4 0 4
Platyhelminth Worms 1 0 1
Sea-spiders 0 0 0
Arachnids 42 4 46
Myriapods 7 0 7
Crustaceans 15 1 16
Springtails etc. 4 0 4
3-tailed Bristletails 1 0 1
Odonata 25 0 25
Orthopteroids 19 1 20
Hemipteroids 87 14 101
Hymenoptera 155 38 193
Coleoptera 233 34 267
Diptera 146 10 156
Butterflies 37 4 41
Moths 328 53 381
Remaining Insect Orders 17 2 19
Echinoderms 0 0 0
Tunicates 0 0 0
Fish 6 1 7
Reptiles 4 0 4
Amphibians 5 0 5
Birds 178 16 194
Mammals 29 5 34
Other Animals 0 0 0
Overall 2097 370 2467

 

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Bees in Buckinghamshire

I have now recorded 87 wild bee species in Buckinghamshire. There are many more to find, but the ones I have found so far are as follows:

Andrena apicata, Andrena barbilabris, Andrena bicolor, Andrena chrysosceles, Andrena cineraria, Andrena clarkella, Andrena congruens, Andrena dorsata, Andrena flavipes, Andrena fulva, Andrena fuscipes, Andrena haemorrhoa, Andrena hattorfiana, Andrena helvola, Andrena minutula, Andrena nigroaenea, Andrena nitida, Andrena praecox, Andrena scotica, Andrena semilaevis, Andrena subopaca, Andrena varians, Anthidium manicatum, Anthophora plumipes, Anthophora furcate, Bombus campestris, Bombus hortorum, Bombus hypnorum, Bombus jonellus, Bombus lapidarius, Bombus lucorum, Bombus pascuorum, Bombus pratorum, Bombus ruderarius, Bombus rupestris, Bombus sylvestris, Bombus terrestris, Bombus vestalis, Chelostoma campanularum, Chelostoma florisomne, Colletes daviesanus, Colletes succinctus, Halictus rubicundus, Halictus tumulorum, Hylaeus communis, Hylaeus confuses, Hylaeus dilatatus, Hylaeus signatus, Lasioglossum albipes, Lasioglossum calceatum, Lasioglossum fulvicorne, Lasioglossum laevigatum, Lasioglossum leucopus, Lasioglossum leucozonium, Lasioglossum malachurum, Lasioglossum morio, Lasioglossum pauxillum, Lasioglossum villosulum, Megachile centuncularis, Megachile ligniseca, Megachile versicolor, Megachile willughbiella, Melitta tricincta, Nomada fabriciana, Nomada flava, Nomada flavoguttata, Nomada flavopicta, Nomada fucata, Nomada goodeniana, Nomada lathburiana, Nomada leucophthalma, Nomada marshamella, Nomada ruficornis, Osmia aurulenta, Osmia bicolor, Osmia bicornis, Osmia caerulescens, Osmia leaiana, Osmia spinulosa, Sphecodes crassus, Sphecodes ephippius, Sphecodes geoffrellus, Sphecodes gibbus, Sphecodes hyalinatus, Sphecodes monilicornis, Sphecodes niger, Sphecodes pellucidus

Sites for Bees

Buckinghamshire has some lovely sites for bees, and there is a lot more recording to do. I am going to go through some of my best recorded sites for bees in the county to highlight some of the diversity of bees in the county and some of my favourite finds.

Grangelands and The Rifle Range – 48 species

This is a lovely chalk grassland site owned by BBOWT. Hylaeus signatus is a specialist on weld and mignonette and was found on wild mignonette growing in the arable reversion area. This species is patchily distributed in Britain. Melitta tricincta is a specialist on red bartsia and is a really lovely bee which is not common around here. The males are super cute and zoom from flower to flower. Its cleptoparasite Nomada flavopicta is just as uncommon and was seen in the same area. The snail shell nesting species Osmia bicolor is very common site and is a lovely species. However one day I also came across Osmia aurulenta which was quite a surprise as this is predominately a coastal species. One day I also came across Andrena hattorfiana which is a specialist bee on scabious flowers. This species is very scarce and much declined in Britain, I jumped for joy when I saw it on site. Sadly I haven’t seen it again since. I also have recorded Lasioglossum laevigatum and Hylaeus dilatatus on site. Both fairly common in chalk / limestone districts, but lovely species!

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Hylaeus signatus

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Melitta tricinta

College Lake – 42 species

College Lake is an old cement quarry that has been restored, mainly for wetland birds. However this site is great for lots of species, including bees. I have recorded 42 bee species on the site. Andrena apicata and Andrena praecox are some of the first solitary bee species I see each year and are specialists on sallow. Andrena apicata is widespread but rather scarce in Britain and is a beautiful sign of the spring each year at College Lake. I also have recorded Andrena congruens and Andrena varians here which are scarce species.

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Andrena apicata

Aylesbury Garden – 37 species

My parents garden in the centre of Aylesbury is unlikely to turn up any great rarities, but is a very special place as it is so accessible and 37 species for an urban garden isn’t bad. I have recorded Andrena dorsata  here which is a local species of solitary bee. I have also recorded Bombus ruderarius, the red-shanked carder bee here which is a much declined bumblebee species. But I take great delight in some of the more common species. The wool carder bee Anthidium maculatum is absolutely amazing as it guards its patch of lambs ear and fights off other bees. The females then use the hairs from this plant to build a almost cotton wool like nest with. A few years ago I purchased some bellflowers from a carboot sale and planted them in the garden, within a week the harebell carpenter bee, Chelostoma campanularum, showed up and the males can now be seen sat in the flowers every year since, waiting for females. My favourite species to watch in the garden has to be the leafcutter bees though, especially Megachile ligniseca which is a rather large and attractive species. Following them as they cut a section of leaf from the roses and carry it back to the nest is just magical.

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Megachile centuncularis

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Anthidium manicatum

Aston Clinton Ragpits – 16 species

This is a old chalk works site in the Chilterns and is a hidden gem. I haven’t spent as much time here as I should do. It was the first site where I recorded the snail nesting bee Osmia bicolor and I have many happy memories of seeing my first slow worms here. The fact I have only recorded 16 species here is a surprise and shows me that I need to visit this site more!

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Osmia bicolor

Dancersend – 16 species

This is another Wildlife Trust site and a mix of woodland and chalk grassland, with restoration areas etc. I never see many people here and it is a real escape. I have recorded the nomad bee Nomada lathburiana here which is the first time I had recorded this species in the county. This species is a cleptoparasite on the very common ashy mining bee, Andrena cineraria. Again, this is a site that needs more work, and I have lots of bees from this site still to identify and add to the site list.

Rammamere Heath – 16 species

Buckinghamshire is rather lacking in heathland, so the areas we do have are very special indeed and turn up species that are common elsewhere, but rare in the county. Andrena barbilabris is a sandy specialist mining bee, the males actually made me squeal when I first saw it, it is so cute! Its cleptoparasite Sphecodes pellucidus is also found on site.  With heather on the site, you also get the specialist bees Andrena fuscipes and Colletes succinctus which only collect pollen from heather. I have spent lots of happy hours watching bees here foraging on the heather. This site is really good for wasps which have been the main focus for my recording here, but I must do more on the bees.

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Andrena barbilabris female

Whitecross Green Wood – 16 species

I discovered this woodland site rather late in 2017. This site is managed mainly for its butterflies, but the open glades and woodland management is great for many other species too. I have recorded 16 species of bee here in the last year, but there must be lots more here and I am really keen to go back and do more recording. One of my highlights was finding Hylaeus confusus , this small black bee is widespread and locally common in Britain, but likes open woodlands so is in the right place!

 

Here is to 2018 and lots of bees in Buckinghamshire and beyond 🙂

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Hylaeus confusus

The Little Things In Life

Hi everyone,

It has been a while since I have posted a blog post. This one is quite honest but is also filled with lots of wildlife 🙂 .  A lot of stuff has happened in the last few months in my life, most of it seemingly rather bad. As those of you that follow me on Twitter may have noticed, I have been struggling with my mental health, which has seemingly led to other problems in my life and is why my condition recently worsened. This combined with a challenging and stressful new job has meant that things haven’t been great if I am honest, and in fact feel like they can’t get much worse. Anyway, this blog post is less about that, and more about a weekend away I had in the Lake District, to try take my mind off things.

I was invited to come to the Lake District with some colleagues from the Wildlife Trust, and people that used to work here, for a weekend of looking at plants. I thought I knew a lot about plants, but these people knew a lot more and it was a chance for me to learn a lot from them, and get distracted by insects along the way. The Lake District is a place full of happy memories for me, which unfortunately feel like very painful ones. So I knew this trip would be a challenge.

I have basically had to reassess my life again and go back to basics. One thing that someone told me lately, which has really stuck a chord with me, is that mindfulness isn’t necessarily about concentrating on your breathing, it is about noticing the small, insignificant things. Something that I do normally, focusing on small insects etc., but I sometimes forget to do when my mind is decidedly foggy.

The natural world is a great source of support for me. Sometimes it is nice to feel cosy and enclosed, and a walk in a wood can sometimes do that. But equally I love open landscapes. Most of the sites we visited were open boggy sites, which usually means beautiful, breath-taking scenery. I love mountains and the lakes are certainly a place to be for them. You can see for miles and see that the world goes on, even if you are struggling. There is hope.

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The small pearl-bordered fritillary had to be one of my insect highlights of the weekend. I some saw earlier in the day from afar, but suddenly one flew past me. I literally dropped everything but my camera and proceeded to track it down, running through the sphagnum bog to get a photo. It kindly stopped for a second enabling me to get a photo, it isn’t a great photo… but it is enough. A memory of a beautiful species in a spectacular habitat.

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Unfortunately in Buckinghamshire we are rather lacking in heathland, and even more so in wet heathland, so it was a real treat to get stuck into some of those sites. I have a real love for Sphagnum mosses, even though I can’t identify them. There is nothing quite like experiencing a quaking bog, feeling the squishy sphagnum underneath. I also find watching cotton grass blow in the wind is also very good for the soul, so it was wonderful to take that all in.

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Sedges and ferns also featured heavily in the weekend, both groups which I have limited experience in. Who knew there were so many sedges in Britain!!! We went to Eycott Hill, where we managed over 15 species in the day, a number of which were uncommon or rare and some of which I could identify again by myself now. I was also intrigued by Wilson’s Filmy Fern. This was a tiny, delicate species growing on vertical wet rocks at one of the sites we went to. A nice species to see. I was also rather fond of the parsley fern that we saw at Eycott Hill.

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The very nice, and uncommon Carex pauciflora – Few-flowered Sedge

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Parsley Fern – Cryptogramma crispa

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Star Sedge  – Carex echinata

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Wilson’s filmy fern – Hymenophyllum wilsonii

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Lemon-scented fern – Oreopteris limbosperma

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Tall bog sedge – Carex magellanica

 

I also managed to add two new orchids to my list.. northern marsh and heath spotted orchids, both lovely species. We also went on a twitch for yarrow broomrape, a ‘vulnerable’ plant in Britain. After getting excited after finding the wrong broomrape species (common broomrape), we eventually found the yarrow broomrape, which is a delicate purple colour.

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Heath spotted-orchid – Dactylorhiza maculata

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Yarrow broomrape – Orobanche purpurea

I couldn’t go to the Lake District and not look for bees, I managed to find a number of workers of Bombus monticola, the bilberry bumble. This isn’t a new species for me, but is absolutely adorable! I also managed to find Andrena laponica, which is a new species for me and it was lovely to try and show some of the botanists the wonders of bees!

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Bombus monticola

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Bogbean  – Menyanthes trifoliata

I am yet to finish identifying everything and collating all my records from the weekend, but it is fair to say that I saw a number of new species which is always exciting. There may well be some real highlights that I have missed in the things I have yet to identify.

The trip was a break away from my day-to-day life, and in regards to my personal struggles, I have been listening to some kind and helpful people and I am taking steps to try to improve my situation.

On balance, it was a lovely weekend. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Ryan
PS it is two years today since I went swimming in a wild swim in the middle of London. It is mentioned in this blog post

 

End of an era

This week is my last as a Natural Talent trainee. I have just posted my last blog post for them, which can be read by clicking on the photo below

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2017: Plans + Resolutions

All in all, 2016 was a great year for me, I had a great time on my traineeship. I learnt a lot of survey skills and learnt a lot about things I never expected to learn about. 2016 was also the year that I fell in love, but I harp on enough about that on Twitter.

2017 is looking like it will bring new opportunities and challenges and I am trying to be positive about what it may bring. The start of a new year also gives me a chance to think of targets for the year ahead. As always I would like to submit more records and record more species this year. More specifically though I would like to try again at bryophytes as they are a lovely group and I have a few shoeboxes full of them that need identification. I also have a backlog of insects to identify so I would love to clear that in 2017. would also like the records I submit to be of higher quality, giving more information about numbers, ecology etc. I would also like to use the iRecord app more as it is great and will help track more specifically where I walk when recording wildlife. I have set myself a target of recording 500 species this year that I have never seen before, I think this will be quite a challenge. The table at the bottom of this blog post shows how many species I have recorded in each taxonomic group and where I would like to try and focus on recording new species in 2017. Trying to record new species is more than just for fun though, it pushes me into new groups and in the end makes me a more rounded naturalist.

My role with Buglife and Natural England has been great, but is sadly coming to an end towards the end of February. This position really increased my self-confidence, so I would like to continue to  improve upon this by running more workshops, doing more talks etc and helping more people. I have been lucky enough to be taught by lots of great naturalists, so it will be nice to do more to pass this on while strengthening my own identification and outreach skills. I am now on the look out for new opportunities.

This year I will also continue to help influence recording and conservation with my positions on the BWARS, BSBI and AFON committees, and look forward to the challenges that 2017 will bring.

I would also like to climb more fells this year, I have had the most amazing time when I have been in the Lake District with Sophie, so I hope to conquer more of the Wainwright fells in 2017.

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Total Before 2016 2016 Total Number of Additions in 2016 2017 Target
Algae 2 3 1 10
Slime Moulds 1 1 0 1
Protists 0 0 0 0
Lichens 39 40 1 50
Fungi 63 64 1 75
Bryophytes 45 50 5 100
Vascular Plants 478 531 53 600
Sponges 0 0 0 0
Comb-jellies 0 0 0 0
Cnidarians 3 3 0 5
Molluscs 59 62 3 75
Bryozoans 0 0 0 0
Annelid Worms 4 4 0 10
Platyhelminth Worms 1 1 0 1
Sea-spiders 0 0 0 0
Arachnids 40 42 2 50
Myriapods 7 7 0 10
Crustaceans 14 15 1 20
Springtails etc. 4 4 0 10
3-tailed Bristletails 1 1 0 1
Odonata 21 25 0 30
Orthopteroids 15 19 4 20
Hemipteroids 81 87 6 100
Hymenoptera 122 155 33 200
Coleoptera 121 233 112 310
Diptera 120 146 26 185
Butterflies 37 37 0 40
Moths 306 328 22 410
Remaining Insect Orders 16 17 1 30
Echinoderms 0 0 0 0
Tunicates 0 0 0 0
Fish 6 6 0 10
Reptiles 4 4 0 4
Amphibians 5 5 0 5
Birds 164 178 14 200
Mammals 17 29 2 35
Other Animals 0 0 0 0

Overall

1806 2097 291

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Guest Blog Post for BSBI

My blog post for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland was published yesterday. It talks about A Focus on Nature, the largest youth nature network in the UK. Why not have a read.

 

Latest Traineeship Blog Post

To see my latest blog post, please click on the photo below 🙂

 

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