Diario del proyecto Meanwood Valley bioblitz

Archivos de diario de septiembre 2023

05 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 49: Tits

There are four species of tit to see in Meanwood, and they are with us all year round. At the moment they are moving around in mixed flocks of up to 30 or 40 birds and will do so until they start to pair off next Spring. Birds of a feather do indeed flock together.

Well, three of our tit species are flocking together. The Long-tailed Tits seem to like flocking by themselves, announcing their presence by distinctive chirping. Thats flocking - or allelomimesis if you want to be posh.

The Blue Tit is easiest to spot as it occurs in 98% of gardens and is the only tit with any blue on it. Also the world record for the blue tit laying the most number of eggs in 19 in a single clutch.

The Great Tit is also easy to spot as it is our biggest tit. It is also noisy and easy to hear but, as it has over 40 different vocalisations, its sometime tricky to identify.

The Coal Tit is smaller and fewer in number than its blue and great cousins but it still has well over half a million breeding territories in the UK. Its distinguished by the white stripe down the back of its head.

There are other tits resident in the UK but which you wont see it in Meanwood. The Crested Tit (number 5) hangs about in the Scottish pine forests. The virtually indistinguishable Marsh Tit and Willow Tit (Numbers 6 and 7) don't usually live round here either. The Penduline Tit (number 8) is so rare it only turned up in the UK 52 times before 2005.

There used to be a ninth UK tit, the Bearded Tit, but people found out its wasn't a proper tit so its name has been changed to a Bearded Reedling. The fact that it doesn't have a beard either didn't seem to matter. Should you be so minded you can sometimes spot this allegedly hirsute ex-tit at St Aidan's RSPB nature reserve in East Leeds.

Publicado el septiembre 5, 2023 10:02 MAÑANA por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 50: Dusky Thorn

As we approach the end of the year-long Meanwood Valley Bioblitz, where 60 citizen-scientist volunteers have tried to map the fauna and flora of our Valley, we have so far identified a remarkable 872 species! 131 of those species are moths. We have a lot of Meanwood moths.

Recently we have added Rosy Rustic, Sycamore Moth, Ground-Moss Grey and this one, the Dusky Thorn, to the list. The Dusky Thorn generally lives in woods and is particularly fond of Ash trees. If you were here in 1968 then you would have seen a fair few more of them but Dusky Thorns declined by 98% between then and 2013. This might be related to the impact of die-back on Ash trees, or to other environmental issues.

The moth in the picture is male - we know this because of its cool feathery antennae. The male moth uses its antennae to sniff out the pheromones which female moths produce. Now get this astonishing yet true fact: some male moths can identify a single molecule of female moth pheromone within a cubic yard of air - despite being 11km away from the female that made the smell.

Moth antennae really are remarkable organs. Not only do the sniff out partners from miles away but they also are used to stabilise the moth in flight - acting like tiny gyroscopes which send messages to the wings to make miniscule adjustments to account for changes in air movements, or to help escape their arch nemesis - bats. Whilst we have managed to replicate this moth-technology for airplane gyroscopes we can only do it with really big planes, the moths have us beat at the small scale.

By the way, the antennae are also a top way of separating moths from butterflies. Butterflies have a little club shape at the end of the antennae whilst moths don't.

I have no idea how many more moth species there are in Meanwood that we haven't yet identified, but I am pretty confident we have photographed all the common birds for the Bioblitz. The exception is a picture of a Pied Wagtail so if anyone knows a good place where they are regularly seen please let me know before October!

Publicado el septiembre 11, 2023 02:19 TARDE por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

20 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 51: Bullfinch

One of my favourites for this, the penultimate Species of the Week, as we approach the end of our year-long Bioblitz - mapping the wildlife in the Meanwood Valley.

The Bullfinch is one of the four commoner finch species that you can see in Meanwood, the others being Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. In the winter you can also sometimes catch rarer members of the finch family: Siskin, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll.

All the finches have adapted beaks for eating seeds but only the Bullfinch has a special carrying space in its mouth for storing extra food. The benefit of this is fewer trips back to its nest, which itself is really two nests, one inside the other and made of different materials.

Whilst Bullfinches have a unremarkable call, a short low whistle, in Victorian times they were prized (and kept in cages) for their ability to mimic other sounds. Tess in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles had the job of whistling to the bullfinches as she went about her household tasks.

The Bullfinch can be particularly keen on fruit buds which did it no favours in the 16th century. It was one of a list of species names specifically in the 1532 Preservation of the Grain Act whereby every man woman and child was required to kill as many of these 'vermin' as possible. You were rewarded with half a penny for every Bullfinch head you provided as proof of your kill (it was 12 pence for a fox or a badger head). Stoats and Kingfishers were also on the list.

Our Bullfinches are now protected - not persecuted -by the law, and can go about their business peacefully. They generally do this in pairs, who mate for life. If you are so lucky to see a flock of Bullfinches, evidence shows that pairs still join and leave the flock together. My own bird feeders are also evidence that this is true. The one in the video knocked itself out by flying into our kitchen window but, as you can see, recovered to live another day.

Publicado el septiembre 20, 2023 01:46 TARDE por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 52: Everything Else!

We've now reached the end of our year-long Meanwood Valley Bioblitz so a huge thank you to everyone who took part. 58 of you made an amazing 2313 observations of 880 different species! Particular shout-out to Will, Natalie, Nikhil and Katy who made over 100 observations each.

Of those 880 species 551 were then authenticated online by expert ecologists from all around the world. The un-authenticated ones were mostly those where the photos uploaded don't allow them to be clearly distinguished from other closely related species. Many moths, for instance, can only be conclusively separated by dissecting their genitalia, and no-one wants that do they?

Coincidentally our final list included exactly the same number of Insects as Plants (320 of each) alongside Fungi (101), Birds (50), Arachnids (32), Mammals (16), Amphibians (3) and Protozoa (3). There were also various 'others' which mostly included species of worms, centipedes and woodlice. I bet the true number is at least double that by the way.

Over the next few months, thanks to funding from local Councillors and the National Lottery, we are going to look at all the data and produce a big outdoor exhibition, including - we hope - displays on the front wall of Meanwood Recycling Centre.

Publicado el septiembre 27, 2023 09:48 MAÑANA por clunym clunym | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario