Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Glenarm Bioblitz 2014

The Bioblitz was organised in four locations in Ireland, and the recording was centralised via the internet, so we could see the live scores from the other sites. I was invited to assist with the recording at the Northern Ireland site at Glenarm Estate, which is situated more or less along both sides of a river.

The weather was dull and overcast when I arrived, so I decided to work a few woodland paths, looking at plants, fungi, leaf-miners, etc.: all the things that are still visible when the light is bad and there's no heat. I hoped that the weather would warm up in the afternoon and I could find and record more insects then.

I quickly filled a couple of recording sheets and made a loop back to base camp to hand them in. A quick glance at the 11am scores had us comfortably in the lead by around 150 species, but I wasn't feeling over-confident, since although I had travelled a few miles in the morning, the habitat didn't vary much along the way. I helped with a couple of identifications of some collected specimens and had a spot of lunch.

Just as we were getting ready to cross the river for the first afternoon run, the sun came out and suddenly insects were flying everywhere. Although the woodland on the south of the river looked much the same as the area we had covered in the morning, there were more clearings and the paths were closer to the river, so the variety of plants and insects that we encountered was encouraging.

My first notable find for the day was the excellent hoverfly Portevinia maculata:

The hoverfly Portevinia maculata (male)
Portevinia maculata is tightly associated with Ramsons, since the larvae live underground inside the bulb. The specimen shown is a male: the females are rarely seen, as they spend most of their time deep under the leaves. I had noticed in the morning that Ramson patches in the woodland were very extensive, sometimes extending to 50m or more, and I had high hopes of finding this hoverfly.

I photographed a few more hoverflies and other insects, and then someone pointed out the flowers of Greater Woodrush, which also went into the list. As a matter of habit (rather than expectation!), I examined the leaves of the Woodrush to check for the extremely rare leafmining fly Cerodontha silvatica, which I found in Donegal in 2005, making a first Irish record. Imagine my astonishment when I actually found it after 9 years of unsuccessful searching:

The mine of Cerodontha silvatica in Greater Woodrush
I first recorded Cerodontha silvatica in Drumboe in 2005, but that population was wiped out by over-enthusiastic council workers who strimmed the woodrush down to the ground, and I have looked for it ever since. The number of records for this miner is extremely low, and I can assure you that it's not for a lack of looking: many dipterists and leaf-miner specialists have sought this species for up to 40 years without any success, so it is truly rare. I suppose it must have some particular habitat requirements, and I noted that the two locations were very similar, with deep shade and with ferns and lying water in ditches also very close. 

Puparium in the mine
This is a first record for Northern Ireland and the second for Ireland.

I carefully carried my specimen leaf back to the recording centre and proudly showed it to everyone who would look.

After that, things were a bit of an anticlimax and I submitted another couple of recording sheets with perhaps five new species for my personal list.

One of the new species for me was the leaf gall of Eriophyes similis on Blackthorn:

The gall of Eriophyes similis on Blackthorn
I also recorded Soft Brome for the first time:

Soft Brome
At 5pm, the recording was closed and we waited 15 minutes for the final tally to be announced. Loud cheers went up when it was announced that we had recorded a total of 1116 species, over 200 more than the second-placed total, and the title was retained in Northern Ireland.

A massive amount of organisation is required for these events, with recorders, base camp, data-entry, social media stations, microscopy and reference sections to set up. Many thanks to all who helped make this such an enjoyable event.

1 comment:

amanda peters said...

What a great day, how exciting to be involved in something like this. All the effort is worth it.