May 27

Here at ARKive, we’re not just researchers, writers and website designers – we are also passionate about the natural world, and many of us enjoy getting outside and learning more about the wildlife around us.

While not writing and editing species profiles for the ARKive website, I have been busy setting up and helping to run the UK’s first national ‘Garden Bioblitz’ event. It takes place across the country this weekend (1st-2nd June) and everyone can get involved!

Photo of hedgehog in grass

Hedgehogs are common garden visitors, but are in decline in the UK

What is a BioBlitz?

The idea of a BioBlitz is to bring together scientists and members of the public to identify and record as many species as possible in a particular area over a limited time period, usually 24 hours.

The first BioBlitz was held in Washington, D.C. in 1996, and since then the idea has spread across the world, with more events being added every year.

Photo of buff-tailed bumblebee

Growing nectar-rich plants can help attract bees, butterflies and other insects

Most BioBlitzes work together with environmental records centres to ensure that the data collected will have the maximum value for science. As well as collecting scientific records, the events also give the public the opportunity to learn about biodiversity, be inspired by experts, and experience their local wildlife.

Why a Garden Bioblitz?

The idea of a Garden Bioblitz came about last year when a couple of wildlife enthusiasts got together online and decided it would be fun to record the wildlife in our gardens. We had so much interest from others who wanted to join in that we decided to turn it into a national event.

The Garden Bioblitz initially ran as a trial event in 2012 and was a huge success, with more than 2,231 records entered for 966 species by just 24 volunteers. This year, the event is open to everyone, and we hope that as many people as possible will take part.

Photo of robin singing

Putting out food and water can attract birds into your garden

Gardens cover a large area of the UK and are an important habitat for many native species. The only way for scientists to thoroughly survey the wildlife living in people’s gardens is through ‘citizen science’, with members of the public helping to collect this valuable information. The records collected will be made available to national recording schemes, which help researchers and local governments make conservation and land management decisions.

However, although these records are important, the main aims of the event are to get people outside, engaging with the species on their doorsteps, discovering something new, and hopefully being inspired to encourage more wildlife into their gardens. Above all, it’s about having fun!

How to take part

To take part in the Garden Bioblitz, all you need to do is choose a 24-hour period over the weekend of 1st-2nd June, then get outside and rummage through your flowerbeds, watch birds on your feeders, dip nets into ponds or crawl across your lawn to see what you can find.

Photo of slow worm

Compost heaps can provide shelter for many species, including slow worms, the UK’s only legless lizards

You don’t need to be a wildlife expert or have any special skills, and you don’t even need to count for the full 24 hours. The team are interested in all records – just go out, write down what you see, take lots of photos and submit your records online. There is even a downloadable ticksheet of 20 top species to spot, for those who want a bit more help with where to begin. Or you can view some of our handy hints and tips on how to go about your Bioblitz.

Experts will be online over the weekend to help identify finds, and anyone can take part in the event, whether they have a large garden or a tiny patio – it’s amazing what you can discover when you take a closer look. And if it seems a little daunting, why not get friends, family or neighbours to join in and help out?

Photos of daisies in flower

Lawns can be home to a surprising variety of wildflowers

Here are the five simple steps to taking part:

  • Go out into your garden and see what you can find! Use the downloadable tick sheet if you’re not sure where to start.
  • Take lots of photos – these can help with species identification.
  • Identify your finds – you can use books, online field guides, or ask the experts on iSpot or Twitter.
  • Upload your records to iRecord.
  • Have fun!

Although the Garden Bioblitz is currently based in the UK, you are welcome to take part wherever you are, and to submit records to your own local recording schemes.

Let us know how you get on!

Garden Bioblitz logo

To find out more about the Garden Bioblitz and how to take part, visit the Garden Bioblitz website or follow the Garden Bioblitz team on Twitter @GardenBioblitz.

You can also find out about other BioBlitz events on the National BioBlitz website and Encyclopedia of Life – BioBlitz.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author and Garden Bioblitz team member

May 28

Every year, members of the Wildscreen team pull together to help out at our local BioBlitz. BioBlitz events take place all over the UK, and are a race against the clock to seek, identify and record as many species as possible in a natural space.

Scientists with different areas of expertise set off to explore the surroundings with school kids and members of the public. From spiders to sparrows, foxes to fungi and bats to buttercups, the team has it covered!

 

Photo of Pete sweeping for bugs © Wildscreen

Pete, the "Bug Man" sweeping for bugs

 

What a perfect opportunity to learn more about nature on our doorstep. This year we were at Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol, and the weather was spectacular! From 9am on Friday 25th to 3pm on Saturday 26th May, the experts were seeking out species from across the site.

Photo of Wildscreen Bristol BioBlitz 2012 Team (c) Matt Postles

Wildscreen Bristol BioBlitz 2012 Team

 

So, how did Wildscreen help?

Media Team

Recording everything that’s going on, from the best moments of the event to the latest species tally, was the Wildscreen Media Team. You can catch up with all of the action on the Bristol BioBlitz Blog, watch one minute interviews with some of the naturalists and have a look at the highlights of the event captured in the BioBlitz Bristol Flickr page.

Photo of Hannah and Ben from the Wildscreen Media Team (c) Wildscreen

Hannah and Ben from the Wildscreen Media Team

Guides

Some of the Wildscreen team volunteered as guides to help out the naturalists. A few of the activities included sweeping for insects, listening to bird song, identifying plants and completing the all important recording sheets to keep track of what’s been found.

Lauren helping kids collect insects (c) Wildscreen

Lauren helping kids collect insects

 

 

A few of our favourite photos from the event:

Pretty in pink

Photo of bluebells (c) Wildscreen

 

Harlequin ladybirds

Photo of harlequin ladybirds mating (c) Wildscreen

 

Taking a closer look

Photo of a John Bailey taking a closer look (c) Wildscreen

 

Funniest photo

Photo of kids with snail (c) Wildscreen

 

Total species identified so far = 454!

8 species have never been recorded in Bristol before and 1 species was a new record for Avon. The total is set to rise as specialists confirm unidentified species.

Savita Custead and Matt Harcourt from the BNHC revealing the species total (c) Wildscreen

Savita Custead and Matt Harcourt from the BNHC revealing the species total

A big thank you to Arnos Vale for hosting this year’s BioBlitz and to everyone else who was involved!

If you missed the Bristol BioBlitz, why not check to see where your local BioBlitz is.

Wildscreen Bristol BioBlitz 2012 Team

May 23

With an office full of biologists it was only natural that given the opportunity to help out at the Bristol BioBlitz many of the ARKive team jumped at the chance to get their hands dirty and swap their computers for cameras and clipboards. BioBlitz is a national event, exploring and recording the biological diversity of an area against the clock, while getting people of all ages engaged and excited about the wonder of wildlife found so close to home.

The team of Wildscreen volunteers

The team of Wildscreen volunteers

There was an extraordinary variety of walks and events to get involved with, from bat spotting to bug hunting and pond dipping to fungal forays, and our volunteers helped with the lot – but what did being a volunteer actually involve?

Becky – Guide

Becky identifying freshwater invertebrates

Becky identifying freshwater invertebrates

I was one of the Guides for the day which involved helping out the Naturalists as they showed school children and members of the public around on various nature walks. I also had a go at pond dipping and identifying some species helping towards the BioBlitz grand total!

What was your BioBlitz highlight?

My BioBlitz highlight has got to be just the Naturalists in general! Their level of knowledge was just phenomenal yet they were approachable and incredibly entertaining! One of my favourite species, discovered while pond dipping, was the palmate newt, which I’ve never seen before.

Helen – Media Team

Helen with camera at the ready

Helen with camera at the ready

My job was to follow the groups going out and about around the grounds of Tyntesfield with a camera, to film or photograph the things they were finding. We wanted to document everything that was going on, what they were getting involved with and how much fun they were having! I was also involved with editing the film footage into the videos for the blog, and in writing blog posts to keep everyone up to date on the latest BioBlitz happenings.  

What was your BioBlitz highlight?

I got the chance to have my first ever play with the Sony Z1 camera which was very exciting! I filmed a group of school children out looking for nibbled hazelnuts in Truckle Woods. They wanted to find evidence of dormice and although we didn’t see any we came across all sorts of other exciting finds, such as the brilliantly named King Alfred’s cakes.

For a more detailed look at the role of a volunteer and to see what we got up to all weekend why not take a look at our film.

This year the Bristol BioBlitz took place at Tyntesfield from 9am on Friday 20th to 3pm Saturday 21st May. During this 30 hour stint the combined efforts of Guides, Stewards, Naturalists and the all important public led to the discovery of a record-breaking species total of 779! This included 121 notable species, (meaning that they have particular ecological significance), 25 that have never been recorded in North Somerset, and 15 species that have not been seen before in the whole of Avon – quite an achievement I hope you’ll agree.

For a full rundown of all the events of the Bristol BioBlitz, including many more videos and photographs, check out the Bristol BioBlitz blog.

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Media Researcher

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