Sunday, 5 January 2014

Biodiversity in Bedfordshire?

I started writing this blog with the intention of showcasing the amazing range of biodiversity which can be found by anyone, wherever you go looking. As the dark nights drew in at the end of last year I started thinking about how I could motivate myself to get out and about more often in the New Year, and in particular how I could find a good enough reason to look at some of the groups of species that I unusually ignore (generally things that don't move, like plants and fungi).

There are various challenges which I've come across via twitter with similar intentions - the 1000 for 1KSQ ( is an excellent challenge, which unsurprisingly encourages participants to find a thousand species within a single 1km square. Success is highly dependant on developing a wide breadth of knowledge, but also, to an extent, on the willingness to take specimens, especially of invertebrates, to confirm identifications. I have no ethical issues with this, and recognise it as an essential part of proper surveying work, but on a personal level I've never felt comfortable doing it.

Instead of going purely for volume, I decided to focus more on documenting those species which can be identified without resorting to microscopes and dissecting kits. I'm fortunate to live in a rural area with easy access to a variety of countryside, which I keep meaning to explore, so I decided to see how many species I can photograph within walking distance of my house. Whilst a thousand species might prove a bit of a stretch, I should be able to get at least half way there, especially given that I recorded 306 lepidoptera species just within my garden last year!

The challenge has made a bit of a slow start, thanks to combination of short days, bad weather and the inconvenience of having to go to work. The torrential rain in particular made me less than keen on venturing outside with my camera. Fortunately there are a few species which share my liking for staying warm and dry in winter, and these got me up and running. First up was a small garden spider which had made its web in the hallway, a reward for not feather dusting!

1: Garden Spider
Number 1 on the list, a small Garden Spider Araneus diadematus
Soon afterwards a second spider joined the list, the near ubiquitous Pholcus phalangioides or Daddy Long-legs Spider

2: Daddy Long-legs Spider
Daddy Long-legs Spider Pholcus phalangioides
Finally this morning there was a glimpse of blue sky so I headed out to start adding to the list in earnest. Plants were the main order of the day, as I worked my way down the hedge ticking off tree species. As usual when the macro lens is on the camera, there were birds everywhere, seemingly competing to sit in the most photogenic spots (why do they never do that when the 300mm lens is in action?!) Time was fairly limited so I ignored most of the smaller plants, apart from a clump of white deadnettle which is already in flower. In general the plan is to wait for things to flower before trying too hard to identify them!

3: Hawthorn
Hawthorn, with nice red berries to make it extra easy to identify!
4: Bramble (and 14 Violet Bramble Rust)
Bramble and Violet Bramble Rust, (the small purple patches on the leaves)

5: White Deadnettle
White Dead Nettle, an important source of early pollen, but this may be a bit too early
6: European Ash
Ash bud - I'd never realised there was an ash tree in the hedge before
7: Silver Birch
The lovely patterned bark of a Silver Birch
8: Hazel
Hazel catkins
9: Sycamore
Sycamore bud
10: Holly
Christmas is over, but the holly is still looking nice
Later in the afternoon I took along the 300mm on a primarily non-photographic walk, and predictably enough the birds became a lot less confiding. I managed bad shots of Yellowhammer, Greenfinch and Rook. Hopefully I'll improve on all of these by the end of the year!

11: Rook
12: Yellowhammer
A fractionally slower yellowhammer than average!
13: Greenfinch
The worst picture of Greenfinches you're likely to see today!
I'll be putting all of the photos from the year into a set on my Flickr account along with some notes on the species in question. Hopefully it will provide an interesting store of information as the year progresses.

Total: 14

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