Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Invasives Week

By Rowena

This week is invasive species week on Twitter, and I’ve been watching a lot of really interesting stuff come up on my feed all week. It’s been organised by the NNSS (Non-native Species Secretariat) and DEFRA to try and raise awareness of invasive species, and get people involved in recording schemes. Each day has a different theme:

Monday – Welcome to Invasive Species Week!
Tuesday – Biosecurity
Wednesday – Identification and recording
Thursday – Local Action Groups
Friday – Other projects

My favourite resource I’ve found so far this week (although it’s only Tuesday that I’m writing this…) has been the Journal of Ecology’s virtual issue, with over 20 different papers about different invasive species and up-to-date research in the area. I’ve downloaded them to my laptop, but haven’t yet had the time to read them… Soon.

On the NNSS website, there’s loads of free training on biosecurity and identification of non-native species. To be able to tackle invasive species effectively, it’s important to have the distribution and evidence of where species are found- NNSS have developed a set of apps to record different invasive species, and help identify individuals. I’m not familiar with all of them, although Juniper Hall do record a lot of our species on iRecord. We also have a fantastic species list from the University of Cambridge who visit each year, and record literally everything they see. I’m also on a mission to get my Birdtrack back up to date, as I’ve been birding a lot recently but actually have no count of what I’ve been seeing!

Introducing BirdTrack Home | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology

Wednesday is identification and recording day- So a quick list of invasives I’ve seen at our field sites before…

invasives

Himalayan balsam, Signal crayfish, Rhododendron, Ringed parakeet, Harlequin ladybird

I’ve not got time to update this again after today (which is still Wednesday, although I scheduled this for the end of the week) but it’s a cool initiative that seems to be educating a lot of people. I’ve definitely found a lot of interesting stuff I’m planning to read in the future this week!

Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall

BENHS Conference & Saproxylic inverts

By Rowena

At the weekend I travelled over to Oxford to go to the annual BENHS (British Entomological and Natural History Society) AGM. It was, in a few words, pretty great. A day full of lectures about various British insects, including art, history and a tour around the stacks of the Oxford Natural History Museum afterwards to see some of the collections.

Natural history

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One of the best days out I’ve had in ages- and you don’t actually have to be a member to attend the day either, which is great. The next couple of blog posts are going to be about what I learnt that are also pretty relevant to what we do over here at Juniper Hall.

Woodland ecosystems and saproxylic species

Saproxylic species are organisms that live in deadwood. The BENHS talk was focussed on woodlands, so I am going to as well- most of the research on saproxylic species focuses on woodlands. Saproxylic species make up 7% of all British fauna– there are over 800 beetles, 730 flies,  300 hymenoptera (bees, ants and wasps), and 50 moth species present within deadwood. Unfortunately many of these species are threatened by the need for “tidy woodlands“- the removal of deadwood. Over-management of parks and woodland gardens has a lot of fallen deadwood removed, to try and keep an area tidy. Standing deadwood and timber branches are also regularly removed, as it’s thought to be dangerous or a potential haven for diseases and pests.

Types of deadwood (Source: TVC)

At European scale, 11% of saproxylic beetles are threatened. It might be that part of the problem is due to woodland management, where modern harvesting practice does not allow trees to fully mature, cropping them before they can naturally produce deadwood. In areas that have been previously coppiced or pollarded, deadwood invertebrates are likely to persist in tree hollows, although the loss of this traditional woodland management causes saproxylic invertebrate numbers to decrease.

Image result for neglected coppice

Please help me! (Source: Greg Humphries)

So what’s better? To manage a woodland traditionally, using coppicing and pollarding, or to leave woodlands completely alone and prevent “tidying” of woodland, allowing a deadwood environment to emerge on the ground? Certainly it seems that either method is better than modern techniques of harvesting an area for trees, as this causes the total removal of material even before deadwood can form. It has been noticed that coppiced areas can produce special microclimates for deadwood fauna, however if an area is too-well managed, coppice reverts to being of little importance for deadwood conservation.

TM1497 : Lower Wood Nature Reserve - coppiced trees

To coppice, or not to coppice? (Image credit: geograph.org.uk)

Perhaps it’s too difficult to draw a conclusion on the best way to manage woodland for deadwood invertebrates when there’s little currently being researched on a large scale- more important, it seems, is to just try and create deadwood habitats to start off with, and worry about woodland management when our saproxylites are a little bit more stable in the future.

Image result for deadwood invertebrates

A happy home for many invertebrates (Source: Buglife.com)

2016, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Uncategorized

Conference 2016

By Rowena

I’ve not written a blog post for a while, because it’s just been incredibly busy! But I’ve got a little bit of time today. 2016 was a pretty intense year, but finished up by one of the most exciting events of the year- FSC Conference, this year at our very own Juniper Hall.

FSC conference is held every year for staff, to share ideas, meet people from other centres and have a bit of fun to celebrate the end of a successful year. I’ve never been to staff conference before- last year I was teaching!- so it was quite something to see it go from start to finish. First thing to arrive was the tent, and all the decorations had to be put up on monday…

Let there be lights

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The decorations were handmade, those on the trees by our amazing groundskeeper Sarah.

#christmas decorations

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When tuesday afternoon rolled around, suddenly JH was teeming with people as staff from other centres flooded in. We happily met friends from Malham Tarn, Rhyd-y-creuau, Flatford Mill, Slapton… And the activities began!

The main event was day 2, when we all dispersed into groups to visit different places in London and the surrounding area to look at sustainability. One of the FSC’s core values is sustainability, so we wanted to look at companies who were doing this really well and how we could improve. Groups scattered to London Zoo, the Natural History Museum, London Wetland Centre, Marks & Spencer, the Crystal, Bushy Park and Leatherhead Youth Project. I went to Leatherhead Youth Project, as I’ve worked with them before, and we met staff there to discuss their values and how they share them. Their passion to make a difference to young peoples’ lives was inspiring, and we took a lot away to share back with the rest of conference the next day.

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The evening of day 2 we had a barn dance in the tent out on the front lawn- the theme was “dress to impress”, and some of the costumes sure were impressive… and so was the dancing!

Spiral dance

Thursday was a quick morning roundin up our findings and what we wanted to take forward into the new year, then it was suddenly all over as we were waving goodbye to our new friends from all over the country. Till next year!

2016, Biology, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Bioblitz 2016

By Rowena

For half term, we ran our annual Bioblitz to record all the birds, bugs, plants and anything else on Juniper Hall’s grounds. In the weeks leading up, Daniel’s been busy handing out tons of flyers around Dorking and Leatherhead…

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So many leaflets!

Thankfully when the big day came the weather was kind to us! It all kicked off with opening our moth traps, which we had put out the evening before. Unfortunately there were only a few moths inside, as it’s getting to the time when they’re all tucked up and hibernating, but happily a few extras were brought along by the AES to admire as well.

Next we had Lisa and Saoirse open mammal traps in Templeton Woods. There were a couple of successes, with a water shrew, and then some wood mice later on in the ha-ha.

 Drawing quite the crowd

Later on in the lineup we had woodland and meadow invertebrate hunting. We got out the sweep nets, pooters and keys to see what we could find, scooping up grasshoppers, shield bugs, leafhoppers and moths. In the woods we had some fun charming worms too, making them wiggle to the surface to be identified.

The reptile mats didn’t reward any reptiles, but Lisa and a few families did find some hiding mammals and lots of insects- the ants just love colonising underneath the felting we’ve put down in our meadow.

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What’s Lisa found?

While Saoirse manned the ponds, looking for underwater critters, Rowena and Helen made some nettle tea with the kelly kettles, that took a lot longer than it should have…

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Putting on a brew!

Also throughout the day we had arts and crafts in the students’ common room, colouring moths and glittering invertebrates, and local societies joining us in the Templeton Room to promote bats, birds and bugs!

A big thank you to everyone that visited and helped, and to the lovely charities that attended; the Bat Conservation Trust, Surrey Bird Club, the Amateur Entomological Society and others!

We haven’t got final totals for everything we recorded on the day yet, but we’ll be sure to update once we do know what we managed to find.

2016, Biology, FSC, Uncategorized

30 Days Wild & other exciting things

By Rowena

June is fast approaching (somehow!) and is the month for biodiversity, it seems. This morning I’ve been doing a little bit of research to promote three different fantastic biodiversity projects in June, and made ourselves a board with loads of information and resources for the coming month.

30 Days Wild- All of June

Set up last year, 30 Days Wild is an awesome drive by the Wildlife Trusts to get more people outside and interacting with nature. Individuals can sign up here for a pack, which contains things like a calendar for the month, stickers, a badge, and some ideas of what to do! There are loads of free activities that the Wildlife Trusts are putting on too, which is pretty cool as it means people really have the opportunity to get out and explore.

They also have an app, which you can download for some quick ideas to get outside in nature. I’ve not downloaded it yet (too many other recording apps!) but from a quick glance, it looks pretty fun.

 

National Insect Week- 20-26th June

National Insect Week is a bi-annual event run by the Royal Entomological Society promoting insects. There are tons of events occurring during the week all over the country, which is pretty cool really, as insects are sometimes undervalued- especially the ones that aren’t “pretty”.

The section of NIW’s website I like the best is the Learning Resources area (I guess that says a lot…)- there are loads of activities and things to do; worksheets and things to read, lesson plans, podcasts and websites. Fantastic!

 

Great British Bee Count- 19th May- 30th June

Run by the Friends of the Earth, the Great British Bee Count mostly revolves around an app used to count bees. When I first downloaded it only 10 bees had been counted- now it’s over 18,000! When you spot a bee, you can record it on the app. There are handy pictures too, which makes it easy to work out what you’re looking at. It even has a few non-bees that look like bees (like wasps and bee-flies).

Record all of the bees

You can also do a timed count, watching a 50cm area for 1 minute and recording all the bees that visit the flowers you’re watching.

Putting together all these cool biodiversity projects into one board was a bit of a challenge, and I might have gotten overexcited… But there’s so much to look forward to in June!

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So much biodiversity!

2016, Biology, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Real Family Holidays – Nature Walk

On Thursday afternoon, Ruth and Zoe led a Nature Walk on Box Hill as part of our Real Family Holidays program. Fortunately I was luck enough to ‘tag’ along and learn all about the nature that exists on the door step of Juniper Hall!

Zoe making a good point

The route we took passed through Charlottes wood, up to Broadwood’s Tower, across Lodge Hill, up Juniper Top, across to Salomons Memorial and down the Burford Spur…and breathe! Overall the walk took 2 1/2 hours, over timed on the 1:30-3:30 Real Family Holiday afternoon activity slot, but we weren’t too concerned about spending an extra half an hour in the great outdoors.

First up, Ruth introduced the families to the Holy Leaf Miner, which is a type of fly whose larvae burrow into holly leaves. The leaves turn brown in colour thus the process of photosynthesis in the leaf is restricted.

Holy Leaf Miner larvae have turned a patch in this holy leaf, brown.

Next, we came across the Box Tree. Now, the the small leaves on a Box Tree smell like Cat Urine to around 50% of people, depending on genetics. So on smelling the leaves we got some funny looks from a young girl who actually claimed that the leaves smelt of rotten shoes! I hadn’t heard that one before…To me, the Box Tree smells fresh and leafy. Back to the facts, interestingly, 40% of Box Trees live on Box Hill – hence the name!

Box Tree!

 

“What is this tree called?…It sounds like you, and you, and YOU!” The Yew Tree also lives on Box Hill and is 1/5 of Britain’s evergreen tree species. They can grow up to a height of 40m. Yew wood is said to be very springy, and was used in Medieval times to craft bows. Mysteriously often found in church yards, Yew trees are poisonous except for the berries that they produce. This is perfect for their reproduction as it means birds eat the berries, but dispose of the poisonous seed allowing for seed dispersal.

 

Mixed into the fun facts were also tribal calls conjured up by Ruth and facial markings from the the wet mud on Box Hill. We really looked the part and the kids loved it!

A new look!

When walking up Juniper Top, not only were the views stunning (despite the cloud), but we got the pleasure of being introduced to a Yellow Meadow Ants’ mound. These mounds are constructed by ants to live in and to also attract shelter seeking caterpillars. In exchange for their ‘hospitality’ the ants collect the nutritious syrup deposited by these caterpillars. The mounds also provide an excellent resting spot for rabbits. Rabbits poo on these mounds providing them with a vantage point meaning that they are more aware of their predators and less susceptible to attack. I found that to be the most interesting fun fact of a really enjoyable afternoon.

As Real Family Holidays have come to an end today, I consider myself lucky that I get to call afternoons such as these as work.

Dorking looking great – Currently my favorite view in the Surrey

Thank you to Ruth and Zoe for their facts, and thank you to the families for being so infectiously enthusiast!

Rory