What were your highlights from the City Nature Challenge this year? Although I missed taking part in a public BioBlitz at the Natural History Museum, I enjoyed my own mini BioBlitz in my little London garden – making 99 observations and managing to identify 80 different species. My favourite find was a tiny Bethylid wasp which was the first one I have ever seen. These wasps are just a few millimetres long and are known as ‘flat wasps’ because of their squashed appearance. They are parasitoids of beetle larvae or moth caterpillars.
Have you seen any bee-flies in your garden? Bee-flies look rather like bees but are actually true flies (Diptera). They have round, furry bodies and a long proboscis (tongue) held out straight. The proboscis can sometimes cause alarm but they do not bite or sting and just use it to drink nectar from spring flowers, often while hovering. Flowers with long nectar tubes such as primroses and lungworts are particular favourites, and bee-flies are likely to be important pollinators of these.
A BioBlitz is a race against the clock to find and record as many living things as possible within a specific area over a set period of time. These observations are then used for scientific research and environmental monitoring by our wildlife garden managers and are shared with scientists in the UK and abroad. Our Autumn BioBlitz in the Wildlife Garden was on the 21st October, we had typical autumn weather with a lot of rain, but still saw interesting wildlife.
The Citizen Science team hosted the 2nd South-East Citizen Science Meetup at the Angela Marmont Centre last Friday. As an effort to bring together researchers and practitioners in the field, the ExCiteS research group (UCL) had held the first Citizen Science meetup in London back in January 2019, as part of the Doing It Together Science (DITOs) project. The informal concept of meetups brought together a wide range of citizen science expertise and so we decided to host the next meet up at the Natural History Museum.
Over the last weekend of April, London competed with over 150 cities worldwide in the City Nature Challenge. People across the globe banded together and spent four days finding as much wildlife and nature as possible in their respective cities. London was one of the top five cities in Europe, with 5470 observations of 1115 different species recorded by 258 people in total.
Continuing the blogs about the Autumn BioBlitz in the Museum’s wildlife garden, we would like to introduce you to more species found during the day! BioBlitzes are only one of the ways wildlife garden species are being recorded; biological recordings take place in the garden in many different ways all year round.
Read on to learn more about the autumn findings in the amazing wildlife garden including a species very rare to the UK and one which made it to a top 10 list!
As part of the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), we are often focused on the death of animal and can overlook the amazing lives of marine creatures before they sadly wash up along our coastlines. British waters are home to over 28 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as cetaceans.
In the UK, the most numerous (and smallest) of these is the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Unsurprisingly, these porpoises therefore make up the majority of strandings in the UK.
Across the UK, many different creatures wash up on our shores. The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) is responsible for documenting stranded animals in the UK and retrieves a portion of those that strand for post-mortem examination every year. The main bulk of the project is made up of cetaceans – a group of marine mammals comprised of whales, dolphins and porpoises.
However, many people don’t realise the project also responds to strandings of sharks. Since 2007, the CSIP has recorded the stranding of basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) across the UK and more recently secured funding to expand the research to other large-bodied sharks such as porbeagles (Lamna nasus), angel sharks (Squatina squatina) and blue sharks (Prionace glauca).
WARNING: This blog contains photographs of dead stranded sharks which you may find upsetting