So our first ever 'Big Wild Stock Take' has been progressing well, reaching a total of 78 bird species and 90 'other wildlife' on our first day (Monday) - thanks to everyone getting into the spirit of things and helping to spot and record all of these things. Highlights included red kite, hobby, nightingales, whirligig beetles and great crested newts.
Thinking we'd have little to add by way of bird species over the rest of the week, my volunteers Gary and Graham, out-trumped everything else by reporting an unexpected and lovely spoonbill feeding out on the North Brooks. I was just about to pop out onto the heathland during my lunch break to see if I could find a few insects with Latin names (which always look impressive) when the radio message came in, and I swiftly decided to change my plans and take a peek from Hanger View - what a stunning bird - well worth getting a little bit soggy for!
But it's not just the big things that count, we had some great help from some enthusiastic young pond-dippers who added phantom midge larvae, bloodworms, dragonfly nymphs and water fleas to the list and by the end of yesterday I was being sent photographs of hoverflies to identify (thanks Russ!), the cafe staff were summoning me to identify plants and beetles that they had found around the tea terrace and volunteers were describing fungi over the radio for me to work out. So we've now added Scaeva pyrastrii (the hoverfly), chicken of the woods fungi, oedemera nobilis (or as I call it 'the fat -legged beetle') and hedge woundwort to our list too!
We're still short of wading birds for our list, so if you're coming to visit before the end of Sunday, see if you can find us a dunlin, greenshank or sandpiper. We've also failed to find the spotted flycatcher so far (our warden, Pete, has seen them previously on the heath and down near Jupp's View - this should surprise no-one who knows me and followed my abortive attempts to track them down last year! So, if you're up to the challenge come along and find some goodies for us.
Photos - spoonbill by Graham Osborne, hoverfly by Russ Tofts, beetle by me.