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Hundreds get to grips with biological recording at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve

30th April 2019

With clouds brewing and unsettled weather for the whole day, we weren’t entirely sure how our first ever Bioblitz at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve would pan out. However, with around 250 local people visiting the reserve to observe and record wildlife, each ready and willing to take part in a suite of family-friendly activities provided by NHSN experts, the day was a roaring success.

One of the most popular activities was the mammal station manned by Aileen Mill, Sacha Elliot and Chris Wren, experts in their respective realms of mammology. This provided visitors with an opportunity to view a range of small mammals in the flesh, including Bank Voles and three (albeit captive) Harvest Mice. Also on show was a plethora of interesting footage captured during Chris’s time camera trapping the reserve. Topping off the mammal-themed activities for the day, the Northumberland Bat Group were on hand to talk more about bat monitoring and to show lucky visitors bats at close quarters – an experience few will forget in a hurry!

In the Ridley Hide, birdwatching remained popular, as ever, with guests able to observe a range of colourful wildfowl. Elsewhere, young entomologists took to the woodland tracks as part of an insect bioblitz and, with the help of friendly experts, were able to add a range of interesting records to the days tally, including a number of superb Nursery-web Spiders. Firm favourites such as pond-dipping, tree identification, bird ringing, wildlife photography and moth trapping also returned and ensured that all visitors enjoyed a fun yet educational day.

I absolutely loved the experience. The highlight of my visit was the bird hides. I hope to visit regularly from now on and I am glad I chose the open day to conduct my first visit! – Paradeep Dheerendra, Bioblitz participant

But what about those all-important records? Well, the reserve’s wildlife performed admirably throughout the day. Diligent botanists were able to record some 200 species of plant, while 22 species of Bryophyte were also noted alongside a good number of lichens. Over 60 species of bird were also recorded during the event, including Green Woodpecker, Reed Warbler, Buzzard, Willow Tit, Water Rail and Pochard.

Among the mammals noted throughout the Bioblitz, nocturnal surveyors were lucky enough to encounter Otter, as well as three species of bat: Soprano Pipistrelle, Whiskered and Noctule. Eagle-eyed diurnal spotters added to proceedings by recording evidence of Badger, Brown Rat, Bank Vole, Wood Mouse and, on a less enthusiastic note, Grey Squirrel.

Unfortunately, our efforts to record insects were somewhat hamstrung by the weather; although included among the species we did record were some real treasures. These included Clarke’s Mining Bee, Great Diving Beetle, Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and Tree Bumblebee.

Despite the wide range of species observed over the course of the day, there were a number of highlights. A star find by young Bioblitzer, Millie Robinson, saw our first site record of a queen European Hornet logged – proving without doubt that this species has successfully colonised the reserve following their arrival last year. Well done, Millie!

Elsewhere on the reserve, a micromoth, Heliozela sericiella, caused a bit of a stir, representing the second site record of this species and only the 4th record in the county. While surveying lichen at the site, Dr Janet Simkin was also able to uncover a notable first for the reserve.

All in all, visitors were able to contribute a substantial number of records towards the region’s efforts in the City Nature Challenge. While the total number of records has yet to be tallied, we estimate that together, volunteers and visitors recorded approximately 350 species over the course of the day. These records will be submitted to ERIC to ensure they are added to the long-term dataset for the site.

We would like to offer a resounding ‘thank you’ to everyone, expert and visitor alike, who attended our event on Saturday. Particular thanks should go to the many passionate volunteers who gave up their time freely to make Saturday a success – we couldn’t do it with you – and to those students currently taking part in our Student Naturalist Award Scheme who joined us for the day.

We hope you enjoyed your visit and are grateful for the contribution your records have made to our knowledge of the site. We hope you will join us again for further open days later this year on Saturday 22 June and Saturday 24 August at 10.30am-3.30pm.

Gosforth Park Nature Reserve is a fantastic site and home to a whole host of iconic, interesting wildlife. I had a great day at the Bioblitz and greatly enjoyed the opportunity to ‘learn from the experts’ and shadow some of these out there recording wildlife on the day. – Sophie Davis, Newcastle University student

James Common, Communications Officer