26 August 2011
Having travelled the length and breadth of the country, the Meet the Species team brought their summer of adventure to a close with a trip to Wales for the Green Man Festival, where we were part of Einstein’s Garden, a fusion and celebration of art, science and nature. Setting up the Meet the Species HQ deep within the beautiful Glanusk valley, in sight of the main stage and with the peaks of the Brecon Beacons looming in the background, the site promised a perfect finale to the festival summer. With swallows swooping across the fields, red kites circling overhead, and a bank vole scurrying past even as we were pitching the tent, we set ourselves an ambitious target of recording over two-hundred species over the course of the weekend, a goal we were confident of achieving with the help of Green Man visitors.
Teaming up with the expert naturalists of the Green Man wildlife walks, we were able to discover species from all types of habitat. Ladybird hunts, led by Remy, were able to uncover many of the incredible forty-six different types of ladybird present in the UK, including the invasive harlequin ladybird, one of our twelve feature species. Pete and David led the search for bugs and earthworms respectively, while Joe took crowds of people on a search along the banks of the River Usk for the tastier species of fungi and flora, finding edible delights such as sheep sorrel and yew berries. Nearer to base, Julie was able to demonstrate just how many species can be found even in a small pond, discovering a common toad, smooth and palmate newts, dragonfly nymphs and a water scorpion, amongst many others, to add to our list.
Back at the Meet the Species gazebo, visitors were also able to lend a hand as we created a giant garden tiger moth, illustrating scales that were then combined to create a huge image of this striking species, whose numbers have tragically declined by 90% in the last forty years. As the species total continued to rise, word spread that we were on the hunt for wildlife, and we were inundated with people reporting what they had seen, and bringing back specimens to be identified, from a delicate brimstone moth to an oak weevil that appeared positively extra-terrestrial under the microscope!
As Sunday evening approached, Meet the Species HQ remained a hive of activity, as species were collected, ID charts examined, and habitats explored for those last few plants and animals to add to the count. Thus with the brilliant help of Green Man visitors, we were able to reach our target, finishing the weekend with a grand total of 208 different species, a fantastic achievement, and a great way to finish our summer series of events. Thanks must go to all of the expert naturalists who have shared their expertise and enthusiasm with us throughout the summer, and also to all our species hunters, who helped us to find and identify so many different species. Our summer of events might be over, but there are still many more species on our list that still need to be discovered; the race to 2012 is still very much on!
By Ben Connor, Bristol Natural History Consortium
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