Archive for May, 2012

Here Ed Drewitt takes us through some of the stages of Bird ringing which enables us to record and study the growth and numbers of our British birdlife.


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Tree expert Richard has found some interesting giants including a weeping horse chestnut, one of the oldest trees in the cemetery. It’s a botanical mystery why this tree’s branches grow downwards instead of up towards the light. Could this be Bioblitz first?


The cemetery is also home to a lonely female monkey puzzle whose fruits will remain undeveloped as no male tree grows nearby. Monkey puzzles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, so Arnos Vale contains a living fossil.


Irish yews are all descended from one Northern Irish tree growing in the 1840s, and several have been planted here. They are the same species as common yews but grow upright rather than branching out. There are yews all around the cemetery, possibly planted here to stay out of reach to cows and horses (who can be poisoned by them), their evergreen leaves symbolise eternal life.

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One minute interview with Steph Gillett, volunteer guide at Bioblitz 2012.


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Lastest species tally from Bioblitz HQ – After last nights activity and some more nature treks this morning we have a very respectable 260!

Tally Sat Morn

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If you were enthralled with George’s post below showing some great images of our bat hunt last night with the Avon Bat Group (and some lovely close-ups of its stars), then take a look at the motion picture edition!

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Late last night (even later than the Bat group!) Arnos Vale also hosted a keen group of month enthusiasts eager to show members of the public what moth species could be found after the sun goes down. I was rather excited to be experiencing moth hunting, which is something rather unknown to me.

The moth enthusiasts gather around their light traps to view their spoils

The moth traps were set up all over Arnos Vale, on the lawns, on stone paths and in the woods. We spent an enjoyable evening going from trap to trap to see what interesting things we could find as well as discussing just how one develops such a deep interest in moths.

Trapping moths

While thoroughly interesting, the light of the moth traps dotted around the cemetery made for a rather eerie setting

As the night rolled on more and more moths came to our traps and were eagerly bottled, identified and recorded before, of course, being released back into the night.

Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)

The brimstone moth is a striking an instantly recognisable with bright yellow wings with small brown patches up the sides

Common swift

A moth enthusiast shows us an early catch in the night: a common swift

The Common Swift (Korscheltellus lupulina) and Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata) were both interesting finds and were well worth staying up past my bedtime for!

Watch this space for footage of these moths and more as well as interviews of our dedicated moth hunters…

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5am on a Saturday and the promise of a fantastic dawn chorus walk, led by budding ornithologist Alex Rhodes, saw me dragging myself out from under the duvet covers and down to Arnos Vale Cemetery almost before the birds had even started singing.

Early morning stroll around Arnos Vale for the dawn chorus

Early morning stroll around Arnos Vale for the dawn chorus

The huge variety of habitats at Arnos Vale meant that we were privileged enough to witness the spectacle of the dawn chorus in all its glory, and we were treated to a tally of species which included wrens, robins, blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, bullfinches, goldcrests, blackbirds, woodpeckers and even a cuckoo. Truly impressive!

Birdwatching on the dawn chorus walk

Birdwatching on the dawn chorus walk

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The Avon Bat Group are a dedicated crew of bat enthusiasts that were on site here at Arnos Vale last night showing members of the public how to use bat detectors and then guiding them on a spooky walk round the cemetery to find the elusive flying mammals.

The Bat group brief the public on what bats they can expect to see and hear on the walk

As well as demonstrating the correct use of bat detectors the group were able to show the public images and sounds of the bats using a iPad funded by South Gloucestershire Council.

Bat detector use

Bat detectors use an ultrasonic microphone to pick up the high frequency bat calls and convert them to an audible sound

Once we set out it did not take long for us to detect the bat’s presence at Arnos Vale. All over we could here clicking noises of bat calls in our detectors.

Bat group using detectors

Using their bat detectors, the bat group hone in on the clicking noises the bats were making

The next day David Brown, from the Avon Bat group confirmed that the clicking and slapping noises matched exactly with the calls made by the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). If that wasn’t enough he even showed me a captive specimen…

Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

A captive female common pipistrelle

…with the cutest little feet ever!

Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) feet

The tiny feet of the Common pipistrelle poking out of a volunteers hand

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It’s the second day of Bristol’s Bioblitz at Arnos Vale and the experts are arriving in glorious sunshine, perfect for butterfly and reptile hunting around the cemetery.

Saturday's bioblitz begins at Arnos Vale Cemetery

This morning kicks off with owl-pellet dissection, you can meet a bat, watch experts ring birds and find out if hedgehogs have left their mark in our track tunnels. Expert walks include woodland walks and bug hunts.  There’ll also be music to listen to throughout the day.

Yesterday the team found 244 different species, there’s plenty more to look out for today so come and join the hunt.

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As preparations get underway for the night’s activities (mainly involving fuelling ourselves with delicious food!) we thought we’d update you with our latest count…

244 species so far! We expect this to go up significantly tonight when we listen out for different species of bats and catch many, many moths. Don’t worry though, we release them all unharmed.

The Two Matts

So far so good!

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