Archive for the ‘Species’ Category

Kids from Andalusia Academy were treated to an informative and entertaining walk around the woods of Arnos Vale this morning:

Species expert Joe McSorley sweeps his net to catch a speckled wood butterfly

This speckled wood butterfly was rather less timid than expected and was most obliging to the camera

but there was more in store…

Hadayfe shows either delight or disgust (it’s quite hard to tell) at the discovery of a snail by his friend

We also learned a little bit about seed dispersal

After being dropped briefly, Muhammed’s cap picked up a number of dandelion seeds

and a lot on leaf shapes.

The kids were taught about how to distinguish different plant species by looking at the leaves

The best part of the walk by far was when the kids were asked to identify a flower named after a place in Bristol. They guessed… a Temple Meads flower!

Unfortunately the Bristol Temple Meads flower has yet to be discovered, however I can reveal the correct answer –

Not quite a Temple Meads flower but the Speedwell flower is named after the area in east Bristol

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Gill Brown shows students from St Anne’s Juniors some inventive ways of tracking small mammals in your own back garden.

Building mammal traps

Using a simple bit of tubing, even a kitchen roll tube can be used, some black paint and bait it’s easy to gather foot prints of your gardens inhabitants. Simply paint a small section of card with the paint at either end and in the middle leave some tempting peanut butter or even a hot dog for bigger beasts!

Gill Brown looking at mammal tracks

After building the traps Gill goes through the different tracks you might come across in the trap and others that she has discovered and recorded over the years.

Megan and Holly with their mammal trap

Then into the woods to lay the tracking devices in a hidden location. Megan and Holly are hoping to find evidence of mice when their tracking trap is checked in the morning.

Videos of the event will be up shortly so make sure you check back!

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How do you find a hedgehog in a cemetery? We asked mammal specialist Gill Brown the very same question, and she kindly chatted to us about exactly what she would be doing to find these elusive nocturnal creatures…

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A group of students from Brislington Enterprise College have just returned from a fabulous fungi walk with fungi expert John Bailey and have discovered many interesting species and fun facts along the way.

Their first discovery was a King Alfred’s cake fungus, which had been slightly demolished by hungry insects. A long time ago this species, formerly known as ‘cramp balls’, were believed to prevent muscle cramps.

King Alfred's cake fungus

After a rather tiring ascent there were plenty more fantastic finds.


The group of students were then taught about the negative effects of some fungi on plant health, after discovering a parasitised leaf and taking a closer look.

Plant diseased by fungus

Amongst some dense vegetation John managed to spot some artists bracket fungus. If a name is carved into this fungus it will remain throughout its growth.

Pore inspection

It seemed like scrambled egg to most, but John quickly advised us that this was yet another fungus to add to our species count.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern

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Night footage from Arnos Vale showing badger activity. This footage was taken by Will Bolton (www.willbolton.co.uk) a couple of weeks ago using a cameratrap.

We hope this gets you excited for this years event!

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Mistle thrush egg

Mistle thrush egg

While out filming Ed Drewitt doing some more ringing this morning I managed to come across this egg fragment nestled in the grass beneath the trees.

It is a gorgeous dusky blue colour with a host of brown speckles and has been identified, thanks to Ed’s expertise, as a mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) egg.

A mistle thrush was heard (but not seen) this morning on the dawn chorus walk, and the egg acts to provide more evidence of their presence.

Mistle thrush egg

Mistle thrush egg

Sadly though it seems that this egg hadn’t hatched as there was evidence of predation. It’s amazing how much you can find out about what lives here at Tyntesfield without even seeing the bird in question!

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Ed Drewitt is still at it, ringing birds captured in his mist nets. Having been up since 4.30am, he’s understandably a bit worn out now!

This male great spotted woodpecker is the first that Ed has caught at the BioBlitz, despite having seen a few flying around the site! While females have a white patch on the head, the male’s is a striking red.

Great Spotted Woodpecker adult male

Adult male great spotted woodpecker

Yesterday we rung a male blackcap, and today we’ve caught a female, showing her distinctive brown head. Her brood patch reveals that she’d recently been incubating eggs and most likely has a chicks waiting for her in a nest somewhere.

Female blackcap

Adult female blackcap

Finally, this juvenile dunnock probably only left the nest 3 or 4 days ago! Unlike its parents, this young one has a mottled head. These are shy birds which frequently hide away in the bushes.

Young dunnock

Juvenile dunnock

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Lauren and I have just returned from a fungal forage in the forest with John Bailey and his team of intrepid fungi experts. It’s not been the best weather for fungi recently due to poor rainfall, but we remained optimistic of some good finds.

John Bailey

John examining some rotten wood

The first notable find of the day was a tiny fungus called Mycena stylobates. Although not rare, this was an excellent discovery considering our less than favourable conditions.

Close up of Mycena stylobates

Close-up of the tiny Mycena stylobates

John’s enthusasim for all things fungal was clearly evident along the way, and that’s no surprise condiering the important role that these organisms play in the forest. Being saprophytic, fungi break down dead organic matter. Their almost invisible mycelium spread across the forest floor – so even when you can’t see fungus, they are everywhere.

John Bailey inspecting slime mold

Inspecting the slime mold Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa

Our next find was a beautiful slime mold called Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. Although not a fungus, these single-celled protists were once classified as such. Fungi thsemselves can be divided into three broad groups. Those that rot logs, pathogens which attack plants and soil fungi which infect plant roots.

It wasn’t long before we came across our best find – a toadstool named Pluteus cervinus, otherwise called deer shield. Best identified by its pink spores, this species grows on wood.

John Bailey with deer shield fungus

Deer shield has pink spores

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Checking the amount of fat and muscle

Examining fat and muscle level

Our birdman Ed has been catching and ringing all kinds of birds since yesterday morning. We asked him what it’s all about and how it can help us to better understand our feathered friends.

Why are you ringing birds?

It’s a way of identifying and recording individual birds, so that if they’re caught again we can tell where they’ve been and how they’ve developed. This can give us valuable information about their lives and behaviour.

What information are you collecting?

As well as the species, we check the gender and estimate the age of the bird. We measure the size and wingspan and also assess levels of fat and muscle. We use a sensitive spring balance to weigh the birds, too.

What do you do with the information?

We use it for our own researh, but we also submit it to a central database maintained by the British Trust for Ornithology. They can  make our data available to researchers across the world.

How do you ring the birds?

First we need to catch them. We’re doing that here today with a large net strung between two poles. But there are various other ways of catching birds, depending on what species we are looking for and how big they are.

We attach a small ring to the bird’s leg. This will stay with them for life. We can ring birds at any age, once they have started to develop their first feathers. It’s completely painless and the ring won’t get in their way at all.

What information is on the ring?

The ring has a unique registration number and the address of the British Museum. If anybody catches the bird again, they know that they can contact the museum to access the data that we’ve collected today.

Do you often catch birds that have already been ringed?

Yes, we do. Most of them are quite local, but at Chew Valley, where I usually work, we’ve caught swallows that have flown here from South Africa and warblers from Spain. It’s really exciting to see how far they’ve travelled.

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Sarah, Harvey and Oscar

Sarah, Harvey and Oscar

Who are you?
I’m Sarah and these two are Harvey and Oscar.

Why are you here?
Oscar and Harvey are members of the Wraxhall School Wildlife Club so we came today to learn more about wildlife. It’s great to have a local event which gets you outside and hands on with nature.

What has been your favourite thing so far?
We have just been learning about different types of moth and then helping to release them, I think that’s our favourite so far today.

What are you looking forward to later?

Hopefully some surprises and learning lots from all the experts

Learning about moths

Learning about moths

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