My adventures in biological recording for this month have so far included going on a Invertebrate recording event with Cheshire Active Naturalists, seeing my first Water Vole and a touch of Bat Surveying!
Cheshire Active Naturalists are a group of professional and amateur naturalists that provide training (only £30 a year!) in a variety of natural sciences to members, the great thing about this group is having the opportunity to learn new skills in a relaxed environment with people who are extremely knowledgeable about what they are teaching and not forgetting that the yearly membership fee is very good value for money for the scope and amount of courses on offer. So far since joining I’ve had the opportunity to attend courses on conducting Phase One habitat surveys and using the extremely useful but difficult to get your teeth into book – “The Vegetative Key to the British Flora”.
The Invertebrate recording event was held at the Anderton Boat Lift on the 6th June and the group included recorders of Diptera, Molluscs, Hymenoptera and not forgetting Arachnids! This gave me the opportunity to learn more about other types of Invertebrates which was an exciting start in beginning to collect specimens for identification later as many species are difficult to identify in the field. (I have previously gone on a Solitary Wasp identification course with Liverpool Museum that involved identifying specimens under a microscope which included looking at different identifying features such as the pattern of the wing membranes and determining whether a wing is forked or not.)
You can see an example below of the first wasp I managed to ID to family level which was a Paladonia Wasp.
Here is an example of a forked wing membrane which can be seen within the blue circle and as some species do not have forked wing membranes this can be helpful in narrowing specimens down to at least a family level.
Obviously this isn’t possible in the field so many specimens are collected and then identified at a later date using a microscope.
I really like Liverpool World Museum in that it is great resource for amateur entomologists as being a publicly funded institute members of the public can use both the dry and wet labs for their own identification purposes.
Armed with my trusty Spi-Pot (Thanks to Shropshire Spider Group for making me one) , my hand lens and Spider ID book and not forgetting my sweep net I was ready for an adventure..
The habitats around Anderton Boat lift included Woodland, Wildflower Meadow and Grassland and a few ponds with wetland areas which gave everyone the opportunity to look for their chosen groups.
Long Jawed Orb Weaver (Tetragnatha spp) found on Nettles within Woodland habitat
While sweep netting in an patch of long grass within the Wildflower Meadow I happened to catch a Four Spot Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) it must not have been ready for the wake up call as It spent a good 10 minutes warming up which resulted in quite some odd photos as it looked like it was twisting its wings when in reality my phone camera speed was not fast enough to capture the vibrating wings. It was beautiful watching such a fantastic creature so close up. Once warmed up it didn’t wait any longer before flying off.I also not unsurprisingly considering how common they seem to be now I manged to see quite a few (I counted more than 30) of Alder Leaf Beetles (Agelastica alni) throughout the day. I found it quite amazing to find that this species was considered extinct in the UK between 1946-2003 with almost no records. It was re-found again in Manchester in 2004 (on a bus stop no less..).
This image was from Floodbrook Clough which is an Ancient Semi-Natural Clough Woodland and Site of Special Scientific Interest in Runcorn, Cheshire.
I’ve recently signed up for the National Bat Monitoring Project run by The Bat Conservation Trust, the NBMP is a series a surveys that volunteers can sign up to to help monitor the population of the UK’s bat species and one of the surveys I’ve signed up for is looking at whether Nathusius’ Pipistrelles are present within my allocated 1km sqaures near to where I live, one of the most exciting parts of this survey is getting the opportunity to analyse your own recordings and identifying a a species through the call structures and peak frequency ranges that can be seen on a sonogram.
I thought I would take my bat detector down to Frodsham Marsh (along Frodsham Bird Blog) in the hopes of find some Daubenton Bats which can be found hunting for insects along waterways.
While waiting for the sun set we managed to see the male Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) hovering above number 6 tank, along with an early or late Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) and a Dunlin (Calidris alpina).
A walk along Number 6 tank heading towards the old log book only resulted in a few very faint clicks and not much else, as by this time it was getting late (after 10pm) we decided to drive to the Horses fields and ditches close to the motorway bridge which resulted in a few Common Pips (Pipistrellus pipistrellus).
It was while looking across the ditch I saw a little brown object swimming along the water…my first ever sighting of a Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)..and to say I was more than happy is an understatement!
Thanks for reading 🙂