Jun 17 2013
Museums Sheffield’s Curator of Natural Sciences, Alistair McLean on the findings from the recent 2013 Sheffield BioBlitz, a massive city-wide collaborative nature survey.
On Friday 16 May 2013, the second Sheffield BioBlitz launched at Weston Park Museum. The aim of the blitz was to record as many species as possible from within the Sheffield boundary in a 48 hour period. As last year, the Museum operated as the BioBlitz action desk, typing up species sightings from naturalists and members of the public from all over Sheffield. The event, organised with Sorby Natural History Society, relies on people giving up their free time to record species and once again, I was overwhelmed by the dedication and wealth of expertise to be found in Sheffield’s vibrant naturalist community.
Over 2500 individual observations have been submitted so far and 870 individual species have been recorded. This tally is all the more remarkable, as the weather was truly awful for most of the blitz; cold and wet, which put off most of the flying insects.
This year, the highlight for me was the bat walk in the rain. Normally, if it’s cold and raining, it’s a waste of time looking for bats. They tend to prefer warm, dry nights to come out to feed. As dusk began to fall around Weston Park and the rain was getting heavier, I despondently told the bat enthusiasts who had braved the weather with me that the chances of seeing anything were quite remote. Shortly after this, the first pipistrelles flew over the water of Weston Park lake and proved me totally wrong. The bats put on a good show for the next two hours, all around Weston and Crookes Valley Parks.
Analysis of the data will continue for some months yet, but it is immediately noticeable that, once again, there has been no sighting of Mute Swan. It is becoming increasingly likely that there aren’t any within the Sheffield boundary. Our species total was lower than last year, which may partly be a result of the poor weather. On the plus side, the maps show that the area covered was much wider, particularly in the North of the city.
The preparations for next years BioBlitz are already underway and it’s set to be a big one. 2014 is the 50th anniversary of Sheffield Biological Records Centre, the organisation that ultimately holds all of the BioBlitz data. They use it to help protect and manage Sheffield’s green spaces. The fact that Sheffield is one of the greenest cities in the UK has a lot to do with the work of the centre and the army of professional and volunteer naturalists, past and present. It will be great to coincide Sheffield BioBlitz 2014 to celebrate their achievement. Watch this space.