Aug 05 2014
Museums Sheffield’s Curator of Natural Sciences, Alistair McLean on the success of the 2014 Sheffield Bioblitz.
For the last 3 years, Museums Sheffield has hosted the Sheffield BioBlitz, an ambitious event working with community and natural history groups across the city to record as many species as possible in 48 hours.
This year, we decided to hold the blitz a little later in the year, in an attempt to avoid the bad weather we’ve had for the previous two blitzes. We aim for a final grand total of 1000 species, but cold temperatures and rain can seriously reduce the number of species that it’s possible to record. This year, for the first time, we had glorious sunshine and many species that had been in hiding for the previous Bioblitzes were out in force, as were the people who record them!
By the end of the blitz, we had taken over 2000 individual sightings and recorded over 800 species from 72 square km of the city. Records are still coming in and it will probably be a few weeks before we get a final species total, but I’m confident that we’ll reach 1000 once everything is in.
For the first time this year, we’ve finally had a verified sighting of the elusive mute swan. One of the interesting facts that the Bioblitz has thrown up in recent years is that this bird, which is common in other parts of the country, appears to be absent from Sheffield. They can be found outside of our recording area, particularly towards Rotherham, but not within the city boundary. In truth, the swans that were recorded were flying from Rother Valley Country Park (just over the border) and temporarily came into Sheffield, so we were very lucky with our timing!
This year, we didn’t manage to record any sightings of Canada goose. On this occasion, this is probably because there wasn’t much recording on the upland reservoirs, where they’re known to frequent. That been said, these are a species to keep an eye on in the future, just in case there has been a reduction in the local breeding population.
The most commonly recorded species were butterflies, particularly the ringlet and speckled wood. These were considered rarities in our region up until around 15 years ago, but are now extremely common.
Nobody knows the total number of species we have in the Sheffield area. Around 9000 have been recorded by the Biological Records Centre over the last 50 years, but I would estimate that there could be as many as 50,000 species living locally. The majority of these are very difficult to identify and need an expert with years of knowledge and experience to do so accurately. In that sense, the Sheffield BioBlitz is as much a measure of the amount of expertise we have in the region as it is a measure of the number of species. We are exceptionally lucky to have some of the best wildlife recorders in the country based in South Yorkshire, who prove that you don’t need to be a professional biologist to be an expert identifier.
If you’re interested in developing your wildlife identification skills, I can recommend joining Sorby Natural History Society. The society has a great number of experts in its ranks and holds teaching workshops and a huge number of field meetings. And of course, don’t forget to join us for the Bioblitz next year!
Top: Common Hawker, Aeshna juncea. Photographed & submitted by Julie Anthony
Bottom: Map of Sheffield Bioblitz 2014 sightings