Saturday, 20 October 2018

BSBI Recorders' Conference 2018: a huge success!

Fred Rumsey's Duckweed ID workshop
Image: L. Marsh
Last weekend saw 69 botanists assembled at FSC Preston Montford in Shropshire for the 2018 BSBI Recorders' Conference to enjoy 11 talks, 13 workshops/ drop-in sessions, a field session to road test John Poland's forthcoming Field Key to Winter Twigs and a pop-up bookshop from Summerfield Books

If you head over to the Recorders' Conference webpage, you can download pdfs of nine of the eleven talks - not quite the same as being there but an enjoyable glimpse into what went on and there are some great links and tops in the pdfs! 

There are also five workshop hand-outs available on the page, and more to come. The three hand-outs from expert botanist Tim Rich (author of the celebrated Plant Crib) are particularly useful, covering an introduction to collecting and identifying dandelions, and introductions to dandelion sections and dandelion characters. 

Ken Adams talking about creating ID resources
Image: L. Marsh
Feedback from the delegates suggests that, while they enjoyed all the talks and workshops, there were a few particular favourites: Ken Adams on ID resources, Tim Rich on Gentians and Geoffrey Hall on 'Citizen Science: dealing with the deluge' were among the most popular talks.

Of the workshops, David Earl on brambles, John Poland's twig ID sessions, Matt Parratt on Abies and Geoffrey Kitchener on Docks were singled out, with one delegate commenting "Geoffrey Kitchener's Docks workshop was the best workshop I have ever attended". 

Geoffrey Kitchener's Rumex workshop
Image: L. Marsh
There were also several mentions of Sue Townsend's "warm style and great chairing" as at the end of each day she pulled together threads from the day's talks and helped us look at how we might progress some of the ideas discussed. I couldn't agree more, Sue gave us masterclasses in how to chair a conference, even though they don't appear on the programme! 

David Morris, County Recorder for  Oxfordshire, attended the Recorders' Conference and has written a short account of it for his blog which really captures the flavour of the event: click here to read David's report.

You can also get a good flavour of the conference by clicking on the #BSBIRecordersConference hashtag, where several delegates shared their thoughts on the weekend - and some great photos! 

I particularly liked these two tweets from people who couldn't make it along to Shropshire:

Replying to   and 
Wish I was there. Please keep tweeting so I can join in electronically!

IDing twigs with John Poland - in the rain!
Tim Rich looking very cool (and dry) under
a colourful umberella - wise man ;-)
Image: C. Sugrue
Delegates to the conference have already suggested a few workshops they'd like us to run next time: non-aquatic aliens; willows; brassicas; Fumaria spp.; sedges; 
Polygonum; the mechanics of recording... so it looks like we already have a draft programme for the next Recorders' Conference, scheduled for spring 2020! 

We'll post details of the venue and the date on the Recorders' Conference webpage nearer the time but meanwhile, if you have suggestions for an ID workshop you'd like us to put on, just email and we'll add your idea to the list.        

Monday, 1 October 2018

BSBI membership: 15 months of benefits for the price of 12 months!

If you haven't yet joined BSBI but you have been mulling it over and wondering whether or not it will be good value for money, and what benefits you can expect once you've joined, this month's special offer should interest you.

The first bit of good news is that BSBI  membership is still £30 per year (38 euros if you are based in the Republic of Ireland) - once again this year, we haven't increased the subscription. 

If you are under 21, or in full-time education and under 25, you can benefit from our heavily-subsidised student rate of just £12 (15 euros): we want to give our next generation botanists as big a helping hand as possible!

The next bit of good news is that if you join today (or any time for the rest of this year), once you've paid your annual subscription for 2019, your membership starts at once! So you could enjoy 15 months of benefits for the cost of 12 months. You wouldn't need to pay again until January 2020.

Now about those benefits: you get three print copies each year of BSBI News, our very popular membership newsletter. You get access to all the papers published in New Journal of Botany, our scientific journal which ran from 2011 to the end of last year. You'll be able to find out about its replacement, British & Irish Botany, on these pages later this month, so watch this space.

Next, you'll have access to our network of 100+ expert plant referees who can advise you on the identification of the trickiest of plants. Two of those referees deal only with enquiries from beginners, so whatever your skill level, you will benefit from access to the referees. 

We never share contact details of those referees with non-members - very occasionally we may name one or two in public, with their permission, but that's all! - but once you have joined you will receive a print copy of the BSBI Yearbook with full contact details for all of them and guidance on how to send any of them live or pressed plant material or photographs.

You will also have access to the password-protected members-only area of the BSBI website, where you will find resources such as: 
  • electronic versions of BSBI News going back for the past four years; 
  • an index to back issues of BSBI News so you can easily find articles published on any given plant species or other botanical subject; 
  • an electronic version of the BSBI Yearbook so it's even easier for you to get hold of referees and County Recorders
  • the BSBI membership list so you can find fellow members in your area (if they have agreed to share those details); 
  • a link through to the password-protected BSBI Governance website so you can see the deliberations of BSBI's Council and all its committees
  • you'll be offered ways to take part in BSBI consultations and reviews on next steps within the society; 
  • and of course you will be eligible to vote in our Annual General Meeting
BSBI is a society led by its members, for its members!

As a member, you'll benefit from special offers on publications and events - we give you advance notice of forthcoming BSBI events, conferences and meetings (most are open to all but some are members-only, or members have priority booking). 

You will also be able to save even more money on BSBI books and other selected titles. There are pre-publication offers on BSBI titles such as Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland (members saved £5 on this title) and The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland (members saved £6 on this title); and there are pre-publication offers on BSBI Handbooks, such as the recent Eyebright Handbook (members saved £4.50 on this title). 

As a BSBI member you can benefit from special offers on BSBI titles and other selected titles sold by our bookseller, Summerfield Books. They are currently advertising 44 different titles in the BSBI members section. As an example, they are currently offering Rose & O'Reilly's Wildflower Key at £20 - a very popular title if you are keen to get involved with plant ID

If you're planning to apply for a BSBI training grant (they open on 1st January each year and you can apply for up to £250 towards a training course) - you don't have to be a BSBI member but, as the Training page makes clear, "members are favoured if there is competition for grants". And I've never known a year when there wasn't competition for grants! 

Finally, you'll have the option of applying for some of the great volunteering opportunities we offer - most of them are only available to BSBI members.

So, you get great reading material, access to the country's top botanists for ID help and advice, you get to shape the society's future and you get to save money on books. You also have the pleasure of supporting BSBI's important work and helping us further our aims

And if you join in October, you will be paying just £2 per month for all those benefits until the end of next year! 

Head over to our membership subscription page to see the various ways to pay and what you can expect to find in your membership welcome pack. We look forward to welcoming you as a fellow BSBI member!

PS If you're already a BSBI member, why not forward a link to this blogpost to any friend(s) or colleague(s) who you think might enjoy enjoy becoming a member? 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

BSBI News: latest issue is published

Andrew Branson, editor of BSBI News, has emailed to say that the latest issue of our newsletter is being mailed out to members this week, and he's dropped a few hints about what we can look forward to in this issue.

The lead article is by Kevin Walker & Pete Stroh (aka the BSBI Science Team) and Robert Northridge - it's about life after Atlas 2020 - what do members want to do next? A reminder here that if you haven't yet filled in Robert's questionnaire on this very subject, please do so asap by heading over to the password-protected members' area where you can download a copy.

Then there's an article by Clive Stace called 'Changing names: can we or the books keep up?' It includes news about the forthcoming 4th edition of Clive's New Flora of the British Isles and how to pre-order your copy. There's a flyer tucked inside your copy of BSBI News which you can use to benefit from the special pre-publication offer. There are also flyers with details of how to book for forthcoming BSBI meetings such as the Annual Exhibition Meeting and the Scottish Botanists' Conference.  

There's a piece by Rod Corner on Saxifraga aizoides in Ayrshire and articles by Josh Styles, Falgunee Sarker and Michael Braithwaite.

Ophrys insectifera
Image: P. Stroh
Appears in BSBI News #139
Andrew has introduced several new features since he took over the editorship of BSBI News: there's a Beginner's Corner and a 4-page spread on 'Introducing my vice-county' where the spotlight this time around is on South Northumberland

There are notes about first sightings of alien plants and a report by Judith Conroy and Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz on the recent survey, to which BSBI members contributed, about which ornamental plants might become the 'next Japanese knotweed'. 

There are 84 pages altogether full of delights and colour images throughout - and I haven't even mentioned the two competitions or the book reviews! - so if you are a BSBI member, watch out for your copy dropping through your letterbox this week.

If you're not yet a BSBI member and you're thinking of joining so that you too can enjoy three issues of BSBI News every year, along with many other benefits of BSBI membership... check this space tomorrow and we will have news for you of our special money-saving offer on BSBI membership! 

Saturday, 29 September 2018

A magical afternoon and some historic water-lilies!

Back in springtime, I received an enquiry from a couple who had just moved into a historic house in the Scottish Borders and had been told by the previous owners that the grounds housed a rare orchid. 

They didn't know what kind of orchid, or whereabouts in the grounds it might be, but they were keen to find out more and "preserve it if we can".  

I was aware that eminent botanist Rod Corner, a BSBI member since 1967, knew the area well, so I passed the enquiry on to him. 

Rod emailed back that the plant in question would be Bird's-nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis, recorded at the site in 1996 but not since, although it occurs still in nearby woodlands. 

He also mentioned a record of Yellow Water-lily Nuphar lutea at the site, reputedly planted there by Sir Walter Scott and last recorded in 1876. Rod mentioned how exciting it would be to visit the site and try to refind the orchid.

The new owners were delighted with this response - they admitted that although they didn't know much about botany, they would love to find out more and were enjoying the wildlife that visited their new home (including badgers, goosanders, little grebes and a resident pair of moorhens) and yes, they did have water-lilies on the lochan and would forward photos as soon as they flowered. 

A few weeks later, Rod received the photos, confirmed the presence of the yellow water-lilies and was cordially invited to visit the house when next he was in the Borders and to see what else he could find.

The new owners of the historic house emailed me in late summer with this message:

"We had a magical afternoon when Rod visited us. It was so lovely to spend time with someone so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the flora here and in the Borders. The afternoon was warm and sunny which meant we could have tea and cake in the garden after a walk around the lochan. 

"I have attached some photos I took during the visit. [Ed.: The photos show Rod examining and photographing a mystery Primula, the famous yellow water-lillies and a mystery willow.]

The new owners continued: "Rod is going to put us in touch with Luke Gaskell [Ed.: Luke is the BSBI County Recorder for the area] which means we will be able to continue our relationship with the BSBI which I am very excited about. Thanks again for all your help. We didn't find the bird's-nest orchid but we will continue to search..."

Refinding rare orchids is, of course, a great pleasure but magical summer afternoons with knowledgeable botanists are, I would argue, just as delightful. 

Many thanks to the new owners for sharing their charming story and to Rod for his expert advice and for giving them such a wonderful introduction to BSBI! 

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Andy and Sandy: the masterminds behind Byron's Gin

There was a nice article in The Scots Magazine this summer about how Byron's Gin came about. As John Harvey McDonough, CEO of Speyside distillery (creators of Byron's Gin) explains in the article "We are in the Cairngorms National Park, so we are acutely aware of the abundant nature on our doorstep. We're also members of the Cairngorms Business Partnership. On learning of our plans for gin distillation, they put us in contact with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland..."

The article goes on to explain how Andy Amphlett, the BSBI County Recorder for the area, visited the distillery and "using his deep-seated knowledge of botanicals, he hand-selected plants and berries from the distillery's gardens".

BSBI members may be nodding and smiling at this point because Andy's botanical knowledge is legendary! He has produced some excellent resources to help his fellow botanical recorders, such as the guidance notes on identifying the rather tricky subspecies of Reflexed Saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia distans which he sent us only last month for uploading to the Identification page (you can download a copy from there free of charge). He has also produced distribution maps and helpful species accounts of rare plants in Banffshire, such as this one for Heath Dog-violet, and in 2013 he produced a Rare Plant Register of the flora of the Cairngorms National Park.

Heath dog-violet Viola canina
Image: F. Rumsey
So it must have been quite a moment when Andy presented those "hand-selected plants and berries" to Sandy Jamieson, distillery manager at Speyside and by all accounts as legendary in his own sphere as Andy is in his! As the article in The Scots Magazine tells us , Sandy "created and crafted a whole new spirit from those raw materials. It's all quite something". 

So, Andy met Sandy and the result was Byron's Gin - and for every bottle sold, a donation is made to BSBI's training programme so we can offer grants that help more botanists follow in Andy's footsteps and deepen their botanical knowledge. Click here and here for a couple of examples of botanical training courses that botanists were able to attend this year thanks to BSBI's training grants. 

Saturday, 22 September 2018

BSBI Training Grants Helping Botanists in 2018: Sharon & Julie

Botanists at Scar Close
Image: S. Yardy
In July, we heard from botanist Falgunee about the course in 'Identifying Higher Plants' which she was able to attend thanks to a BSBI Training Grant. Now we hear from Julie and Sharon about the Limestone Flora course course they attended at FSC Malham Tarn under tutor Dr Ian Powell, again thanks to a BSBI Training Grant.

Over to Julie and Sharon:

"We attended the Limestone Flora course at Malham Tarn FSC in June/July 2018, being lucky enough to have received part funding from the BSBI. Julie undertook it as part of the MMU Certificate in Biological Recording, and Sharon partly as preparation for taking the Field Identification Skills Certificate (FISC).

"The weekend was spent in perfect summer weather and we explored a range of habitats around Malham including grasslands, rivers, quarries, woodlands, bogs, fens and limestone pavements. Although the bogs and fens around Malham were looking quite dry, the group managed a couple of pub stops to keep hydrated! 

Scar Close
Image: S. Yardy
"Saturday involved a 10+ km walk in the blazing sunshine around Grassington at 'botanist’s pace', taking in the variety of limestone grasslands in Lea Green where we found brittle bladder fern Cystopteris fragilis, spring sandwort Minuartia verna and limestone bedstraw Galium sterneri among remnants of blue moor grass Sesleria caerulea.

"The shade of Bastow Wood and Grass Wood SSSI sites provided some relief as we encountered ancient woodland indicators along with limestone specialists such as stone bramble Rubus saxatilis, deliciously scented chalk fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica and wild privet Ligustrum vulgare. Bird’s-nest orchid Neottia nidus-avis camouflaged itself well, but we located it eventually.

"Finally, we headed back along the course of the River Wharfe to Grassington, where thankfully the ice cream shop was still open and doing a roaring trade!

Limestone pavement, Southerscales
Image: S. Yardy
"On the Sunday we visited limestone pavements at Ingleborough NNR, with sites showing varying levels of grazing. The variety of flora was interesting with species seen including saw-wort Serratula tinctoria and lesser meadow-rue Thalictrum minus. Ferns such limestone fern Gymnocarpium robertianum and rigid buckler fern Dryopteris submontana were found in the grikes. Frog orchids Coeloglossum viride were found in nearby grassland and just coming into flower.

"Many other species were enjoyed during the weekend including bird’s eye primrose Primula farinosa still in flower, bloody cranesbill Geranium sanguineum and rare sedges. I had not visited Malham or the dales before and felt I really benefited from this course, I saw many new species that I hadn’t seen before and some calcareous habitats and species that I am not that familiar with.

"Thanks to the BSBI for part funding it!"

And thanks to Sharon and Julie for telling us about the course! If you are hoping to attend a botany course next year to sharpen your ID skills - maybe one of the short courses listed on our Training page? - don't forget that you too can apply for a grant towards the cost of the course.

Grant applications open on 1st January every year and all grants have always been snapped up by the end of the month. So try to do your research in advance, find a course that's right for you and then be ready to apply for a grant on 1st January. Details of how to apply will be on our Training page.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Promoting wild flowers in Ireland

Three cheers for BSBI's Scientific Officer Pete Stroh and Irish Officer Maria Long who have written an excellent article about BSBI for the summer issue of the Irish Wildlife magazine.

Their 1500 word article titled 'Recording our wildflowers in the 21st century' sets out everything an Irish naturalist might want to know about the subject and kicks off with a beautifully-written section about Atlas 2020. Here's an extract:

"Perhaps you’ve seen folk out and about, hand lens at the ready, writing feverishly on clipboards whilst walking at a snail’s pace, often kneeling in what appears to be worship, but is in fact the examination of tiny bits of a plant that help to reveal its identity. In Ireland, such recording takes place across 40 ‘vice-counties’, with at least one expert botanical recorder for each county..."

I think that's a great description of what botanical recorders look like in the field and hopefully will pique the interest of any Irish wildlife-lover who hasn't heard about BSBI before!

Pete and Maria go on to talk about field meetings and local botany groups which are thriving in Ireland - just take a look at recent blogposts on these pages about local groups in Dublin and in Kerry.

They tell people about the incredibly popular Irish Botanical Newsletter, expertly edited by Paul Green, and they encourage people to download recent issues from the Ireland webpage.

Then they talk about changes in Ireland's landscape and flora, with examples which will really get the message across to Irish readers, like this one:

"Many people in the midlands of Ireland might be astonished to realise that the Cowslip, a flower which was familiar to us all as children, and which is still visible along many roadsides, is now so rare in Northern Ireland that it is listed for legal protection. And even in the parts of Ireland where it appears to thrive on roadsides, you’ll struggle to find it within meadows or fields – agriculture has simply become too intensive. This story is repeated for hundreds of other species..."

The article ends with a note about the Irish Species Project and Pete and Maria make clear that the message isn't all doom and gloom - that botanical recorders can make a real difference and BSBI can help them do that.

If you're based in Ireland and would like to read the whole article, you'll need to join the Irish Wildlife Trust

If you'd like to find out more about BSBI and botanical recording in Ireland, check out the Ireland webpage, follow @BSBI_Ireland on Twitter or try and get along to this weekend's BSBI Irish Autumn Meeting in Dublin

It's free, everyone is welcome and it will be a great chance for you to meet fellow wildlife-lovers from across Ireland. They can tell you more about how to get involved and all the help and support that's available to you. If you can't get along in person, keep an eye on this hashtag to get a taste of the day's proceedings.