Thursday, 15 June 2017

Grassland Conservation Conference: book now

Stanley Bank
Image courtesy of A. Lyons
Great news from our friends at Edge Hill University - they are to host the inaugural Grassland Conservation Conference. Over to organiser Ashley Lyons:

"Following the successful Conservation Management and Research Conference hosted by Edge Hill University in 2014 they are pleased to announce that they will host the inaugural Grassland Conservation Conference (14th-15th August, 2017).

"The conference aims to overcome the major challenge of dissemination of applied ecological research to conservation practitioners by providing a platform for the development of collaboration and knowledge exchange between scientists and practitioners.

"Held over two days the Grassland Conservation Conference will feature oral presentations from academics, conservation practitioners and policy makers along with a poster session sponsored by the George Stapledon Memorial Trust and a series of parallel workshops and field visits.

"The call for abstracts is now open and there are a number of conference fee waiver bursaries available for students and those working for conservation organisations".

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Kerry BSBI event: a short report

The view from base camp
Earlier this month Irish botanists enjoyed one of the highlights of the year - the #KerryBSBIevent, organised by Rory Hodd of Rough Crew fame. 

He asked one of the participants, Jessica Hamilton, to write up a report about the event and here it is, illustrated by Jessica's photographs: 

"This day last week, the #KerryBSBIevent was coming to a close. 5 days full of breathtaking scenery, rare and not so rare botanical treats and great company in my home county - the Kingdom! [Ed.: Note for British readers: Jessica is a Kerrywoman, just in case you were wondering!] 


Oxyria digyna
"Each day saw participants splitting into smaller groups and tackling separate hectads. Over the five days I found myself at Lough Adoon, Glenteenassig, Inch and scaling Mt. Brandon for two of the five days. 

"Every day was so fulfilling in itself and very hard for me to pick a favourite but my favourite outings were probably those up to Mt. Brandon and getting to see an array of rare montane species and hepatic mats.

Saxifraga stellaris
"Some of those species included Oxyria digyna (Mountain sorrel), Sedum rosea (Roseroot), Alchemilla alpina (Alpine Lady’s-Mantle), Polystichum lonchitis (Holly Fern), Carex bigelowii (Stiff sedge), Ireland’s smallest tree - Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow) and Persicaria vivipara (Alpine bistort). 

"Seeing Roseroot in the flesh was a special treat for me and we saw lots on the second day up Mt Brandon, a species like many of the others I had only previously read about or seen in pictures!

Saxifraga hirsuta
"Also up Mt Brandon, I became acquainted with three new species of saxifrage- Kidney (Saxifraga hirsuta), Starry (S. stellaris) & Irish (S. rosacea subsp. rosacea). 

"Lots of more common species were also seen up in the mountains with shelves of woodland species like lesser celandine, primrose, dog violet and woodrush still in flower.

"I was also very excited to see the gametophyte of the protected Killarney Fern as it was my first time ever seeing either generation of this special species. The location it was found was also a new elevation record for this species which made it even more special! 

"To top it all off, lots of lovely orchids were seen; my favourite however was Listera cordata, (Lesser Twayblade) – Ireland’s smallest Orchid and what an absolute little beauty it is! Thanks for Rory to pointing it out as it really is quite inconspicuous until you get your eye in!

Saxifraga rosacea subsp. rosacea
"Thankfully to top it all off, we were blessed with the weather and it was only the last two days when conditions deteriorated. 

"One such day was when descending Mt Brandon for the second time when our waterproofs were tested to their absolute limits!

"On the final day, we were also treated to an informative presentation by Marina Reneyn of the Kerry Natterjack toad project followed by a quick trip to see the toads and their breeding pools which was great. Another first for me and they were much smaller then I had imagined, especially the tiny toadlets!


Sedum rosea
"Overall this was an invaluable and unforgettable experience with so much learnt and many new friendships made; you really can’t beat first-hand knowledge and experience in the field!

"I know I’m speaking on everyone’s behalf when I say thanks to Maria and Rory for organizing such a great event! J ~ Jessica Hamilton"

Many thanks to Jessica for this account and for the fabulous photographs :-) 

At this point, it's worth flagging up the results from this event: 45 participants who between them collected more than 5,700 records - a fantastic result and every single one of those recorders deserves our sincere thanks and congratulations!


Listera cordata
"A few words from Rory in closing:

"The event was a huge success, with the presence of so many local people very heartening. The fact that so many young and extremely enthusiastic people with a desire to improve their botanical skills came along bodes well for the future of botanical recording in Ireland, and much time was found for teaching and learning each day. 

"Over the five days, many sites throughout the magnificent Dingle Peninsula were visited, from the picture-postcard coastline to the precipitous and lushly vegetated mountains. 

"Many rare plants were encountered, such as Killarney Fern, Alpine Saw-wort and Alpine Bistort, but what struck most participants was the beauty and abundance of some of the local southwestern and western Irish specialities, particularly the Greater Butterwort, Irish saxifrage and St Patrick's Cabbage, all of which were putting on a beautiful floriferous display. 

"Perhaps most importantly of all, lots of fun was had by all and many new friendships were made, to hopefully be renewed at many future BSBI events


"Around the 700m mark before the clouds
(and rain) encompasses us!"
"The records collected during the events will make a huge contribution to recording in Kerry, one of the largest, most topographically complex and botanically rich counties in Ireland. 

"Thanks to all participants for coming along and making it the success it was, and particularly to those who led groups, especially Robert Northridge and Clare Heardman. Finally, massive thanks to Maria, who, as always, was supremely organised and efficient and was crucial to the smooth running of the event."

Hear hear! Let's close with a photo of Jessica taken by Clare Heardman, the County Recorder for West Cork - it shows Jessica in her element, up a mountain on a recent Rough Crew outing!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

BSBI Summer Meeting: Report from Day Five

Pond with Ranunculus peltatus
Image: J. Shanklin
The BSBI Summer Meeting in Flintshire has just finished and here is the final report from organiser Jon Shanklin: 

"Our final day based at the Stamford Gate Hotel in Holywell had the promise of being fine, and it duly turned out to be just about right for botanising - not too hot, too cold or too windy and above all, not wet. 

"The remaining groups were orchestrated with their destinations, and then my group set off for Moel y Crio on the south side of Halkyn Mountain. 

Minuartia verna
Image: J. Shanklin
"The area had just over 100 post-2000 records, with a refind rate of 52%, so we were certain to make some additions, along with some possible refinds of rarer species".

"We were highly successful, recording more than 260 species, possibly because of a reasonable mix of wild habitat - lanes, ponds, marshes, common land and a wood, with a mix of basic and acidic rocks, as well as mineral workings. 

"Our first scarce plant was Pond Water-Crowfoot Ranunculus peltatus, growing in profusion in a pond. At the side of a track we found Monk's-hood Aconitum napellus, taking care not to touch it, whilst in the middle of the track was a Lady's-mantle Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. vestita

Polly and Graham examining road-verge plants
Image: L. Gravestock
"We were taking a roughly circular route, and on our return leg along a winding lane spotted a farm track to a wider area that looked interesting - it was - sheets of Leadwort Minuartia verna on old mine diggings. 

"Our final detour was to a spot marked springs on the map, via a footpath. The springs proved worth the detour, with Marsh Valerian Valeriana dioica, Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis and Heath Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata".

Bee Orchid in the carpark
Image: J. Rose
Julie, who was in a different recording group to Jon, found some nice things, saying "it was the classic carpark scenario - uninspiring at first glance, looks full of ruderal weeds, but in fact had Bee orchid Ophrys apifera and Fern-grass Catapodium marinum, and we (me, Jo and Julian) spent about an hour there. Far more diverse than the horse-grazed fields". 

Jon's closing comment was: "Now comes the hard part - sorting out all the record cards and typing them into MapMate. Thankfully a few recorders have volunteered to type up their own cards, but I suspect that I will still have 20 or so to do - probably 5000 or so contributions in total to Atlas 2020".

Many thanks to Jon for all these reports and to him, Laura, Polly, Kate, John and Julie for providing photographs. 

If these reports have whetted your appetite and you'd like to come next time plans, the 2018 Summer Meeting will be a joint event with the British Bryological Society and is being held on the Isle of Man from July 16 to 23.

Keying out specimens in the evening
Image: L. Gravestock
Outline details will be in the September issue of BSBI News, and we'll be posting a booking form on the Summer Meeting webpage early next year. 

So save the date now and watch out for more information nearer the time.

I'll leave you with a photo (below) which Laura took of Jon (in typical botanist's pose) and Debbie, both enjoying the wild flowers of Flintshire - nice to see that they got some sunshine in the end! 


Saturday, 10 June 2017

Free training events for NPMS volunteers

Nick Law leading a habitat ID session in 2016
at Calke Abbey, a National Trust site.
Image: H. New
Have you registered yet for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS)

If you haven't, you're not only missing out on the chance to make a contribution to an important national project to record and monitor our wildflowers - you're also missing out on some brilliant free training opportunities!

As soon as you've registered, even if you haven't yet been allocated a square or started recording, you are eligible to attend any of the amazing free training events listed below, led by expert botanist Nick Law. 

As well as the six indoor identification workshops, he will also be running an outdoor training day. 

Nick Law's Rush ID workshop held in 2016
at Lockington Hall, Derbyshire
Nick told me "This habitats training day is different from the indoor sessions in its content (it will be all about how to identify the different kind of habitats you have to find before you start looking for the plants likely to grow there) and the fact that it is outside, on the lovely National Trust Longshaw Estate".

If you have already registered for the NPMS and you'd like to book for any of these free training sessions, please email support@npms.org.uk

If you haven't yet registered, please head over to this page, register and then once your registration has been accepted you can book for any of the NPMS training sessions

Outdoor training day:
NPMS Habitat Identification – Longshaw, Derbyshire. Thursday 22nd June.

Indoor identification workshops:
Sedges – Harlow, Essex. Monday 12th June.
Grasses – Lockington, Derby. Saturday 24th June.
Ferns – Harlow, Essex. Friday 14th July.
Rushes – Harlow, Essex. Wednesday 19th July.
Apiaceae (Carrot family) – Lockington, Derby. Wednesday 26th July.
Asteraceae (Daisy family) – Lockington, Derby. Saturday 5th August.

To find out more about NPMS, head over to the NPMS website and take a look at the latest newsletter which features an article by BSBI Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker who helped devise the scheme.

Friday, 9 June 2017

BSBI Summer Meeting: Report from Day Four

The weather in Flintshire seems to have improved for attendees at the BSBI Summer Meeting. Here's the latest report from organiser Jon Shanklin:

Bugloss
Image courtesy of J. Crellin/Floral Images
http://www.floralimages.co.uk/page.php?
taxon=anchusa_arvensis,1

The Met Office forecast from yesterday proved far too pessimistic, and the heavy rain in the morning did not appear over Holywell. Indeed whilst I did put on my waterproofs at one point in the day, I needn't have bothered as a few minutes later the sun was shining.

Everybody set off for their selected tetrads - I had taken executive privilage and opted for a day at the seaside with Laura and Debbie. We were going to do the dunes just to the west of where we went on Tuesday, however once we had walked in to the tetrad our progress was slow. Initially we just picked up common species, but then we found Knotted Clover Trifolium striatum at the edge of a horse grazed paddock. 

Dune Fescue
Image courtesy of J. Crellin/Floral Images
http://www.floralimages.co.uk/page.php?
taxon=vulpia_fasciculata,1
"Some friendly workmen allowed us to spend rather longer crossing the railway line than normal, but did encourage us to get behind the protective barriers when a train was due.  We spotted a tall brassica behind an exclusion fence around an old building, but then spotted that we could cross a derelict wall and have a look anyway around the old yard.  

"The brassica proved to be Black Mustard B. nigra, and then we spotted Charlock Sinapis arvensis on a soil dump - on the Welsh Red List, but quite common in Flintshire. Also in the yard were Springbeauty Claytonia perfoliata and Bugloss Anchusa arvensis, which both attracted attention. It was past midday before we actually got into the dunes!


"Once there, we found all sorts of goodies - first Early Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata (both subsp. incarnata and pulchella), then Dactylorhiza which keyed out to a Northern Marsh-orchid D. purpurella var cambrensis). 

Seaside Centaury
Image courtesy of J. Crellin/Floral Images
http://www.floralimages.co.uk/page.php?
taxon=centaurium_littorale,1

"A dune slack gave us Seaside Centaury Centaurium littorale, Small-fruited Yellow-sedge Carex oederi and the hybrid between Confused and Western Eyebrights Euphrasia confusa x tetraquetra. A little later we found Dune Fescue Vulpia fasciculata and Sand Cat's-tail Phleum arenarium. Lunch was taken and there was Spring Vetch Vicia lathyroides by my feet. 

"In the afternoon we continued meandering through the dunes eventually coming to a pond where we heard a Natterjack toad calling. On the path around the enclosure we spotted a tiny clover - Bird's-foot Clover Trifolium ornithopodioides. Time had passed very quickly and we had to head back to the car, and whilst the route back was less exciting we did pick up a few additional species before we headed back to dinner."

Thanks Jonathan, we'll look forward to hearing your report from Day Five.

NBN Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing: who will you nominate?

Nominations have opened for the 2017 UK Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing! 

Developed in 2015 by the National Biodiversity Network, the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre, these annual Awards celebrate the individuals, the newcomers and the groups of people or organisations that are making outstanding contributions to biological recording and improving our understanding of the natural world in the UK.

There are six categories of awards this year:
Gilbert White Youth Award for terrestrial and freshwater wildlife
Gilbert White Adult Award for terrestrial and freshwater wildlife
David Robertson Youth Award for marine and coastal wildlife
David Robertson Adult Award for marine and coastal wildlife
Lynne Farrell Group Award for wildlife recording
Adult Newcomer Award

All too often the painstaking work that individual and groups of biological recorders undertake is not publicly recognised. So help us put that right, and nominate your unsung hero!

Nominating someone couldn’t be simpler, just fill in our short form explaining how your nominee is making an exceptional contribution in the world of UK biological recording. You can even nominate yourself!

Nominations close on 31 July, so please don’t leave it too late….. Bit.ly/NBNawards

This year, the five short-listed nominees from each award category will be announced on 29 September, giving us the opportunity to recognise the achievements of more biological recorders than in previous years.

The winners will be announced at a special ceremony that is part of the National Biodiversity Network's annual conference in November.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

BSBI Summer Meeting: Report from Day Three

Tom Humphrey, winner of the Presidents' Award 2017,
manages to get some time out in the field
Image: J. Crellin
Here's the latest despatch from Jon Shanklin, organiser of the BSBI Summer Meeting:

"Wednesday was the first day where carloads went out to record tetrads in small groups. We had the nicer side of Welsh weather, as although it was still breezy there were sunny intervals and no rain. 

"With botanists scattered over the county it is difficult to say what they all did, but usually they progressed quite slowly, sometimes simply thoroughly covering one monad. 

A white Pyramidal Orchid
Image: J. Crellin
"Many groups made interesting finds, though what constituted unusual differed from group to group. 

"An unknown umbellifer found by one group was quickly identified as Sison amomum by me as it is a common plant in my county, Cambridgeshire, but a scarce one in Flintshire and more northerly counties. 

"One group found Catapodium marinum along the A55 where it loves the salted road verges, but was previously a rare plant in the county. Another halophyte rarity was found by a group, with Erodium marinum found in its more normal seaside setting.

"Many identifications were made back at the hotel, and after dinner we had a wonderful talk from Goronwy Wynne, the Emeritus County Recorder for Flintshire, who took us through the history of botanical recording in the county, for example linking Thomas Pennant with Charles Darwin.

Restharrow seen on the Summer Meeting
Image: J. Crellin
"Goronwy recounted the tale of how Darwin's children had drawn moustaches on the faces of monkeys in the book on quadrupeds written by Pennant, and sent to Darwin whilst he was voyaging on the Beagle. 
Botanists in a field of Yellow Rattle
Image: J. Crellin

"He also commented on the commonest species in Flintshire and some of the notable ones, such as Spartina anglica deliberately introduced to the Dee Estuary to stabilise mudflats and eventually changing the course of the main river channel.

"Tomorrow some rain is forecast first thing, so many groups may well make a delayed start to enjoy the better weather expected from mid-morning onwards".

Thanks Jonathan, fingers crossed that you get good weather tomorrow! 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Presidents' Award 2017

BSBI President John Faulkner
about to present the award
Image: P. Spencer-Vellacott
Every year, the BSBI President and the President of the Wild Flower Society get together to discuss the annual Presidents' Award, which since the mid 1990s has been awarded to a recipient or recipients whose book, major paper, discovery or outstanding exhibit is deemed to have made the greatest contribution in a particular calendar year to our understanding of the flowering plants and ferns of Britain and Ireland. 

The Award has, until now, gone to the author(s) of an important book, such as the 'New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora', Poland & Clement's 'Vegetative Key to the British Flora' or (last year's winner) Clive Stace and Mick Crawley's 'Alien Plants'. The Presidents' Award webpage has details of other recipients through the years, and of how the award came about.

But last night at the BSBI Annual Summer Meeting in Flintshire, BSBI President John Faulkner broke with tradition when he announced the recipient of this year's award.    


John presents the Presidents' Award
for 2017 to Tom Humphrey at the
BSBI Summer Meeting
Image: L. Gravestock 
John said "Users of the BSBI Distribution Database are greatly impressed by its capabilities. It is immensely versatile and has scope for yet further development. Its usefulness to botanists makes it an outstanding example of what the Presidents' Award is intended for. Tom Humphrey, as its creator, is a worthy recipient of the Award, and deserves the congratulations of all with an interest in wild plants."

Active BSBI members will be aware that Tom is not just the creator of the Distribution Database, he has continued to work on it over the past decade as BSBI's Database Officer, refining the software, adding new reporting and data validation tools and improving usability. 

If you are already a user of the Database, I'm sure you will agree with John and join us in giving a hearty round of applause to Tom for all the work he has put in to the Database over the past decade. If you are new to the delights of the Database, head over to our Maps and Data page to find out more. 

The Database now holds over 32 million plant records and while full access to it is restricted mainly to County Recorders and academic researchers, it also supports the ongoing recording and validation work for Atlas 2020 and provides reliable data for land managers and conservation agencies.

Members of the BSBI Committee for Wales
look on as Tom receives the Award
Image: P. Spencer-Vellacott
But every botanist, whatever their skill level, can benefit from the distribution maps generated from data held in the Database. Just type the name of a plant into the taxon box on this page to generate a map and then zoom in to any 2km by 2km square in Britain or Ireland to see if your plant has been recorded there. You can also filter by date class, so you can see if the plant has been recorded in the past decade, or in one of five other date classes, e.g. 1930-1969. 

What a fabulous resource for plant-lovers and three cheers for its creator and custodian Tom Humphrey, a worthy recipient of the Presidents' Award for 2017.

BSBI Summer Meeting: Report from Day Two

Silene nutans seen at the ASM
Image: L. Gravestock
Here is the latest report from Jonathan Shanklin, organiser of this year's BSBI Annual Summer Meeting, on Day Two of this five-day event:

"The weather forecast changed overnight, and leaving Cheshire in the morning things looked ominous for our excursion - lashing rain and strong winds. 

"In the event we only had one sharp shower during the day lasting a few minutes, but the strong winds continued throughout the day.

Botanists at Graig Fawr, ASM 2017
Image: L. Gravestock
"Our first destination was Gronant dunes, mid way between Prestatyn and the Point of Ayr. 

"The party split into two groups, one going west lead by Emily Meilleur, the County Recorder for Flintshire, and I led the other group going east. 

"My group had a short walk before they could start recording in the monad, but then set to with gusto, eventually recording around 150 species. 
Ian Woodward (BTO) braves the
elements to photograph Sea Holly
& Portland Spurge
Image: J. Shanklin

"Notable for the environment was Filipendula vulgaris, but there were plenty of more expected species such as Vulpia fasiculata and Oenanthe lachenallii

"We could have found much more but had to return to the coach in time to get to our afternoon destination.

"Graig Fawr, a limestone escarpment was our target, with three groups, Emily taking one along the disused railway line, now a foot/cycle path, BSBI Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott taking a group to the top, and I took a group to the middle ground. 

"I think I drew the short straw as the others had Epipactis atropururea, Veronica spicata, Juniperus communis, Helianthemum oelandicum and other goodies. 

Botanists at Prestatyn Dunes, wrapped up and
undaunted by the "Summer" Meeting weather!
Image: L. Gravestock
"My group did find some nice grassland species, with Briza media, Helianthemum numularium and others now under threat in England but still common enough in Wales.

"Then it was back to the hotel for dinner, the Welsh AGM and a toast to John Topp, who very kindly bequeathed a sum of money so that botanists could have a drink on him at the Welsh AGM. 

"But before the reports from the BSBI Welsh Officer, the Chair of the Committee for Wales and the editor of the Welsh Bulletin, there was a rather special announcement..." 

Click here for a hint as to what that might be about - and watch out for the next blogpost!


Helianthemum oelandicum at Graig Fawr
Image: L. Gravestock

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

BSBI Summer Meeting: Report from Day One

Orchid (Heath or Common Spotted?)
seen on Day One of the ASM
Image: K. Tucker
The BSBI Summer Meeting has now started and organiser Jon Shanklin will be sending us daily reports. Here is his report from Day One: 

"Wales welcomed us with its wet side, which rather influenced the afternoon options. A small party did venture out, recording a host of urban species, including Deutzia cf scabra, which was identified using John Poland & Eric Clement's Vegetative Key and later confirmed by John himself as the correct deduction on the basis of its stellate hairs and hollow stem.

"Meanwhile the organiser was logging people in, and noting their changes to recording availability in the second half of the week. 

"As David Earl was one of the ones who went out walking, the indoor session turned into a talk by Jonathan Shanklin on Scientific Discovery from the Great War to the Antarctic Ozone Hole. 

Jon S. giving his talk
Image: P. Spencer-Vellacott
"The first part featured botany in nearby Llandudno, whilst the second part covered climate change as well as the ozone hole. The botanical section was extended almost at the last minute, with the discovery of a family album of pressed flowers, which record the plants in the neighbourhood of Llandudno between about 1890 and 1905. Even a quick glance at the album has shown that many are earliest records for Wales! 

"The Stamford Gate has made us very welcome, quickly observing that we chatted in small groups and so quickly re-arranging the seating in the dining room to tables of four and six. 

Red Valerian seen on Day One
Image: K. Tucker
"After dinner we re-convened, first to have a short briefing on recording and safety in the field (download the BSBI guidance on Safety in the Field from the Field Meetings page), then to hear David Earl on brambles. He had specially focused on Flintshire species and took us through some of the commoner ones, then showed us a new key that he had been developing (note that the key only seems to work if you are using Google Chrome as your browser). 

"It required a bit of trial and error for an imaginary specimen, but got us to Rubus armeniacus for a real one, and very quickly took us to Rubus effrenatus, only found in Flintshire on Hope Mountain, which had been sampled the day before.  

"Tomorrow promises better weather and the chance to explore Gronant dunes and the limestone crags of Graig Fawr.

"The image on the left is of one of the plants in the book - a new hectad record and the earliest date for it in Wales. Note that Viola curtsii is now Viola tricolor subsp. curtsii."

Thanks Jonathan, let's hope the weather improves for all of you tomorrow!