This is the eighth year of the New Year Plant Hunt and it's become a bit of a tradition that botanists compete to record the First Flower of the Hunt, usually by torchlight shortly after midnight!
Oisin Duffy and Mairead Crawford, County Recorders for Donegal, held the crown for three (four?) years running until Jessica Hamilton, co-ordinator of the #BSBIKerry group, stole it away from them last year with a crafty groundsel.
So just after midnight, all eyes were on the west of Ireland and we weren't disappointed! Before 12.30am, Ger Scollard from Tralee, Co. Kerry, had submitted records of five plants including the winter heliotrope on the right.
|VC55 group peering at a Conyza:
are those phyllaries very hairy?
Image: L. Marsh
This morning opened with a nice surprise, a note in The Times about the New Year Plant Hunt, encouraging people to get involved! Many thanks to journalist Jane Powers who writes the regular 'Nature Notes' column in The Times and has also promoted #wildflowerhour in her column!
Day One is usually the quietest day on the New Year Plant Hunt Support Desk so three of us took advantage of the calm before the storm and snuck out to carry out Hunts in our local areas (me, Ciara and 13 botanical friends in Leics. VC55; Brian in Northants. VC32; leaving Ellen to (wo)man the desk with only a canine companion (the adorable Marley) and a big plate of mince pies for company!
By the time darkness fell, the VC55 group had notched up 57 taxa in bloom, Brian and his team had found 53 taxa flowering in Peterborough and Ellen was ready for a break!
We are making sure that there is always at least one of us on the desk so if any of you need help using the online form to upload your records, or want to ask for help with an identification, there will be somebody on hand to help you. Just email email@example.com
So what plants have been spotted today, and where?
Charlotte Rankin in Cornwall found 38 taxa in bloom including small-flowered catchfly (above right), a great record, and Anne M. and her team found 54 taxa in bloom on the Isle of Wight.
In Kent, Dave Steere spotted some great plants including 12 new records for Atlas 2020. Dave's photos are really excellent and have featured in the BSBI Annual Review - check them out here.
His haul today included both musk and common stork's-bills, sea campion, rock samphire, seaside daisy, butcher's broom, a naturalised rosemary on Folkestone beach and what we all think may be Amaranthus caudatus aka love-lies-bleeding.
In Stroud, Gloucestershire, Jamie W. recorded sweet violet in bloom; John Mortin found a nice selection of species in Buxton, Derbyshire (above left); and up in Perthshire, our friends at Windy Hollow Farm recorded gorse in bloom (below right).
Gorse is usually in the top 5 most frequently recorded plants every year during the Hunt.
Sharon in Co. Tyrone also recorded gorse in bloom and over on Sherkin Island (Co. Cork) Clare Heardman and her team found 45 taxa in bloom - check out her composite image (at foot of page).
By the end of Day One, more than 150 plant hunters had notched up 1349 records of 242 different species in bloom - great work!
There are more group Hunts taking place tomorrow so if you haven't already arranged to go out on a Hunt in your area, why not check the list here and see if there's anything organised near you?
But whether you're going out alone, in a group or with family and friends, we hope you have a great day and we look forward to seeing your records appear on this lovely interactive map!