Tuesday 4 January 2022

New Year Plant Hunt 2022: Day Four

Glengarriff plant hunters and
some of their finds.
Image: C. Heardman
So, after four days, hunts across Britain and Ireland, and some surprising finds yesterday and on Sunday, the 2022 New Year Plant Hunt draws to a close. It's been great fun but our hard-working volunteers are probably heaving a sigh of relief tonight! Before they all return to their "normal lives", one of them, Hannah Udall, has pulled together a summary of the final day for you.   

Hannah is an Ecology and Environmental Science Undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh and aims to research soil carbon storage in the future. When she is not studying, she loves exploring outdoors, bird-watching and looking for wildflowers and fungi.

Over to Hannah for this evening's blogpost:

Female flowers on Hazel
Image: R. Horton 
"Today was the final day of the New Year Plant Hunt, and plant-hunters were greeted with snow speckled woodlands and intermittent rain. However, the cold weather did not prevent people from going on hunts and making some great observations.

"A common find was the male catkins and the beautiful pink female flowers on hazel trees. A white variety of female hazel flowers was also found in Cambridge by Roger Horton (it had been spotted in previous years by Sabine Eckert).

In northern Ireland, Donna Rainey found ragged-robin Silene flos-cuculi which is always pleasant to witness following its decline in recent years - formerly a fairly common plant, it is now classed as Near Threatened on the England Red List

White hazel catkins
Image: R. Horton
Some plant-hunters enjoyed other facets of nature during their plant hunt. Aaron Martin looked for otter signs along the Water of Leith, Edinburgh, and in Hampshire, Tristan Norton took a bird survey on his plant hunt. Aaron found feverfew Tanacetum parthenium and red campion Silene dioica along the water of Leith and Tristan Norton found field woundwort Stachys arvensis in Lee-on-the-Solent - this is a new record for the site.

A group of botanists from the Glengarriff Nature Reserve in Co. Cork found 36 species yesterday, completing their hunt before the snow and rain we witnessed today! Many of today’s hunts were completed by solo or paired botanists, however a lot of group expeditions have taken place over the course of the hunt. 

It was a cold day today and our plant-hunters fortified themselves with hot drinks. Two botanists were accompanied by canine friends on their hunt: Polly Spencer-Vellacott found six flowering species in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, with the help of her dog Conker the Spaniel and in Kerry, Jessica Hamilton had the company of her two botany dogs!

Field Madder
Image: S. Harrap

Norfolk Flora Group with their impressive 93 species (including field madder and scentless mayweed) found when they ventured over the border into Suffolk, were ousted from their place at the top of the List of Longest Lists today by David, who found 107 species, including wild strawberry and sun spurge, in Swanage. A list came in today from Simon Leach, who went on a hunt in Taunton and managed to find 88 species, taking the spot of fifth longest list. Another impressive list came through today from the ‘Limerick Sisters’ with a total of 61 species. But there are more lists still coming in so who knows what might happen?

As of this evening, it looks as though 848 taxa have been found in bloom this year (subject to verification by our botanist team) which is a record high compared to the last five years, perhaps reflecting the mild weather we have had recently. Daisy Bellis perennis is still the most common plant observed which is akin to previous years, with dandelion Taraxacum officinale agg. and groundsel Senecio vulgaris following closely behind. White dead-nettle Lamium album was more commonly observed this year in comparison to previous years, superseding species such as shepherd's-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris and common chickweed Stellaria media by over 100 observations. In previous years shepherd’s purse and common chickweed have been more common, with the number of observations being more comparable across the species.

Scentless mayweed
Image: D. Steere

These observations are going to be verified by our botanists over the following days, so the results are not finalised yet. Thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s Plant Hunt. We have been sent some wonderful finds, and we hope you had an enjoyable hunt.

A reminder to all Plant-hunters that even though the plant hunt is over, submissions are still accepted until midnight on Sunday 9th January. If you have some pictures but haven’t had the chance to submit them yet we would love to see them! Just email them to us at nyplanthunt@bsbi.org

Again, thank you for taking part in the New Year Plant Hunt 2022 and we wish you all the best for the New Year".

Sun spurge
Image: J. Common

Huge thanks to Hannah for this blogpost and to her and all the volunteers for all their help over the past four days: April, Brian, Hannah, Holly, Jo, Laurel, Moira, Paul and Rebecca, have been working behind the scenes processing records, answering enquiries, identifying plants and promoting the Hunt on social media - you are absolute stars. 

Thanks also to two staff members, Fundraising Manager Sarah, who joined BSBI in March so this was her first experience of the Plant Hunt (a bit of a baptism of fire eh Sarah?!) and Database Officer Tom, who created the new recording app and has been ironing out any remaining glitches over the past few days - wonderful work as always Tom! 

And most of all, thanks to all of you who have gone out hunting and submitted (so far) 1,074 surveys comprising 16,713 individual records. Well done!

We start analysing the data next week and plan to publish our analysis and put out a press pack on 24th January - watch this space!

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