Tuesday 3 January 2017

New Year Plant Hunt 2017: Day Three

Smooth Sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Image: Karen Woolley
Day Three of the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt 2017 and botanists were out again in force across Britain and Ireland, adding new records via the New Year Plant Hunt app.

Refreshing the Results page became the new pastime for any botanist remaining indoors, ie within reach of a computer! 

The running totals as of midnight on Day Three, and compared against last year's totals, are:

229 lists received vs 432 by the end of last year's Hunt - more than half. 

Considering the foul weather which kept many of us at home on New Year's Day, that's probably what we could have expected.

Thyme-leaved Speedwell
Veronica serpyllifolia
Image: Karen Woolley
BUT only 3,569 records on those lists, whereas last year we had 9,265 in total - well below half. And many botanists doing repeat routes, often for the third or even fourth year, recording fewer than half the species they saw last New Year.

411 species vs 653 total in 2016. So:

Has the weather over the past few weeks prevented many species from flowering at New Year? 

Are there more species out there blooming away and we just haven't spotted them during the first three days of the New Year Plant Hunt?

Are there just not enough recorders out there hunting for us to get a clear picture?

The only way to find out how our wild and naturalised plants are responding to recent weather is to get out there and do a New Year Plant Hunt. 

I'll be doing exactly that tomorrow afternoon with members of my local botany group, which includes two other members of the New Year Plant Hunt team, Ciara and Richard.

Don't worry, you can still contact the rest of the team (Tom, Kevin, Ian and Ryan) if you hit any problems submitting your records. 

One prize was awarded today, the Phil Collins Tribute Award, named in honour of the 80s pop star who famously jumped on Concorde to perform at the same concert, Live Aid, from two continents. Phoebe O'Brien won the prize for recording in both England and Ireland during the 2015 New Year Plant Hunt. Botanist Joanne Denyer has gone one better and is this year's recipient:

Recorded flowering plants in England and Wales this morning - now on ferry to Dublin to make it three countries

Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra
By the bus stop in Sidmouth
Image: Karen Woolley
Congratulations to Joanne, it will be fascinating to read how her accounts differ across the three countries, but as the fabulous images on this page, taken in Sidmouth earlier today by ace photographer and New Year Plant Hunter Karen Woolley, illustrate clearly - you don't necessarily have to travel too far to find wild flowers. They are blooming all over the place (frosts notwithstanding) and in many different habitats, from your local park to the seaside to that bank behind the bus stop. You just have to get out there and look - and then record your finds.

It needn't be for three hours by the way, that's just the maximum

Nipping out during your lunch break and recording a daisy or a dandelion will still result in a very gratifying red marker on this interactive map and more data for Kevin (BSBI's Head of Science) to get his teeth into. 

He's all ready to get started on his analysis as soon as all the data are in so please - get out tomorrow and take part in Day Four of the New Year Plant Hunt - it's your last chance until 2018!

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