Wednesday 19 May 2021

Free wildlife ID sheets connecting the next generation to nature this summer

Our friends at the Field Studies Council have come up with another brilliant way of helping young people connect to nature this summer - and BSBI is right beside them, cheering them on!

Their plan is to post thousands of free field wildlife ID guides this July.  They're looking for people in England aged 16-25, and those working with this age group,  to register by 10th June 2021 to receive their two free ID guides. 

There's a choice of six pairs of guides to choose from and of course we are particularly pleased at the plant pair which contains a guide to trees and one to wildflowers. 

Each wildlife ID guide is a colourful and water-resistant fold out chart filled with drawings or photos created by enthusiasts and experts. 

Follow this link to find out more and here's the link to register for the two free guides.

If you know of anyone aged 16-25 who would appreciate these guides, why not send them a link to this blogpost? Be sure to do it before the deadline, 5pm on 10th June! 

And if those first two guides whet their appetite, they will find lots more here

Huge thanks to our friends at the Field Studies Council for all the great work they do to connect the next generation to nature. 

Tuesday 18 May 2021

NBN Awards 2021

Nominations have opened for the NBN Awards for Wildlife Recording 2021.

These annual NBN Awards celebrate the individuals, the newcomers and the groups of people or whole organisations that are making outstanding contributions to wildlife recording and improving our understanding of the natural world in the UK. They were developed in 2015 by the National Biodiversity Network Trust, in partnership with the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre.  

There are five categories of awards: 

The five short-listed nominees from each award category will be announced on 5th October and the winners will be announced at a ceremony in November, as part of the National Biodiversity Network's annual conference.

All too often the painstaking work that individual and groups of Wildlife recorders undertake is not publicly recognised. So let's put that right - nominate your unsung heroes!

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

Nominations close on 18th July, so please don’t leave it too late….

Friday 14 May 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

This past week, BSBI staff and volunteers on our Comms Team have been contributing to Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has a focus on nature. They've been taking to social media to share their experience of how connecting with nature can help us all improve our mental health. 

Orchid hunter Leif Bersweden (image on right), who runs the BSBI Instagram account, said: "For me, being surrounded by nature is a restorative, calming experience: paying attention to a daisy in the pavement or the song of a blackbird simply slows me down, keeps me in the moment and acts as a reminder of what's really important in life".

April Webb (image below left) from Plant Alert said: "Nature feeds my curiosity, creativity and soul. It's the slap in the face I need some times to stop and just 'be'. There is always something new to see, to learn, to experience if you stop & just go with nature's pace for a while".

The Mental Health Foundation launched Mental Health Awareness Week 21 years ago and they say they chose nature as the theme for this year's Week because "being in nature is known to be an effective way of tacking mental health problems and of protecting our well-being. This seemed particularly important this year - in the year of a pandemic. 

"Our research has shown that being in nature has been one of the most popular ways the public have tried to sustain good mental health at a challenging time". 

Ciara Dwyer (image below right) from BSBI Events & Comms committee said “Spending time outdoors in nature is a place for me to escape. I can distract myself with wildlife: listening to bird songs, looking at plants on a walk with friends, or going for a run in the local woodland.”

BSBI Fundraising Manager Sarah Woods (image below left) said: "I’ve been lucky to know for a long time that my little soul is happiest in green space – I tend to embarrass my friends with contented sighs as soon as we head out on a walk. The best part for me is that it is accessible in so many forms – from single plants to big adventures, so you can access the dose you need to deal with whatever else life is throwing your way".

Many botanists, plant-lovers and BSBI members who regularly read this blog can vouch for the restorative power of the natural world. 

Being in nature and enjoying our wonderful wild flowers has been a lifelong passion and a source of well-being for lots of us, especially during the past year. 

There is also a growing body of evidence to back up this claim - check out these links: 

  • 2003 paper comparing the restorative effects of walking in a nature reserve compared to an urban environment;
  • 2019 report commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts concludes that 'prescribing nature works - and is excellent value for money' 
  • this US study from 2008 indicates that workers in offices with live plants, and window views of exterior green spaces, felt better about their jobs and the work they performed; 
  • and this paper describes how researchers used fMRI scans to look at the effects on brain activity of viewing a flower - their conclusion was that it "downregulated negative emotions and decreased both elevated blood pressure and cortisol levels".


Ellen Goddard (image on right), who analysed this year's New Year Plant Hunt results, said: "Nature has always been my form of escapism. Whether it be retreating to the countryside or a local woodland, the peace I feel when surrounded by the vibrant colours and sounds of nature always help to clear my mind. Even the smallest plant found in the middle of a city can bring a smile to my face as I think of how something so small is surviving in the most surprising places". 

My own experience (Louise, BSBI Comms Officer) is that the natural world was never as important to me as when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. We spent a lot of time together in those final years walking in our local woods and meadows. His enjoyment of wildflowers, trees and wildlife was as keen as it had been throughout his life and I found that revisiting those woods and meadows helped me get through the painful early months of bereavement. Nature helps us through the difficult times as well as making the good days even better!"

The final word goes to Jodey Peyton (image on left), Chair of BSBI Events & Comms committee, Vice Chair of the National Federation of Biological Recording and, in her day job, an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology: "Being able to spend time outside in the natural world is incredibly important to me and helps me turn off my internal fret system (especially if it is combined with a nice picnic!). Every walk with flowers, insects (even the nuisance bitey ones!) and birds tweeting is a reminder to me why I work in Ecology and is why I am so proud to be a part of the BSBI! Everyone should have access to and be able spend time in nature. I am incredibly passionate that we all work together to empower ourselves and our neighbours to be able to enjoy and support nature and each other!

Well said Jodey, especially the bit about the picnic - not so sure about the bitey insects though!

Thursday 13 May 2021

Springing forth: May report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Last time we heard from BSBI President Lynne Farrell, she was dodging snow flurries to look at violets and blue moor-grass near her Cumbria home. 

So, has spring finally sprung?

"There has been some rain and slightly warmer temperatures since my last blogpost and spring is on its way, even though we have had snow on the hills and hailstorms also recently.

Blossoms are opening including Bird Cherry Prunus padus (image on right), Dandelion fields and verges are bright yellow, and woodland species such as Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, Wild Garlic Allium ursinum and Goldilocks Buttercup Ranunculus auricomus are visible. 

Both Alan Leslie, one of our BSBI members and the author of the recent Flora of Cambridgeshire, and Brian Eversham, Chair of Beds., Cambs. & Northants Wildlife Trust (and, of course, a BSBI member) have made detailed studies of Goldilocks Buttercup. 

A native, widespread species that has suddenly appeared following heavy rain is Toothwort Lathraea squamaria (image on left). 

This is parasitic on a range of woody plants, especially Hazel, Ash and Elm but it is not easy to spot due to its pale pink or white colouring and it is often hidden beneath the trees. 

Purple Toothwort Lathraea clandestina is a neophyte, scattered throughout Britain but less common, and mainly found on the roots of Alder, Willow and Poplar in wetter areas. 

Both of these plants are in the family Orobancheae and feature in the new BSBI Handbook on Broomrapes

My copy arrived recently and I'm enjoying reading this new addition to the series of BSBI Handbooks for difficult plants - the illustrations by Chris Thorogood are very colourful. A friend captured the image on the right of me engrossed in the book! 

I also appreciated the members' discount on the cost of this book: a reminder that if you want to benefit from the discount you need to be a BSBI member and you will  need to order your copy before the end of June. 

The contrast of the shining yellow of Cowslip Primula veris and the bright purple of Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula (image below) stands out well in the meadows. 

The annual count of Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio took place on a National Trust site near here, and even though the numbers were down overall, they had spread to new areas of the fields, which is encouraging news for the site managers".

Thursday 6 May 2021

RIP Philip Oswald 1933-2021

Philip (centre) and Chris (on left) receiving
the Thackray Medal 
Very sad news that Philip Oswald has just died; he was an active BSBI member for many years, joining the society in 1952, serving as a member of BSBI Publications Committee from 1986 to 2018 and on Council from 2000-2003. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Society in 1999 in recognition of his decades of service.

As a classicist - his first degree, from Cambridge, was in Latin and Ancient Greek - Philip was responsible for writing the Latin descriptions of many new taxa for Watsonia and then New Journal of Botany

The list of books, articles and papers he authored or edited is long and impressive; it includes no fewer than five BSBI Handbooks; John Ray's Cambridge Catalogue (1660), for which he and co-author Chris Preston were awarded the 2012 Thackray Medal by the Society for the History of Natural History; and Philip and Chris, along with Arthur Chater and Gwynn Ellis, worked together to bring the two final volumes of Sell & Murrell's Flora of Great Britain and Ireland to press after Philip's old friend Peter Sell died in 2013. The image below left shows the 'friends' at the publication launch for the final volume (Philip second right).  

A full obituary will be published in due course by Chris Preston, who collaborated with and served alongside Philip for many years, and will be ideally placed to provide an overview of his friend's long and varied career. For now, I'd just like to share a few memories of him from the last decade, when I had the privilege of serving alongside him on BSBI Publications Committee, known to its friends as 'Pubs'. 

Philip was extremely knowledgeable on all things botanical, classical and grammatical and seemed to know everyone in the botanical world. I will admit to being a little over-awed by him and other renowned botanists on encountering them at my first-ever 'Pubs' meeting in 2011 but he sensed my nervousness and quickly put me at ease. 

He had a wealth of stories about his botanical expeditions, in fact he and I once 'got lost' en route between the Linnean Society, where Pubs used to meet, and the nearby pub which we used to visit afterwards - Philip was telling me about one of his visits to Mount Athos and the story was so engrossing, we both completely lost track of where we were going! 

For a member of the 'old guard', Philip was always very open-minded and encouraging of new ideas around outreach: he often featured in and contributed to this blog, of which he was also a regular reader. He participated in activities such as the New Year Plant Hunt and his review of wildflower ID keys, aimed at beginner botanists, is one of the most popular downloads from the BSBI website (you can find it on our Get Involved page). The image on the right shows him chatting to an early career botanist at the 2015 BSBI Exhibition Meeting.

Final (slightly blurry) photo below of Philip (centre) as many of us will remember him: arriving at the opening of the BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2016, held at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology - smiling, keen to enjoy the talks and exhibits and looking forward to catching up with old friends and finding out what plants they had seen and what they thought about the botanical issues of the day. He will be greatly missed by his many friends in the BSBI and our deepest condolences go to his family.