The year so far: Birds, Bryophytes and Pan-species plans

With an exam every day from the 9th to the 12th this month, I’ve spent the last few days getting my head down with revision, and so haven’t had much time for blogging. But, I’ve decided to take a break for an hour or so to write about what I’ve been up to so far this year.

New Years Day, 6:30 am. My alarm has just gone off, and I’m getting ready to go out birding around Cambridgeshire to get the 2017 year list off to a good start. It’s raining outside, and it’s due to be raining all day. Should be fun!

First up, Grafham Water. I get out of the car, eyes peeled and ears tuned in for birding! I quickly rack up the first twenty or so species: various finches calling in the trees, ducks, grebes and gulls on the water, and best of all 6 Bewick’s Swans. I have to look harder for the next species, but I eventually pick out one of the wintering Great Northern Divers near the dam. I scope the water hard from two car parks to try and find the elusive Red-necked Grebe (present somewhere!) to no avail. Ah well, onto Paxton Pits. It doesn’t take long to get my target species: the long-staying female Ring-necked Duck, and Great White Egret. Potentially troublesome day-ticks such as Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers all fell easily!

I then visited Fen Drayton, where the highlight was two 1st winter male Scaup. It was then on to Needingworth Lakes, the coldest and muddiest venue of the day. It was hard work, but trudging half a mile or so through the half frozen mud yielded 7 Smew, including one beautiful male! The last two sites were Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen. A break in the rain meant for an excellent end to the day overlooking the reedbed at Woodwalton. Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, and a male Hen Harrier all made appearances, whilst a Cetti’s Warbler sang, Water Rails squealed, 45 Corn Buntings circled above the reeds, and a Bearded Tit flew across! I finished the day on 87 species, just 8 off the county 1st January record. Not bad for such a rainy day!

I apologise for the lack of photos so far. It was too rainy, and I’m rubbish at taking pictures of birds.

The next day, I went out with Brian Eversham for some less birdy fieldwork. The plan was to look at bryophytes, and see what invertebrates we could find along the way. We started at Flitwick Moor, a wet woodland/grassland Wildlife Trust reserve in Bedfordshire. The reserve is renowned for its Sphagnum bogs, containing over 10 Sphagnum species, including several for which it is Bedfordshire’s only site. Unfortunately, nearly all of it was frozen! The only Sphagnum we (mostly Brian) could identify in the field was Sphagnum squarrosum. At last some pictures! Of Flitwick Moor, and a patch of the moss Polytrichum commune growing amongst the Sphagnum.


Throughout the rest of the day, we keyed out as many bryophytes as we could in the field, but had to bring a few tiny Liverworts back for microscopic identification. The smallest of all was found at nearby Cooper’s Hill nature reserve completely by accident! Brian found it initially whilst examining an already fairly small (10mm tall) Campylopus moss. Under the hand lens, a small strand of the Liverwort could be seen. The leaves can’t have been more than 0.2mm, and some were much less! We managed to key it to Cephaloziella sp. using the field guide, so the specimen remains with Brian for a definitive ID.

Including a few galls and a couple of fungi, I managed twelve pan-species lifers for the day (my only ones of the year so far).

Speaking of pan-species listing, I spent a little while setting myself some pan-species targets for next year. I’ll stick the big boring table (which I enjoyed making quite a lot) in full at the end of this blog, but in short, I’m aiming for 1000 new species this year!

Group 2016 Total 2016 Ranking (out of 192) 2017 Target
Algae 24 23rd 50
Slime Moulds 2 Joint 45th 4
Protists 1 Joint 10th 2
Lichens 5 Outside top 50 50
Fungi 101 Outside top 50 150
Bryophytes 86 30th 160
Vascular Plants 860 38th 950
Sponges 2 Joint 12th 4
Comb-jellies 0 Unranked 1
Cnidarians 10 Joint 14th 15
Molluscs 98 13th 120
Bryozoans 1 Joint 25th 2
Annelid Worms 12 Joint 18th 20
Platyhelminth Worms 4 Joint 11th 8
Sea-spiders 0 Unranked 1
Arachnids 75 28th 125
Myriapods 49 6th 55
Crustaceans 31 Joint 20th 40
Springtails etc. 1 Outside top 50 2
3-tailed Bristletails 3 Joint 11th 5
Odonata 25 Outside top 50 30
Orthopteroids 22 Joint 27th 27
Hemipteroids 77 45th 130
Hymenoptera 62 Joint 42nd 120
Coleoptera 217 Joint 38th 417
Diptera 85 48th 150
Butterflies 34 Outside top 50 40
Moths 481 48th 600
Remaining Insect Orders 14 47th 40
Echinoderms 6 Joint 13th 10
Tunicates 0 Unranked 1
Fish 46 12th 55
Reptiles 6 Joint 26th 7
Amphibians 6 Joint 33rd 7
Birds 248 Outside top 50 290
Mammals 35 Outside top 50 40
Other Animals 0 Unranked 1
Overall 2729 41st 3729


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