Glengarriff Bioblitzes The Opposition.

Glengarriff BioBlitzes The Opposition.

Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve was crowned the BioBlitz 2012 champions for 2012 with an incredible tally of 1,020 species identified over the 24 hours from 5pm on Friday 18th May. The team of some thirty scientists and naturalists at Glengarriff beat off stiff competition from three other sites coming from behind to take the title at the last moment.

Run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre, BioBlitz 2012 was a scientific race against time. The aim of this fun event was to find as many species as possible within a park over a 24 hour period. It was, therefore, a unique event where scientists, students and the general public could come together and learn how scientists and biological recorders use their skills to study the wildlife of an area.

The four locations chosen this year were:-  

Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve, Co. Cork,

Lough Boora Parklands, Co. Offaly,

The Phoenix Park, Dublin 8.

Crawfordsburn Country Park, Co. Down.

A significant development this year was that BioBlitz 2012 had now become a cross border event. This year, CEDaR Northern Ireland, (Centre for Environmental Data and Recording) joined forces with the National Biodiversity Data Centre in coordinating the event. Pitting the four venues against each other, brought an element of competition to the event. In addition, it allowed comparisons to be made between the sites, thus gaining further insights into the relative biological richness of the different habitats.

Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve covers some 300ha, with the dominant habitats being old oak woodland and young woodland which is regenerating in areas which have been cleared of non-native conifers over the last few years. The woods form one of the best examples of oceanic sessile oak woodland in Ireland, being rated second only in importance to the Killarney oakwoods.

Bioblitz 2012 kicked off at 5pm on Friday 18th May.  During that afternoon, scientists and experts had been gathering at The Base Camp at Flahive’s Lodge in the Nature Reserve in cold and damp weather conditions. At a meeting at 4.30 pm at Base Camp  the co-ordination of the coverage of different habitats/areas of the Nature Reserve was arranged, and the rules for the competition were explained. At the sounding of a claxon at 5 pm everyone dispersed to begin collecting. Would we win? The BioBlitz website site had listed Glengarriff as second favourites at 7/2 compared to 2/1 for favourites Crawfordsburn Country Park in Northern Ireland. Could we prove them wrong?

Some of the Recorders prepare for the off!                                                                      Photo: © Deirdre Fitzgerald

As well as the collecting and identifying of species, a number of other events were run over the 24 hour period to allow interested spectators to see how scientists go about catching and identifying plants and animals.

On Friday, at 9pm at Flahive’s Lodge, scientists showed how they set up traps to catch the ‘Creatures of the Night’ such as moths, beetles & small mammals. This was followed by a Bat Walk led by Conor Kelleher (Cork Bat Group). Bats navigate and find their prey by high-pitched calls and these can be heard on specialised bat recorders which lower the pitch of the sounds so that humans can hear them. Different species have different calls.

On Saturday morning, the venue was the Main car park/picnic area of the Reserve, at 4.30 am where Peter Wolstenholme (BirdWatch West Cork) with Calvin Jones (Ireland’s Wildlife) helped hardy insomniacs to identifying bird song during the dawn chorus.

Listening to the Dawn Chorus.                                                          Photo: © Deirdre Fitzgerald

Back at Base Camp at Flahive’s Lodge at 9.00am, the overnight traps were opened to see what moths, small mammals and beetles had been captured that night.

At 11.00am, Declan O’Donnell (NPWS) and friends led a walk from the Main car park/picnic area in the Reserve to look for signs of woodland mammals such as otter, red squirrel, badger and pine marten. Signs of all four were seen and added to the list.

The Great Mammal Hunt Begins!                                                                            Photo: © Deirdre Fitzgerald

At 2:00pm again from the Main car park/picnic area, Stephanie O’Toole & Mark Boyden (Streamscapes) were on hand to take children on a journey of discovery searching for Tracks and bugs on land and fish and invertebrates in the streams.

In the meantime, Volunteers were still out in the field madly trying to fill the gaps of what had not recorded thus far. Perhaps the highlight of day was the sighting of an Osprey overflying the Reserve. Species which could not be identified in the field were hurried back to the lab at Base Camp for identification.


                  Photos: © Deirdre Fitzgerald                                                  Lauren identifying freshwater species                                         

  Rob is pleased with his tally so far

At the 3.00 pm tally on Saturday 19th May, Lough Boora had stormed into the lead with an interim total of 728 recorded species, with Glengarriff trailing by 80 species on 648, followed by Crawfordsburn with 570 and Phoenix Park on 315.

As the 5pm deadline approached, some were resigned to losing out. One comment heard was that at least Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve would now have an excellent data base of species.  However, a spectacular comeback, with a final rush of species, particularly of mosses, lichens and fungi, pushed up the total and at the final  tally, Glengarriff retook that the lead they had held early in the day to claim the crown as Ireland’s BioBlitz 2012 champions with an impressive grand total of 1020 species.

The final Glengarriff breakdown of species recorded.

Crawfordsburn surged into second place with a final tally of 984, with Lough Boora in third with 940 and Phoenix Park bringing up the rear with an urban biodiversity total of 528.

Glengarriff, therefore were the only team to break the 1,000 species mark this year, coming just 68 species of last year’s winners, Killarney National Park, a site over 30 times larger than Glengarriff! Perhaps if the weather had been kinder even more species would have been found.

The Jubilant Glengarriff Team.

The whole event would not have been possible without the huge voluntary effort of all the recorders who gave of their time and expertise freely to assist with the day. A special word of praise must surely go to Clare Heardman, Conservation Ranger, and her local team for the excellent preparatory work which allowed the Bioblitz in Glengarriff to run so smoothly.

Finally though, the real winner of BioBlitz 2012 is Ireland’s biodiversity and the event offered a wonderful opportunity to highlight the astonishing variety of life that exists around the island of Ireland.

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