Bioblitz has returned to Southampton! On Friday 9th June we held our first event of the year: a bat walk through campus and around Southampton Common. Phil Budd, our very own field ecologist and Bioblitz veteran, led the walk. Before we had even set off from the car park of Avenue Campus, we had spotted two tawny owls – a male and a female – and our team of experts explained how to differentiate between them based on their calls. As night fell we ventured down to the Common where we were learned how to use bat detectors and what species we could expect to hear at particular frequencies. Within moments of reaching the Common we were surrounded by bats feeding on insects at dusk. A total of four bat species were identified, among those encountered were the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) and the barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus), the latter preferring the Common’s lake.
After the walk the more curious of the crowd followed us back to campus where Graham, set up moth traps. White bryony and a uncommon moth (Phtheochroa rugosana) associated with the plant, were found. Despite the bright lights of the moth traps, the public and enthusiasts were pleased to see the sheer variety of moths found.
On Saturday 10th June staff, students and volunteers joined forces to document the myriad of wildlife present at Highfield Campus and, surrounding areas. This year the team managed to smash the previous years’ efforts with a grand total of 365 records and 261 different species.
Part of the success was a venture into valley gardens ponds guided by the People, Ponds and Water National Coordinator- Dr Naomi Ewald . Students took part in water sampling determining the presence of great crested newts and the water quality of the ponds and streams on campus and the common. As our samples are not a priority, we won’t found out the results of the great crested newt test for a few weeks. However, look out for a post in the future when we find out
Our initial water quality tests looking at phosphate and nitrate levels found the uppermost pond in Valley Gardens to be near pristine quality – excellent for all sorts of wildlife! However the river running through the gardens showed some level of pollution, possibly due to runoff of fertilizers used for the flowerbeds or from the streets surrounding the catchment area. After this the group headed out across campus in teams, recording as many species of flora and fauna as possible. A hearty free lunch of various of pizzas was very kindly bought by Judith, which gave us all the energy we needed to carry on with our survey for the rest of day.
Overall the event was a huge success, finding a record number of species and providing a great hands-on experience of surveying biodiversity for staff and students alike. The data from this event has been uploaded to a national database to help understand and piece together the ever-changing face of biodiversity across the UK. A huge thank you to everyone who came down and got involved!Mairin Williams