By Lucy Bain. Lucy is a PhD student at University of East Anglia, researching how our diet can influence stroke risk and risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. She is visiting the Festival as part of the British Science Association student bursary scheme.
On Sunday I went out to Jesmond Dene for a BioBlitz – for those that don’t know, a BioBlitz is an attempt to record as many living species (mammals, birds, plants etc.) in a given area – this case Jesmond Dene – in a 24 hour time period. So it's essentially a race to find, identify and record as much as possible!
In the visitor centre there were several interesting displays including a wide array of fungi that had all been foraged from the park on the day – it was fascinating to see the number of different varieties that could be found in such a relatively small area. On another table sat a couple of tanks housing a few wood mice which had been caught overnight and had a temporary new home for the day before they would be re-released back at the same site where they had been collected from.
I joined a guided walk to look for birds, taken by Mike, around parts of the park. Equipped with some binoculars borrowed from the visitor centre we set off in search of finches and kingfishers to name a few, all of which are present in the park but hadn't yet been sighted today or included in the BioBlitz. The walk took us slightly off the beaten track on less well known paths, which was one of the benefits of being with a guide. We walked along the riverbank for a part of the walk, hoping we might be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher.
We managed to record two rats and a juvenile moorhen - not quite the same allure as a kingfisher! Although having not seen a juvenile moorhen before it was interesting to see its difference in appearance compared to adults (juveniles are a dull brown colour whereas males are predominantly black). On returning to the visitor centre at the end of the walk we had actually collected more insect and invertebrate species for identification than we had birds, but as the day was all about recording as many living species as possible that was still good. Our bird tally came to: numerous wood pigeons, 7 magpies, 2 robins and a juvenile moorhen. Despite not sighting many birds it had still been a fun and insightful walk.
Other activities on during the day had included guided walks for wildlife, identifying tree and plant species in the park and in the evening, bat and moth walks.
I was very glad that I had decided to make the effort to get out to Jesmond Dene as I've never been to a BioBlitz before and this first experience has already had me looking to see if there are any more locally to me, at which point I discovered that you can do a BioBlitz of your own garden! (I know what I'll be doing when I head home after the Festival).