The importance of a baseline

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 15 April 2019 15:25

I have just got back from a fantastic weekend setting up monitoring at an exciting project in Norfolk. The Ken Hill Estate are planning to restore around 400 ha of farmland and woodland, predominantly through rewilding, and thanks to Penny and Dave Green I was able to get involved in setting up a baseline before any changes took place. This month saw the beginning of the invertebrate survey, the start of some BBS transects and of course lots of casual recording. It's really great that the Estate have been able to pull this baseline together in time and that I was in just the right place going part-time freelance too. It will be a great way to measure the huge biodiversity gains that are expected from this change in direction.

But before you can do that, you need to know what's there. You also need to do that in a way that's standardised where possible, simple and easily repeatable.

The highlight for me was finding two Heath Shieldbugs Legnotus picipes (nationally scarce). In Sussex, this has only ever been recorded from the Crumbles, I have looked for it many times (I even have a day this month pencilled in to look for it again). At Ken Hill, the two I found were on an area of open acid-grassland/heathland but both of them were found on small scrapes and it's great that this might continue. One was found in the suction sampler, the other found under a stone. 

On the first scrape, I also 'sucked' a single Ant-tiger Euryopis flavomaculata (also nationally scarce), which appears to be only the second record for Norfolk after Steve Lane found one in 2018 at Roydon Common. Overall I recorded 146 species last Friday, which was pretty good as it wasn't all that warm. That doesn't even include most of the beetles and bugs which have gone in vinegar until the winter. Spiders are currently at the number one slot with 46 species (but they have all been identified already), followed by beetles at 29 (this will overtake the spiders from this visit alone though). I'm expecting well over 600 species at this rate from this survey.

Oh and Gymnocheta viridis, a new tachind for me (thanks for confirming Tony), was everywhere. Wonder why I have not seen this in Sussex before?

I ended the weekend on 164 species of spider for the year too and added a few nationally scarce species from the dunes there that all seem to be new 10 km square records. Thanatus striatus, and Xerolycosa miniata (those were new for me this year) as well as Zelotes electus and Crustulina sticta.

The birds were really exciting with sightings of Spoonbill, Great White Egret, Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite and more Grey Partridge than I see in a decade. I was typically seeing around 50 Brown Hares a day and the Lapwings were also very plentiful. Quite something!

Back on the little scrapes where I was photographing the Heath Shieldbug, I noticed a few plants of Field Mouse-ear in flower, always love seeing this. Then I noticed in the same scrape I was literally kneeling on a patch of Shepherd's-cress (Near Threatened). I love the little 'jigsaw-puzzle' leaves of this little crucifer, always a good indicator. Was lovely seeing plants that I used to see much more in the RSPB days like Shrubby Seablite, Mossy Stonecrop and Flixweed too. I can't wait until the next visit.

Oh and a new skull! A Muntjac (minus the fangs though). It looks like they fall out easily.

2 Response to "The importance of a baseline"

Hilary Melton-Butcher Says:

Happy Birthday - and so pleased you enjoyed your day without worries (except that extra year!). Good luck - it sounds like the Ken Hill Estate is a very interesting area to work and spend some time. Good luck with the future - but I'll be enjoying your posts - cheers Hilary

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