Bioblitz a great success

Cabragh Wetlands owes a great deal to the many generous and knowledgeable people who helped make our Bioblitz last Friday and Saturday such a success.

Cabragh Wetlands owes a great deal to the many generous and knowledgeable people who helped make our Bioblitz last Friday and Saturday such a success.

Our final tally of 295 species identified in the stipulated 24 hours was a pretty good total, given that this is a very small site (scarcely 100 hectares) and that we lacked real expertise in a number of areas, like water beetles and other aquatic species, flies, mosses and lichens. The real success of the event was in the engagement with community, with about 130 people at Cabragh during 24 hours, taking part in a number of events and giving great help in collecting and identifying samples. Final tallies were; Birds – 32, Mammals – 4, Butterflies/Moths – 23, Plants – 204, Others – 32.

Not everyone was cooperative. The owls obstinately refused to appear (but bloody-mindedly were flying the following evening) and our detectors picked up the frequency of just one bat species, when at least three or four were anticipated. Stoat, foxes and frogs stayed stubbornly elusive, and of course on the one occasion we would have liked to see them, the invasive mink sensibly kept their heads down. The event is meant to provide a snapshot of what can actually be identified in 24 hours, not to list every species on the site. Autumn flowers and overwintering birds will not be counted, and there is no doubt we could double the total of species if we were able to equip ourselves with a handful of additional experts. The problem for such multi-site events is that the list of those who can distinguish between variants of lichens, caddis flies, beetles, midge larvae and so on , are very few and in great demand in the bioblitz season. There is a danger of bioblitz overkill, with the generosity and patience of experts stretched to the limit.

Our experts spent many hours in the field in scorching weather, some were out after midnight on Friday evening, while our intrepid ornithologists, Alex Copland and Malcolm Tanner, were out in the reedbeds before 4.00am, and stayed for at least 12 hours, ticking off 32 species of bird and managing to net and ring a good number. Roger Goodwillie led the way in plant identification, notching up a mere 204 species, and at one stage ticking them off at the rate of one per minute as he moved through the beautiful meadows close to the Wetlands Centre. His confidence in his skills and the precision of his identification was a pleasure to see, and a model for all budding naturalists. With our own Ann Lloyd as his sidekick, they ranged through flower meadow, reedbed and a range of other habitats, and together with Michelle O’Neill got to grips with the huge taxonomic range of grasses and sedges, opening our eyes to minute variations in seed heads, softness of stalks and other esoteric means of identification.

Full story in this week’s Tipperary Star.