Tring BioBlitz | Identification Trainers for the Future

Our latest blog by Alex Mills from the current cohort of trainees takes a look back a few weeks to the BioBlitz in Tring, Hertfordshire:

‘What is it? What’s on me?’

‘Wow. It’s huge, Mum!’

‘What’s huge?’

‘Ah, cool. Hold still…’

Tring PlantWalk

Taking the Tring BioBlitz out into the field

Unconventional collection methods can work wonders during a BioBlitz. In this instance a mother accompanying her children on a minibeast hunt found herself functioning as a perfect interception trap for Stenocorus meridianus, a rather imposing longhorn beetle. The beetle was duly potted and admired. Everyone (including the mother/beetle trap…eventually) was transfixed by this magnificent beetle. And that was the order of the day at the highly successful Tring BioBlitz a few weeks ago: enjoyment and biological records, with kids and adults of all ages being transported by the natural world around them.

An outrageously sunny – if a little windy – day ensured there was plenty to see at Tring, the section of the Natural History Museum based in Hertfordshire and focused on ornithology (and which grew out of the Walter Rothschild collection).

Insects were on the wing and flowers trying their best to attract them were in abundance as we explored the grounds of the Museum and the grassland of nearby Tring Park. Throughout the day we ID Trainers helped with running the range of walks on offer and pitched in at the BioBlitz hub, aiding members of the public in their efforts to identify their finds.

Matt and Steph Tring BioBlitz

Manning the stand on behalf of the Museum’s Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity.

It was great to explore the biodiversity around the Tring site and to be able to engage so many people and help them connect with this biodiversity:

Laura enjoyed guiding the families in discovering the wonders to be gleaned from pond dipping, with backswimmers, pond skaters, and dragonfly larval exuviae abounding. Matt wowed all with his previously unknown (perhaps even to him) proficiency in mimicking bird calls. I shall now shout ‘Give us your Jackdaw’ at him at every opportunity.

I had a blast leading a plant walk, during which we found a patch of beautiful bee orchids (Ophrys apifera), as well as pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis). This, I’m sure, helped convince everyone present that botany is indeed the best discipline.

Steph’s beetle bothering skills were called upon as she helped with the hugely popular minibeast walks and uncovered lots of invertebrate gems. April set to work investigating the saxicolous (growing on rock) lichen flora around the Museum, revealing this frequently overlooked world of wonder to visitors. We also found snatches of time during the day for to make use of the skills we’ve gained from our identification workshops thus far and undertook our own recording.

The current species list for the BioBlitz stands at over 160. Just as importantly a large number of people got to know some of the other organisms that they can find in their local area.

Over the course of the day we benefited from the enthusiasm of all who came along and got stuck in with the BioBlitz effort (including Museum Hymenopterist Gavin Broad who helped build our species list and our excitement for the upcoming Hymenoptera workshop). And, fingers crossed, we will have encouraged many of the eager entomologists and budding botanists of the future to become biological recorders themselves! Our thanks go to Abbie and all the Museum team at Tring for organising a fantastic day and making us ID Trainers feel so welcome.

Tring Bioblitz

The trainees being feeling welcomed by the Museum at Tring

Alex Mills, Trainee on the Identification Trainers for the Future project