1:06pm Thursday 7th June 2012
It can be really easy to miss something, especially when it’s staring you right in the face. On holiday in Costa Rica I was relaxing in a hammock when my friends started frantically pointing at a bush next to me, but I couldn’t see anything. Then suddenly I was looking straight at a large sloth, just a foot away from me!
There aren’t too many sloths in Oxford, but I’m looking forward to being amazed by the variety of birds, colourful plants, and different insects that make their home right here in the city. The Oxford BioBlitz on 23 and 24 June will be the perfect time to find out what is just staring us in the face, but we’ve never seen it before.
Why not come along and join in the fun? You could have a go at worm-charming, or tread carefully beside the River Cherwell looking for otter poo. Take an early morning stroll to listen to nature’s choir on Sunday morning; does the robin start the dawn chorus or is it another bird?
The Oxford BioBlitz run by Science Oxford involves all this and much more. It’s an event with the purpose of surveying a natural space: to find, identify and record as many species as possible during the 24-hour survey of wildlife in about a square kilometre of open spaces, gardens, rivers and woods between the Cowley Road, South Park and the River Cherwell. The survey will yield information about what’s living in our city and, equally as important, what is missing that we would expect to find there. All our data will be sent to Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre so that the findings are available for anyone studying the area in the future.
Wildlife experts from the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust will be leading pond dipping, bug-hunting and tree trails. This will be a change for me because I’m usually involved with surveying for wildlife on a much smaller scale. Our work is in quadrats and transects; a few square metres of clearly marked out areas in fields and woodland. We need to know what wildlife lives on the land that we’re looking after and what should be there but is conspicuous by its absence.
Help to discover the wildlife on your doorstep. If you live in the survey area you can explore your immediate neighbourhood. What does live in your garden, rustling around among the leaves or crawling under those loose paving slabs? Do bats swoop by when you’re sitting outside on a warm summer’s evening?
All these things and more are out there waiting to be discovered and experienced in the centre of our city. I’m not expecting to see a sloth chilling out in South Park’s bushes, but you never know what you might find staring you in the face!
Join in the BBOWT family fun events this summer. Today, it is Pond Power at Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre near Didcot. Drop in any time between 10am and 4pm. On Saturday, June 30, from 9pm till late come along to the Letcombe Valley Community Nature Reserve in Letcombe Regis to find out about night-flying creatures. Using an ultrasonic echo-location device, listen to the slaps and clicks of bats checking out their prey as they swoop across the river and meadow. Then drop in on Sunday, July 1, from 9AM to 11am when moth-traps will be opened to reveal beautiful insects. More at www.bbowt.org.uk/whatson Details of the Oxford BioBlitz at www.
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