Monday, 24 August 2015

A fly on the moor

Jane, one of our volunteer Community Scientists was out on the Roaches in the South West Peak District doing a bumblebee survey, when she came across this rather amazing insect:

Jane described how the fly had a bright yellow head, was very large (the size of a queen red-tailed bumblebee) and kept flying back to the same spot if disturbed.

We had never come across this species before, so consulted Ben Keywood, an entomologist from Sheffield Wildlife Trust, who identified the photo:

The fly is a parasitic tachinid Tachina grossa which parasitises the larvae of Oak Eggar Moth.  Oak Eggar is a moorland day-flying moth also of huge proportions.  The moth occurs across the Sheffield moors and is bright yellow or orange.  This tachinid fly is not rare but certainly rarely recorded.  Great photo!"

Jane e-mailed us to say: "It's fantastic - I'm always learning something new and seeing something amazing each time I go out to undertake Community Science."

If you have any wildlife photos or surveying experiences you’d like to share with us on this blog, please get in touch.

Monday, 17 August 2015

What is a dipwell?

In order to measure the water table (the level of water underground) on our Community Science environmental monitoring sites, our volunteers install dipwells. These are tubes which sit vertically the peat, and are drilled full of small holes to allow them to fill with water, which can then be measured.

Tom can be seen here drilling small holes into a dipwell, to allow it to fill with water.

When a dipwell is installed, a small amount of open tube sticks out above ground level. This open hole is the fitted with a cap (see pictures below). This is not to stop water from entering, but in fact to prevent small mammals like voles from falling down the tube!

The caps must have a hole drilled in them to allow the air pressure to be equal inside and outside the tube. If the pressures were different, the water level could be affected. After a while these caps can become bleached by the sun (see photo) or even chewed up by passing animals, so our volunteers keep an eye on them an replace occasionally them when needed.

If you'd like to find out more about environmental monitoring on the moors and how you can get involved, head to our website today:

Friday, 14 August 2015

Monitoring Marsden Moor

Yesterday saw the successful completion of the first stage in setting up a new site to monitor long-term environmental and vegetation changes on the moors near Marsden.

National Trust's Marsden Moor Estate survey group volunteers set up 30 randomly located quadrats (2x2 m survey areas) with the Community Science team and NT ranger Rob, which will be used to monitor variables such as water table, peat depth and temperature; as well as changes in vegetation.

Yellow ground-level markers (see photo above) were installed in random locations within a 100x100 m square and labelled, and dipwells - used to measure the water table - were installed into the peat. Finally the group measured the peat depth (the deepest point found was 2.74 m) in some of the quadrats.

We're now looking forward to the next step - finishing the set up and carrying out an initial survey to find out which plant species are present on the site. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Bumblebees love the sun too

Guest blog post by Liesel Bott, Sheffield Wildlife Trust volunteer Nature Reserves Assistant

Wednesday 1st July may have been the hottest day of the year for Sheffield but this didn’t stop Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust and the Community Science team from setting up a new bumblebee transect at Blacka Moor nature reserve.

 We spent an enjoyable morning walking the new transect route to assess its suitability and record the habitats present along the way. The good mix of heathland and woodland habitats complete with the hot sunny weather meant the bumblebees were out in force. We recorded over 40 sightings in around 1km with a bilberry bumblebee, one of the target species, spotted in the last section.

The Blacka Moor bumblebee transect is ready to go and waiting for more community science volunteers to discover and survey. If you are interested in helping survey this transect please contact Community Science or Sheffield Wildlife Trust