Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Community Science wildlife records 2016 - an overview

During 2016, Community Science received sightings of 6324 individual animals via our 'casual record' surveys; that is: birds (curlew, red grouse and swallow); butterflies (peacock, orange tip and green hairstreak); mountain hares, brown hares and rabbits; and ring ouzel and redwing.

The majority of sightings - 4322 - were from the birds survey, but 300 butterflies were seen along with 893 hares and rabbits, and 809 ring ouzels or redwings.

The map below shows the distribution of these records across our project area - the Peak District and South Pennines. The blue line is the boundary of the Peak District National Park, and the purple shape is the SAC (Special Area of Conservation) designated as internationally important for the habitats it contains - including blanket bog.

The light blue dots show where sightings of these individual animals came from (note that each dot could represent more than one individual animal, for example if someone saw 10 swallows in a particular place) and it is interesting to note that generally, the sightings broadly match the SAC shape, especially in the Dark Peak area.

The red dots, added for comparison, show where we distributed freepost postcards asking for people to send in sightings (sightings were also submitted via our website and the MoorWILD app). These hint at the correlation between location of sightings and distribution of postcards - underlining the limits of 'casual' surveys such as these.

Nevertheless, there are some useful and interesting things which the data can reveal: During 2016 the casual ring ouzel sightings helped to inform where surveyors looked when conducting an extensive breeding bird survey of the Eastern Moors area. The distribution of hares, and the correlation between mountain hare coat colour and snowfall has fed into a PhD on the subject of 'seasonal crypsis' in that species.

In the longer term, we'll be able to see if the dates certain species are first sighted in a year (for example emergence of green hairstreak butterfly, or the return of curlews to their moorland breeding areas) are shifting - and whether this fits into a pattern of earlier springs which are predicted to occur as our climate changes.

To find out more about current climate change research, please see some of the links we've gathered together on our webpage.