• Ryan Clark

2020: Recording Nearby Nature

2020 was a year that I am sure many people will remember for the rest of their lives. The COVID-19 virus swept across the world and we have now entered a third national lockdown in England. The message was ever-changing and often unclear but often involved staying at home or atleast staying local. The natural world was appreciated by many more people as they sought respite from the constant depressing news, but this also led to additional pressure on our already fragile sites. I will never understand why people can't just take home their rubbish! The natural world has always provided a hugely important service for me, helping my mental and physical health and 2020 was no different.

During the first lockdown I had to quickly adapt to working from home, without the day to day contact of colleagues that I had taken for granted. I was then put on furlough for a short while. After coming back from furlough, I was given the exciting opportunity to work on my own project. The project was super exciting and interesting to be part of and I hope to share more about it with you soon. What I can say is that it is a c100 page document of case studies highlighting why the Beds, Cambs and Northants area is important for wildlife. Work-wise I will be building on this project in 2021 by producing a State of Nature report for the BCN area and compiling a database of all known species recorded on our reserves.

Outside of my work for the Wildlife Trust I am also a tutor for the Field Studies Council, teaching people about solitary and bumblebee identification. These are usually face to face courses so were all unfortunately cancelled. In 2021 though I will be doing some courses for the Field Studies Council online and hopefully in person too when the world is more back to normal.

Due to the virus my recording activities were also altered significantly, I couldn't travel to my usual haunts and record there. I discovered some local footpaths near to my house which I didn't know existed, and found a lovely field edged with a lovely old hedge, home to lots of insects which I enjoyed recording. It gave me a chance to see the how spring progressed and how the leaves gradually became more unpalatable for insects. Sadly this field is being affected by development.

After having to remain distant for many months, I decided in early Autumn to move in with my partner Charlotte in North East England, this has been great and allowed me to continue with my work remotely, and to explore new places up here together.

One positive of 2020 was the abundance of online ecology and identification courses, especially from the FSC Biolinks Project and the Tanyptera Project. It is very unlikely that I would have been able to attend any of these courses in person and it is great that they have been moved online and are accessible to a wider range of people. They cannot replace the fieldwork and microscope work that traditional courses provide, but they are certainly a really useful tool to engage more people and are often recorded so can be watched multiple times! There is an excellent YouTube playlist here of courses. 2020 was also the year that I delivered my first online talk. This talk was an introduction to biological recording for the Natural History Society of Northumbria. To me this was more daunting than delivering a face to face course but is accessible to many more people which is excellent!

Recording wise my records were restricted to Buckinghamshire where I live with some records from Beds, Cambs and Northants for work. When restrictions were temporarily released I was able to visit my brother up on the edge of the Peak District. Since September I have been staying in the North East and exploring the wealth of wildlife that can be found here. This year I generated 7326 records of nearly 1500 taxa, with many more specimens to identify. I am quite pleased with this considering the restrictions! The total number of species I have recorded in Britain so far is now 3676.

2020 Wildlife Highlights

Despite the circumstances, there were a number of wildlife highlights for me in 2020:

  • Discovering nature closer to home including footpaths I had never walked and under-recorded squares no one had surveyed before

  • Appreciating the garden even more. My garden played a huge part in my fascination for wildlife and this year has further highlighted the importance of gardens to people and wildlife alike. This year I discovered a dotted bee-fly Bombylius discolor in the garden for the first time, a real treat!

  • My love for bryophytes has also intensified this year and I have even started a Sphagnum identification course. Being in the North East has allowed me to see some amazingly diverse mosses and liverwort species

  • During furlough I also discovered a population of the rare bee Eucera longicornis along a woodland ride in Buckinghamshire. This bee is not doing too well so it was great to find a new site for it and it was the first time I had seen this species inland.

  • Teesdale - I have long wanted to visit the Teesdale area and I wasn't disappointed! We visited way out of season for the rare alpine plants but still managed to find bird's-eye primrose Primula farinosa and spring gentian Gentiana verna in flower in August! Teesdale was also amazing for rare bumblebees including moss carder Bombus muscorum and broken-belted bumblebees Bombus soroeensis. I can't wait to explore this area once again in the Spring.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post, thank you for reading. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year for everyone. Stay safe.

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