The Filey Bird Observatory / Chris Packham Bioblitz 2018!

Our Bioblitz Hub opens for business!

Many of you will know that Chris Packham, as part of his well-publicised and much-needed national campaign to spotlight the rapid loss of biodiversity across the UK, asked us to host one of his special 24-hour bioblitzes here at Filey. Of course we agreed, and given the choice between an exclusively biological records-gathering bioblitz and an open-door, everybody’s-welcome one, you can guess which one we chose.

Chris and some of the FBOG team

So, inkeeping with our goal to make all our events free and open to everyone, and with our sights set on a lofty target, we planned long and hard before the clock struck 8pm on Tuesday 17th. The primary purpose of a bioblitz is simple – to record as many species, in a set area during a set time period. So we had 24 hours, and our boundaries were those we always use for studying our local wildlife, the Observatory recording area (see the Maps page of the website). Sounds easy, right? Well, we tried to make it look that way…..

We kicked off with no fewer than three night-time events – bat-detecting with our good friends from Wold Ecology, moth-trapping with our good friends from Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire, and Storm-petrel catching on the Brigg with the crack FBOG ringing team. It’s a testament to those involved that we could do so much (in the dark), and what a night – loads of moths, an amazing five bat species at the Dams, and three Storm-petrels caught in the moonlight! With dawn breaking on the 18th, we were out hunting high and low before the afternoon ‘open-house’ in our chosen honeypot area of the bay, Brigg, Carr Naze and Country Park.

We chose to focus on this area because of its incredible habitat diversity in such a small, accessible area, which meant not only could we chalk up lots of species, but anyone who wanted to join in could tag along with us and swap between our roving recording teams. At any given point in the afternoon, within 15 minutes you could wander between our seashore team, our bugs and plants team, our sea-watching team, our bird-ringing team and the hub itself. Not a bad choice, and a perfect reflection of the diversity of wildlife on offer here in Filey!

The hub – our open-plan gazebos and outdoor interpretation area in the Country Park – was the nerve centre for the day’s proceedings, and acted as a go-to point for visitors, a place to chat about our aims and finds, and as the actual inputting ‘mission control’ for our brilliant biological tech-support team from North and East Yorks Ecological Data Centre. Bits of paper and verbal tip-offs were magically translated into accurate spreadsheets and maps, and our species total began to rise….

…. and rise, and rise! We knew a few hundred was do-able, but beyond that – we’d no real idea; it was our first time at it, after all. But as the afternoon wore on, the numbers on the blackboards seemed to change every few minutes, and the evening, incredibly, we’d found over 900 species! Stoked (and then some), we were philosphical about the delayed arrival of Chris and his team – we’d pulled off a cracker of an event, exceeded all our wildest expectations, and that was good enough for us – and they were on their way…

It was great to share our experience with him as the sun went down on the Country Park, and there was plenty of mutual appreciation, both on and off camera – mission accomplished, message delivered, and a tired but happy team finally dispersed into the twilight, reflecting on a mad but wonderful 24 hours.

The real stars of the show were the good people who gave their time, skills and enthusiasm to make it all happen (it simply wouldn’t have otherwise) – Clare, Mark, Hannah and Simon, the NEYEDC recorders; the Hub team of Chris W, Vivien, Joe, Judith, Ginny, Pam, Ken and Bex; Chris from Wold Ecology and Allan from BC Yorks; our expert roving recorders, including Sue and Nicky on the seashore and especially Dan, who was, well, everywhere; the ringing team of George, Ana, Pete and Chris (the latter of whom also sorted out all the hub logisitcs); and the FBOG members and Filonians who came up to report their records and show their support. What a day… same again next year? See you there!

Mark Pearson