On Saturday and Sunday last weekend we had our second annual Fordhall Biobliltz. We were joined by families and children of varying ages who were very excited about exploring the farm looking for a myriad of wildlife. John Hughes from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust led our Fungi Foray to start the weekend off. Fifteen eager mushroom hunters joined us on our trek across the luscious green pastures dotted with creamy white clover flowers. Down to the riverbank eager young mycologists searched amongst the flora for a glimpse of nature’s bountiful fungal family. Up grassy slopes, through the luxurious ground cover, up and down the ancient castle hill, across even more green pastures to the further banks of the River Tern our explorers searched intensely for clues to the vast variety of fungus that inhabits the fields, trees and darker corners of Fordhall Farm.
Even though the dry weather made it difficult to find fresh, young, tender fungi, the children were delighted to find some older examples of ‘Laetiporus’ or ‘Chicken of the woods’, ‘Horses hoof fungus’ and ‘Entomophthora’ on dung flies. John engaged the children and adults alike with lots of interesting information, and also by answering the multitude of questions from our eager, excited, energetic and very inquisitive young visitors.
Our Youth worker, Mike Price, was eager to get down to the river bank to engage in our very own scientific river survey. Followed by our band of intrepid ‘Bioblitz’ explorers Mike set forth for the banks of the River Tern in his impressive waders, carrying long nets for river dipping and various scientific apparatus for studying the aquatic life in our impressive, crystal clear river. Even the quite heavy rain did not dampen the spirits of our inquisitive nature detectives whose boundless enthusiasm for Mother Nature was infectious. Even the youngest child thoroughly enjoyed peeping through the magnifying glasses to see each and every living creature captured by the nets. With each new find the children had new questions to ask which led to further exploration.
The children were fascinated with the small fish fry, midge larva, Mayfly nymphs, beetle larvae, red aquatic worms, and damselfly nymphs. The most exciting find of all was the Signal Crayfish. The children were soon casting their own nets to further explore the River Tern where they found glimpses of damselflies and heard the plaintive ‘caws’ of the rooks followed by the hacking ‘tchack, tchack’ of the jackdaws as they swooped in and out of the trees.
Julie, our educational leader, led the activities for children in the Community Garden. The children loved getting mucky while making ‘mud bugs’ they excelled at constructing mini-beast homes. Julie showed the children what they needed to think about when making a slug hotel. The children investigated mini-beasts that were caught in the Community Garden. “Not just any woodlouse but a striped pill woodlouse” exclaimed one of our young naturalists.
Mike Price was joined by bat enthusiast Cadi Price, who led the late night bat survey. The ultra-keen enthusiasts that joined the expedition through the darkness of Fordhall Farm were armed with electronic bat detectors. These detectors could usually spot the sound made by the bats long before they can be seen with the human eye in the tenebrous gloom. As the night grew darker and the shadows disappeared the bat detectors started to spring into life. The ancient castle hill was the first to give notice of its nocturnal activity with the bleep, bleep of the Soprano Pipistrelle. Utter excitement rippled through the gathered throng of bat enthusiasts. The Soprano Pipistrelle was joined by Common pipistrelles, the Noctule and Daubenton bats in the lower valley fields.
That evening the Shropshire Moth Group set up numerous traps around the farm. The traps remained open until midnight, at which point the catch was analysed and recorded. Over 100 species were found, including the protected Ghost Moth, a beautiful feathered moth that was happily fluttering amongst the long grasses at the farm.
The following morning everyone enjoyed the excitement of the motion detection camera’s which had been left out overnight – foxes, rabbits and even the allusive otter was caught on camera. A bird walk quickly followed suit, together with another pond dipping session and a bug hunt! Local biodiversity consultant Pete Boardman led the troops. They found over 54 species including varieties of spiders, moths, lady birds and even stink bugs.
Overall, it was a hugely successful weekend, with the Otter spot on the motion camera being perhaps the highlight. The complete list of species will be added to the Fordhall records, used to help plan future conservational activities and will be incorporated into our educational work and families activities. As Becca and Mike enthusiastically said at the end of the weekend ‘this is just the beginning…’.