Diario del proyecto Meanwood Valley bioblitz

05 de abril de 2024

Exhibition opening

Hello everyone

Thanks again for taking part in the Meanwood Valley Bioblitz.

Tomorrow (April 6th 2024) we will be launching an outdoor exhibition about the results. The exhibition will be on the external wall of the Meanwood Road Recycling Centre, and later in the Spring it will also be on display at Meanwood Valley Urban Farm. If you want to come to the launch please meet outside The Barn cafe at 2pm.

Although we haven't used your images (it was too complicated and potentially time-consuming with the photo licensing), all your observations have contributed to the final results so thanks again.

After the exhibition has opened I will be changing the dates of the Bioblitz 'project' to make it effectively open ended - so you can keep adding observations if you wish. So far we have identified 774 different species - so let's try and reach 1000 over the coming months and years.


Publicado el 05 de abril de 2024 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de noviembre de 2023

Bioblitz - next steps

Hi everyone

The Meanwood Valley Bioblitz year is over, thanks for all your help - I hope you enjoyed it!

I have a favour to ask as I am hoping you are happy to make a minor change to your settings on iNaturalist so your data can be used more widely.

As part of the grant we received for the project we said we would share all the data we collected with the West Yorkshire Ecology Service (WYES).

However the default ‘Creative Commons’ licence on most of our records is set as ‘CC BY-NN’, and it doesn’t allow WYES to access them. This is because WYES, whilst being a public sector organisation, uses the data for some ‘commercial’ purposes (specifically it charges building developers for the data it holds).

So it would be brilliant if you could spend a few seconds changing the licence for your observations. Importantly this change won’t affect the licensing of your actual photos, just the observations/data you have provided.

The easiest way to make the change is to log into iNaturalistUK website and

  • Click your ‘profile’ tab
  • Click on ‘Edit account settings and profiles’
  • Click on ‘content and display’
  • Scroll down to the licensing section and change the ‘default observation licence’ to ‘CCO’ and check the box marked ‘Update existing observations with new license choices’
  • Save your changes

More info is here: https://uk.inaturalist.org/blog/58298-licensed-to-share

Also, if you are not already on our list would you mind sending your email address to meanwoodroadproject@gmail.com

Best wishes and thanks again for taking part


Publicado el 09 de noviembre de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 52: Everything Else!

We've now reached the end of our year-long Meanwood Valley Bioblitz so a huge thank you to everyone who took part. 58 of you made an amazing 2313 observations of 880 different species! Particular shout-out to Will, Natalie, Nikhil and Katy who made over 100 observations each.

Of those 880 species 551 were then authenticated online by expert ecologists from all around the world. The un-authenticated ones were mostly those where the photos uploaded don't allow them to be clearly distinguished from other closely related species. Many moths, for instance, can only be conclusively separated by dissecting their genitalia, and no-one wants that do they?

Coincidentally our final list included exactly the same number of Insects as Plants (320 of each) alongside Fungi (101), Birds (50), Arachnids (32), Mammals (16), Amphibians (3) and Protozoa (3). There were also various 'others' which mostly included species of worms, centipedes and woodlice. I bet the true number is at least double that by the way.

Over the next few months, thanks to funding from local Councillors and the National Lottery, we are going to look at all the data and produce a big outdoor exhibition, including - we hope - displays on the front wall of Meanwood Recycling Centre.

Publicado el 27 de septiembre de 2023 por clunym clunym | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

20 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 51: Bullfinch

One of my favourites for this, the penultimate Species of the Week, as we approach the end of our year-long Bioblitz - mapping the wildlife in the Meanwood Valley.

The Bullfinch is one of the four commoner finch species that you can see in Meanwood, the others being Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. In the winter you can also sometimes catch rarer members of the finch family: Siskin, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll.

All the finches have adapted beaks for eating seeds but only the Bullfinch has a special carrying space in its mouth for storing extra food. The benefit of this is fewer trips back to its nest, which itself is really two nests, one inside the other and made of different materials.

Whilst Bullfinches have a unremarkable call, a short low whistle, in Victorian times they were prized (and kept in cages) for their ability to mimic other sounds. Tess in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles had the job of whistling to the bullfinches as she went about her household tasks.

The Bullfinch can be particularly keen on fruit buds which did it no favours in the 16th century. It was one of a list of species names specifically in the 1532 Preservation of the Grain Act whereby every man woman and child was required to kill as many of these 'vermin' as possible. You were rewarded with half a penny for every Bullfinch head you provided as proof of your kill (it was 12 pence for a fox or a badger head). Stoats and Kingfishers were also on the list.

Our Bullfinches are now protected - not persecuted -by the law, and can go about their business peacefully. They generally do this in pairs, who mate for life. If you are so lucky to see a flock of Bullfinches, evidence shows that pairs still join and leave the flock together. My own bird feeders are also evidence that this is true. The one in the video knocked itself out by flying into our kitchen window but, as you can see, recovered to live another day.

Publicado el 20 de septiembre de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 50: Dusky Thorn

As we approach the end of the year-long Meanwood Valley Bioblitz, where 60 citizen-scientist volunteers have tried to map the fauna and flora of our Valley, we have so far identified a remarkable 872 species! 131 of those species are moths. We have a lot of Meanwood moths.

Recently we have added Rosy Rustic, Sycamore Moth, Ground-Moss Grey and this one, the Dusky Thorn, to the list. The Dusky Thorn generally lives in woods and is particularly fond of Ash trees. If you were here in 1968 then you would have seen a fair few more of them but Dusky Thorns declined by 98% between then and 2013. This might be related to the impact of die-back on Ash trees, or to other environmental issues.

The moth in the picture is male - we know this because of its cool feathery antennae. The male moth uses its antennae to sniff out the pheromones which female moths produce. Now get this astonishing yet true fact: some male moths can identify a single molecule of female moth pheromone within a cubic yard of air - despite being 11km away from the female that made the smell.

Moth antennae really are remarkable organs. Not only do the sniff out partners from miles away but they also are used to stabilise the moth in flight - acting like tiny gyroscopes which send messages to the wings to make miniscule adjustments to account for changes in air movements, or to help escape their arch nemesis - bats. Whilst we have managed to replicate this moth-technology for airplane gyroscopes we can only do it with really big planes, the moths have us beat at the small scale.

By the way, the antennae are also a top way of separating moths from butterflies. Butterflies have a little club shape at the end of the antennae whilst moths don't.

I have no idea how many more moth species there are in Meanwood that we haven't yet identified, but I am pretty confident we have photographed all the common birds for the Bioblitz. The exception is a picture of a Pied Wagtail so if anyone knows a good place where they are regularly seen please let me know before October!

Publicado el 11 de septiembre de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de septiembre de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 49: Tits

There are four species of tit to see in Meanwood, and they are with us all year round. At the moment they are moving around in mixed flocks of up to 30 or 40 birds and will do so until they start to pair off next Spring. Birds of a feather do indeed flock together.

Well, three of our tit species are flocking together. The Long-tailed Tits seem to like flocking by themselves, announcing their presence by distinctive chirping. Thats flocking - or allelomimesis if you want to be posh.

The Blue Tit is easiest to spot as it occurs in 98% of gardens and is the only tit with any blue on it. Also the world record for the blue tit laying the most number of eggs in 19 in a single clutch.

The Great Tit is also easy to spot as it is our biggest tit. It is also noisy and easy to hear but, as it has over 40 different vocalisations, its sometime tricky to identify.

The Coal Tit is smaller and fewer in number than its blue and great cousins but it still has well over half a million breeding territories in the UK. Its distinguished by the white stripe down the back of its head.

There are other tits resident in the UK but which you wont see it in Meanwood. The Crested Tit (number 5) hangs about in the Scottish pine forests. The virtually indistinguishable Marsh Tit and Willow Tit (Numbers 6 and 7) don't usually live round here either. The Penduline Tit (number 8) is so rare it only turned up in the UK 52 times before 2005.

There used to be a ninth UK tit, the Bearded Tit, but people found out its wasn't a proper tit so its name has been changed to a Bearded Reedling. The fact that it doesn't have a beard either didn't seem to matter. Should you be so minded you can sometimes spot this allegedly hirsute ex-tit at St Aidan's RSPB nature reserve in East Leeds.

Publicado el 05 de septiembre de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de agosto de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 48: Blackberry

Free food is available all over Meanwood right now, get out there and try it! As Seamus Heaney says in his poem Blackberry Picking:

"You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

You wont be the only locals taking advantage of the crop. The Meanwood Brewery produces a sour IPA called Enemy of my Enemy which contains blackberries, and Leeds Gin produces a blackberry-infused gin.

The crop is really fantastic this year, maybe because of all the rain we had in July. Round our house we have already had blackberries on our morning cereal, blackberry flapjack for a snack, and a highly recommended beetroot, blackberry and goat's cheese salad.

We are part of a long tradition. In about 500bc in Denmark a woman ate some blackberries and then died and was buried in a bog. Sad. The body of "Haraldskær Woman" was preserved in the bog which is how we know the contents of her last meal.

What distinguishes a blackberry from a raspberry - apart from the colour - is that the middle bit (the torus) stays with the blackberry when picked whilst with a raspberry it stays on the stem, which is why raspberries have that hole in the middle.

A single blackberry isn't actually fruit. It is lots of fruits (called drupelets) growing together as one aggregate fruit. Perhaps surprisingly, Mexico is the world's leading producer of blackberries.

Meanwood blackberries are at their peak now but you have until 11th October to pick them. Thats the date of Old Michaelmas Day when, according to folklore, the Devil goes around stepping, poo-ing or spitting on them. Whilst this may not be technically true (an early example of fake news?), they do start to develop potentially toxic moulds when the weather starts to turn cold and wet. Maybe Haraldskær Woman got her dates wrong.

Publicado el 21 de agosto de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

15 de agosto de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 47: Sparrowhawk

40 years ago when I moved to Leeds the sight of a bird of prey in the city was highly unusual. Buzzards were largely confined to the South West of England, Red Kites had their only remaining breeding outpost in Wales, and Peregrine Falcons were yet to rediscover cities as high-rise nest sites.

In the 1980s Sparrowhawks were only beginning to recover from the devastating effects of organochlorine pesticides (now banned) which saw their populations crash after the second world war. The chemicals had caused their egg shells to become fragile and break during incubation.

Now all these raptors can be regularly seen on or near Meanwood Valley.

Sparrowhawks are most easily seen soaring over the valley with broad bodies and long tails and their distinctive 'flap-flap-glide' flight pattern. They can also be glimpsed hunting small birds through urban gardens with their fast direct flight, avoiding obstacles with smooth acrobatic ease.

The males have a distinctive blue-grey back and wings and orangey chest bars. Females have brown back and wings, and brown bars below.

As with all birds of prey the female is larger than the male - but with Sparrowhawks this is particularly pronounced. Females being around 25% bigger which gives them the ability to catch thrushes and pigeons whilst the males rely more on sparrows (obviously), finches and tits. Overall Sparrowhawks have been known to take more than 120 different bird species, plus a few bats for pudding.

Next time you spot one you can amaze your friends by telling them that falconers in Georgia use Sparrowhawks to catch Quail. These falconers or 'bazieri' are held in high esteem and even have a monument to them in in the city of Poti.

If thats not enough to impress then how about showing off your knowledge of Greek mythology? Greek King Megara was turned into a Sparrowhawk after his daughter Scylla cut off a lock of his hair.

Not a bad way to go to be fair.

Publicado el 15 de agosto de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de agosto de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 46: Hemlock Water Dropwort

It may look like a peaceful idyll but watch-out, Meanwood is a dangerous place to live - there are at least three local species that can do you very serious harm.

  1. Hemlock Water Dropwort is a nasty piece of work. If you are seeking nausea, vomiting, bloody urine, confusion, convulsions, and ultimately unconsciousness and death then HWD is the plant for you. All parts of it are very toxic.

People accidentally eat it as the leaves look like Parsley and the roots look and smell like Parsnip. Luckily cases of poisoning are rare with only 13 reported in Britain between 1900 and 1978, mostly involving children. However, 70% of them were fatal.

About 20 years ago a group of 8 people in Scotland made the "I'm-sure-its-Parsnip" mistake and made it into a curry with pretty terrible consequences, you can read about that incident online (via the Emergency Medical Journal). In ancient Italy it was apparently used to kill off old people who had become a burden to society.

On the upside...people who die from it apparently do so with a smile on their faces. It has a restricting effect on facial muscles during those final deathly convulsions. You can find this smiling killer growing down on Meanwood Beck.

  1. Giant Hogweed which is also very poisonous but despite my very best attempts I am not 100% certain of my ability to confidently distinguish it from Common Hogweed so be careful of both!
  2. The third in our unholy trinity of Meanwood killers is the blood-sucking Castor Bean Tick, carrier of the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. Lyme disease is classically identified by a developing circular 'bulls-eye' rash - and complications from it can be fatal. Is it the most dangerous insect in Meanwood? Certainly not because it is not an insect at all - count its legs. Your arachnophobia may be justified.

In better news most of the other 827 species we have so far identified as part of the Meanwood Road Bioblitz are kind and gentle!

Publicado el 07 de agosto de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de agosto de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 45: Grasshopper

We have at least three species of Grasshopper or Cricket (Orthoptera) living alongside us in Meanwood: Field Grasshopper; Green Grasshopper and Roesel's Bush-cricket. There are probably more species but we haven't found them yet. Cicadas are a different but related group - and there is only one species of those native to the UK and it resides in the New Forest.

When Grasshopper populations explode they can transform into locusts and swarm. The largest ever locust swarm was in 1875 and was 1,800 miles long and contained 3.5 trillion individuals. Fear not though, there is currently minimal threat of a swarm of locusts arising from Sugarwell Hill and laying waste to the valley. Our Grasshoppers are not like that.

Orthoptera are very famous for jumping - and with good cause. If you had the same jumping prowess as a grasshopper you could easily spring from the Meanwood Road Recycling Centre to the Rolette Cafe in a single bound.

Orthoptera are also famous for 'singing' - and the best way of identifying our three species is by their songs which they make by rubbing their back legs against their wings.,

Male Field Grasshoppers sing with a single repeated 'chirrup' with a three second rest between sounds. Unless another male is also singing nearby in which case they chirrup four times faster to show how tough they are.

The song of the Green Grasshopper sounds like the ticking of a a spinning bike wheel and comes in bursts of about 20 seconds.

Roesel's Bush-crickets are relentless songsters. Their songs go on and on and on forever. It has been likened to the buzzing of overhead electricity wires.

Warm sunny days and evenings are the best time to hear them. It would be nice if we had some of those.

Publicado el 01 de agosto de 2023 por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario