By Lois Mayhew
The Sussex Biological Recorders' Seminar 2019, held Saturday 16th February at Oathall Community College, Haywards Heath, began with an introduction from Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Senior Community Engagement Officer Michael Blencowe.
Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre Manager Clare Blencowe gave a brief introduction to the contents of the 2018 Adastra publication: the annual review of wildlife recording in Sussex, that the team publish. Adastra is now full colour, and Clare showcased a few highlights, including an article by Robin Crane on the origins of the Biological Recorders’ Seminar - now celebrating 30 years!
Former CEO of Sussex Wildlife Trust, Tony Whitbread was the first to speak, giving an insight into the early days of the Biological Recorders’ Seminar back in 1990 and how, despite many mistakes in the beginning, the success of the seminar grew and grew to become the event we know now. Tony highlighted the importance of sharing our community’s knowledge and experience of Sussex wildlife, and using this to help preserve species for future generations.
John Arnott, a volunteer with Chichester Harbour Conservancy, followed with a talk on the seals of Chichester Harbour.
After a coffee break (with anniversary cupcakes!) and some time to look round the various stands, we were back with Martin Allison’s fascinating talk on the fungi of Lullington Heath including fairy rings, waxcaps and things that grow on sheep dung. Steph Miles and Jenny Peach from Royal Botanic Garden Kew Millennium Seed Bank introduced three major projects - UK Flora Project, UK National Seed Project and the UK Native Seed Hub. It was great to hear how RBG Kew are supporting various conservation projects in Sussex.
Over lunch, the hall filled with chatter, as people enjoyed the buffet lunch and refreshments provided by Diane and Harry’s team from Veg Out catering.
Brad Scott then gave a talk about Bryophyte recording from 1721 - 2018, featuring the first known Sussex bryophyte record - Riccia fluitans - recorded by Johann Jacob Dillenius, and a short history of Sussex-based bryologists. The Sussex atlas project was initiated by Tom Ottley, with the aim to get 100 records per 1km square across Sussex. Good progress has been made across East Sussex where most society members live; progress in West Sussex is slower but there’s considerable improvement and the species list for Sussex is ever growing.
Fran Southgate was delighted to share the news that otters are ‘Here at Last’ in Sussex. Her talk featured some lovely video footage of adult otters with young, showing us that they are now breeding in some areas of Sussex after a long absence. Fran went on to explain how to identify signs of otter, and how these differ from commonly confused species such as American Mink.
Daniel Watkins from the Sussex Local Wildlife Sites Initiative talked about his progress since starting as the Local Wildlife Sites Officer last June, with Henri Brocklebank of Sussex Wildlife Trust describing the process of forming the initiative and how important the biological recording community and Sussex’s network of nature organisations are to the preservation of these sites.
After a final tea break, Björn Beckmann gave an overview of the National Grasshopper Recording Scheme and how data collection works through iRecord. Ralph Hobbs, iRecord verifier for Sussex Orthoptera records, provided some additional local context. Björn then gave an insight into the uses of this data in his PhD, and the challenges of working with casual recording datasets.
Finally, Emma Sherlock, curator at the Natural History Museum and chair of the Earthworm Society of Britain, gave an introduction to the world of earthworms and the challenges of setting up a new recording scheme. Emma’s brimming enthusiasm for these often over-looked creatures will hopefully inspire some folks to start recording earthworms in Sussex.
After a final list of ‘thank yous’ to all the speakers, organisers, caterers and attendees, it was all over for another year.
The date for the next seminar will be announced through the SxBRC newsletter and social media channels in the summer, and we hope you can all join us next February!