The Thames Water /OOS Bioblitz started for me at 5.30am with a struggle to load all the 'gear' needed to put on our Oxford Ornithological Society's display into the car. Arriving at the reservoir gates at 7.00am ranger Chris was there to let me in, parking close to a somewhat inadequate looking marquee I unloaded the display boards and other material by which time the ever dependable Alan Larkman had arrived to lend his hand to jointly mount our display. I had the previous day collected from Clackers at broad st. in Oxford a selection of wildlife books and on being told the marquee was to house seven exhibitors it meant space was at a premium consequently most exhibits suffered as we tried to fit everything in. Richard Lewington of Butterfly fame and his 'little' brother Ian possibly as good as illustrators of bugs and birds the world has ever seen now arrived.
The day began badly when it was realised the Moth trap set where it was expected to catch the likely rarer moth species was found to have failed due to a generator malfunction nevertheless Richard had one other trap to carry out his identification skills on, although as expected the species were rather more predictable but still interesting to the early risers who like myself were rather bowled over by his knowledge, but due to a later family commitment Richard left soon after 9.00am. By about 10.00am most stands were displaying and visitors were being given a quite amazing choice of nature societies etc to engage with.
The list of events taking place at differing times of the day was impressive although many were by virtue of their habitat needs on the far side of the reservoir a long way from the visitor centre. A trickle of visitors never quite turned into a flood and one wonders if the traditional "British lay-in on a Sunday" was partly the cause, another thought to cross my mind especially as we were really keen to attract families with children was the distance across the causeway and with this in mind I suggest another time this may be overcome by the novelty use of shire horse and low old style hay wagons as a means to ferry folk across. I wonder would closing the reservoir to motorised traffic for just one day and making it bikes only be another way to engage the kids as they discover the reservoir on wheels?
The hospitality shown as usual by Thames Water personnel was again tremendous even going as far as to issue barbecue vouchers for free burgers to exhibitors, all professionally and tastily cooked by ranger Mark.
This bioblitz as with the earlier in the year Oxford Science event will build on the valuable lessons we have all been made aware of and can use this experience to improve on future such like events, I have no doubt the Thames Water team are well able to use this as an important learning curve.
I wish to thank Matt, Cathy and the Thames Water hierarchy for giving local wildlife groups the opportunity to let the public know what we are all about.
There was a sting in the tail when we joined Ian Lewington for the Gull roost watch when it tuned out to be something of a let down from the species variety point of view and the only notables were a couple of Med. Gulls although as always at Farmoor the sheer numbers are awesome even if a long way out but it gave us the chance to try out the new causeway hide - it really was fantastic and will be lodgings for the many Gull Nutters that reside within our county, so well done TW it is appreciated.