On a very hot day in June a team of young people under the guidance of our leader, Sue, started to collect data about biodiversity at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.
First we looked at the wide range of habitats here at the Museum and then reduced that down to just three sites. The team chose Bayleaf farmhouse garden, a shaw (a narrow wooded area along the field near Bayleaf) and a meadow.
We had already seen many butterflies, including the Meadow Brown and a Small Blue, flying in the meadow near Hambrook barn. The task was immense as everywhere is so rich in the variety of plants from the past to the present, and the animals certainly were abundant. So we choose to look mainly at invertebrates, bees, beetles, butterflies and ladybirds.
We took tablets (for taking photos), bug boxes, hand lenses and spoons to help get closer to identify them. One eager team member worked out there were over a thousand black pollen beetles on the poppies in the garden (they are as small as aphids), whilst another attracted a wide range of insects to land on her (must have been the lovely tasting sun cream!) including a lovely brown shield beetle.
The other beetles in the flowers were superb, with the colours looking metallic in the sunlight. We found the expected garden bumblebees, buff-tailed bumblebees and a honey bee. Surprising there were no ladybirds in our area, but there had been a large number on the Angelica plants in another garden seen by our Warden earlier. We only had half an hour in each habitat.
The shaw was dark and cooler, and immediately the plant species were different and so were the invertebrates we found. They were mainly woodlice, ground beetles, but we could hear more birds. Once out in the meadow, the light and heat were very different. Earlier we had seen a pheasant, and now could see the house martins and swallows catching flies as they flew out of the grass.
We saw another meadow brown here, a honey bee and a black bumble bee but the sun was very strong by now and we did not find as much as we hoped. As we returned to base at Winkhurst hall some jets went right over the top of us from the Festival of Speed and made us all jump.
The team were excellent and worked extremely hard, taking care not to damage anywhere but search hard in all the areas and record in detail the animals they found. They did find out that the greater number of habitats the more varied the biodiversity. So much still to discover!
Hopefully we can look for more in the autumn on a slightly cooler day!
This session was organised by the museum for schools to book via E-PD.
For further details you are welcome to contact our schools team by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.