I was invited to ‘Tea on the Lawn’ with Lady Dunluce at Glenarm Estate. Not a personal invitation you understand, for otherwise I would have smartened myself up a bit. But this was a small ceremony organised by the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) as a thank you to the volunteer recorders that participated in this year’s BioBlitz at Glenarm in May. And I was given the honour of presenting a special BioBlitz certificate to Lady Dunluce who owns much of the Estate. The event was a very thoughtful one on behalf of CEDaR, for those attending really appreciated being thanked for their voluntary efforts. I really appreciated the wonderful spread of sandwiches and scones that were laid on!
Ireland’s BioBlitz is an all-Ireland event where four sites, one in each province, assemble teams of experts and volunteer recorders to compete to see which site can record the most species of wildlife over a 24 hour period. Glenarm was victorious this year, having recorded a remarkable 1,116 species. This tally included 304 species of flowering plants, 110 species of moth, 123 species of lichen, 155 species of bryophyte and so forth. These are amazing numbers of what can be difficult groups to identify, and shows the remarkable expertise that exists in Ireland amongst the biodiversity recording community. The identification and recording of biodiversity is a science, but unlike other sciences, a great deal of the survey work is done by people without any formal qualifications. In the UK in particular, this is referred to as ‘citizen science’.
It is remarkable really that there are so many people out there who spend a great deal of their free time surveying sites and documenting what they see. It means that it is possible to roll out large-scale surveys using citizen scientists, which if they had to be done by professional ecologists would be prohibitively expensive to do. And sometimes I wonder is it right that so much of the knowledge base on Ireland’s biodiversity is acquired by people working in a voluntary capacity, giving of their time and expertise freely? But of course the quid pro quo is that by generating all this information, it will be used to good effect for the conservation of biodiversity. I’m not sure that recorders feel that this side of the bargain is being honoured energetically enough.
I stayed chatting to people for far too long and found it difficult to leave the good company and warmth of Glenarm. But I eventually got going and headed along the coast road to Larne, Carrickfergus and through Belfast. The rain had moved in, making for rather unpleasant cycling conditions, but not far after leaving Glenarm the coastline was not all that spectacular. It was really just a case of head down and getting the distance covered so I could have a warm shower for the night. I kind of felt guilty for not taking more of an interest in the coastline for there were good numbers of birds feeding on the shore. I must have been feeling very guilty for as the Ringed Plover flew off I thought I heard them calling. ‘feeck youu’, ‘feeck youu’, ‘feeck youu’. Was happy to stop at Bangor for the evening, with only 100 km cycled. Will mean that I will have a bit of ground to make up tomorrow.