Field Reports

Medmerry Surveys 2018

2018 - 5th Year of Surveys at Medmerry

We look forward to 2018. ALL surveys (approx. 2 hours in length) will start at 13:00 PROMPT, meeting at the RSPB Earnley Car Park at Grid Ref SZ 816 968 and then car sharing either to 1) Easton Lane for the 2 Plant Surveys  and the Grasshopper Survey  or along the track to the pools for the Dragonfly Surveys  (Little walking required on any date.) See Main Events List for more information. Sessions are open to all, no matter what your level of expertise, as guidance will be provided. We shall use the Society’s equipment but hand magnifiers, binoculars and reference books will be useful. Any questions or if help required with transport then please contact Philippa Arnott on   or phone 01243 575345.



The final survey of 2018 produced much better weather than we had anticipated.  It was quite breezy but mostly sunny and fairly warm with some cloud.  Eleven surveyors took part and found six species:  Emperor Dragonfly, Migrant Hawker (the most frequent), Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed damselfly, Common Darter (a pair ovipositing) and one Ruddy darter.

The most surprising discovery was a Water rail spotted by an eagle-eyed surveyor and also a Wasp spider in reverse colours - black with yellow stripes – which was most unusual.  Other wildlife seen included various white butterflies and one Red Admiral, a small flock of Linnets,  a group of Mallard flying overhead, a lone female Teal, Water plantain (in flower and in fruit), a Kestrel and a Red Kite.

We ended the afternoon with the tradition of a cream tea (or tea and cake) and were very pleased to welcome Barry O’Dowd, the RSPB warden at Medmerry Nature Reserve, who was able to join us.  It was a great pleasure to be able to talk to him about what we were doing and ask him questions.  He told us that our data was very useful and he was grateful to us for our efforts and hoped that we would record a new dragonfly species next year!
Philippa Arnott

Team Tea!
Common Blue damselfly - Medmerry September 2018
Common Blue Damselfly
Migrant Hawkers - Medmerry september 2018
Migrant Hawkers

Migrant Hawker - Medmerry September 2018
Migrant Hawker

      Friday 3/8/2018

Once again it was a very hot afternoon with, thankfully, a little breeze which helped keep the temperature bearable.  Nevertheless, some surveyors had not come because of the heat (and other reasons) but nine met on the bank with plenty of water and hats.  The warmth made the grasshoppers particularly active and easy to see.  They were everywhere!  To start with we found it difficult to catch them in the long, dry grass but after a little while we honed our skills, particularly after John had demonstrated how to use the nets most effectively.  Some even obligingly jumped into a waiting pot!
Before we started catching the animals John gave us a short revision on how to recognise the five species most likely to be found.   We stopped catching a little early as it was just too hot but, once again, the same five species had been recorded:  Long-winged Conehead, Lesser Marsh Grasshopper, Meadow Grasshopper, Roesel’s Bush Cricket and Field Grasshopper.
Other species noted included many Common Blue butterflies, a few Common Blue damselflies, one or two Ruddy Darters, about half a dozen Wasp spiders (all eating grasshoppers!), Red-tailed bumblebees, and Large and Small White butterflies.  There was very little in the way of birdlife. A swallow was seen and Woodpigeons were heard. 
Philippa Arnott

Survey team HQ

Roesel's Bush Cricket

Wasp Spider


It was a swelteringly hot afternoon but nine heat-proof surveyors met, armed with hats, sunscreen and bottles of water as well as the usual dragonfly ID books and charts and binoculars. Fortunately there was a slight breeze which helped keep us cooler. However, this breeze also made photography very difficult.  We were hoping the recent hot, dry weather might produce an abundance of dragonflies and damselflies with, hopefully, a rarity to record.
As we set off along the track we were surprised to see there was still sufficient water in the ditches and open stretches and Emperor dragonflies were soon in evidence patrolling their beat.  Since our last visit a cattle-proof fence had been erected alongside our transect so we were unable to follow the ditches that curved away from the path and had to try and spot the animals with binoculars from the path.
In the end we had counted 7 species: Emperor dragonfly, Four-spotted chaser, Common blue damselfly, Blue-tailed damselfly, Black-tailed skimmer, Small red-eyed damselfly and Ruddy darter
Birds noted included Mediterranean gull, Yellowhammer (singing), Skylark, Reed warbler, Swallow, Sand martin, Reed bunting , Stock dove and a Heron.  Butterflies included Meadow brown, Hedge brown, Common blue, Peacock, Small skipper and various whites.  Notable plants were Purple loosestrife in full flower, Ragwort with Cinnabar moth caterpillars and Branched bur-reed.  One Cinnabar moth was also spotted as were many grasshoppers which bodes well for next month.
Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon if rather a hot one.

Philippa Arnott

Female ruddy darter - Medmerry 6/7/2018
Female ruddy darter
Four spotted chaser Medmerry 6/7/2018
Four spotted chaser
Emperor ovipositting - Medmerry 6/7/2018
Emperor Ovipositting
Common blue damselflies - Medmerry 6/7/2018
Common blue damselflies
Male ruddy darter - Medmerry 6/7/2018
Male ruddy darter

Quadrat Sampling: Second Medmerry Botany Survey 15/6/18

Hurrah! Another lovely warm, dry day for the second Plant Survey (last year’s was a bit of a wash out!) Having listed all the species we could find last week, ten enthusiastic members set out again in pairs, quadrats in hand, to make a more quantitative survey.

The temptation to ‘capture’ certain plants was resisted (difficult when species like Ox Eye Daisy are so dominant whilst others are represented by scattered individuals). Each pair sampled 10 quadrats making 50 in total. It was good to see everyone engrossed in their different reference books and making use of Keys, especially for grass identification. Decisions were verified (and questioned!) amongst the group. We’re definitely becoming more skilled year on year and it’s interesting to see how the Survey area is developing. We look forward to seeing the full analysis of the results, and probably an AGM presentation.

Once again, very few butterflies were noted (chiefly Meadow browns) although the sight of a pair of dragonflies and several damsel flies reminded us of the subject matter for the next survey in July.

Many thanks to those who took part and took on the different roles involved, in Philippa’s absence.
Click this link to see the Quadrat data: 
Quadrat data

Gill Hance

Quadrat in Action!

Botanists deep in concentration, deep in the daisies

The answer must be here somewhere


Into the Field: Medmerry Botany Survey 8/6/18

On a lovely warm afternoon ten members met to conduct the first Medmerry survey of 2018. This involves surveying our site and writing down every plant species identified – with a DAFOR (Dominant, Abundant, Frequent, Occasional, Rare) rating.
When we had finished surveying, we all gathered at the start point to make a master list and agree on the DAFOR ratings. This is not easy as some plants may be common in one part of the site and rarer or absent from others. An average must be agreed. This information will be added to the spreadsheet showing the data from the start of the Medmerry surveys. 48 plant species were identified in total.

Click this link to download our results: 
Medmerry DAFOR 2018

Other wildlife seen included several Common Blue and a few Blue-tailed damselflies, Black-tailed skimmer and a female Emperor dragonfly. One Meadow Brown and one Brown Argus butterfly were seen, also a Red Admiral was spotted near the car park as we returned.Birds singing included Reed warbler, Reed bunting, Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Wren, Skylark and a Mediterranean gull was calling. To everyone’s delight a Cuckoo regaled us with his song for most of the survey period.

Many thanks to the diligent surveyors for their efforts. Let’s hope that next week will provide another warm afternoon for the quadrat survey.

Philippa Arnott

Amongst the daisies

Beware - botanists at work

A dog's eye view of plants

Discussing our results

Brown Argus butterfly

On the Awns of a Lemma; or Grass Class of 2018 5/6/2018

Nine enthusiastic Chi Nats members met at our botany bank at Medmerry for the Grass Class (or Grasses Revision Session) being led by John Arnott. After collecting samples of a grass to identify using a key, strange phrases started emanating from the group. “Is it a short awn or a long awn?”, which I thought were cattle. “Is this soft and woolly or not?”. “Are these spikelets egg-shaped?”.
It was cloudy and quite cool sitting on top of the bank with a NE breeze blowing. This made it quite tricky to see the tiny parts of the grass as it was constantly blowing in the wind.
John gave out a sample of Rough meadow grass to each person and then worked through the key, explaining how to use it.  Once they had all got to the right species they were then given a Meadow fox tail and encouraged to work that one out for themselves. Finally, they were all given a “mystery grass” and told to work that one out on their own. The experience gained on the first two definitely showed in their new-found confidence as they worked at the 3rd grass – Tall fescue.
After 2.5 hrs of dissecting grasses with tiny parts the group declared themselves “all glumed out” and tottered back to the cars in a dazed fashion. Brains had definitely had a thorough workout! It remains to be seen how many species of grasses will be correctly identified on Friday 8 June, the first Medmerry botany survey of 2018!!
However, all said they had enjoyed themselves and felt more confident in identifying grasses on their own. They thanked John for his expertise, encouragement and patience and assured him they would go and key out the grasses in their gardens for practice

Philippa Arnott

Are you all sitting comfortably?

Spread out and study

It is a bit small!

Expert help.




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