2020 Annual Garden Survey

Now in it’s sixth year, the Knoll Annual Garden Survey was once again conducted on August 4th. Due to restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, it was undertaken  this year with a reduced number of “experts”, “social distancing” and also a lack of data from visitors with the Gardens remaining closed.

Nevertheless, the day once again highlighted the diversity of wildlife present in the garden and will provide useful source material for further analysis together with comparison against previous years survey’s. (You can see  results from some of the earlier surveys on our Reports page)

Our great thanks go to Mitch Perkins for coordinating the event, and also  all the ‘experts’ and ‘helpers’ who made the day possible.

Mitch has pulled together a short Summary Report which together with photos taken by both herself and other participants which provide highlights and an insight into the activities and sightings made.

Look out later in the year when we will have more detailed results from the survey.

Summary Report

Fine and dry weather greeted us for a ‘special’ socially distanced wildlife survey. With the gardens being closed to the public, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was a great day to observe some amazing creatures and to try out a few ideas for future events.

Jan kicked off the survey by setting up mammal traps and bat acoustic recorders on Monday evening. At the same time, Roy and I deployed some additional trail camera’s to see if we could pick up some of the other night time visitors. A moth trap was set up by the marquee.

Bat Recorder and Mammal Trap setup

2nd bat recorder setup

Trail Camera setup

First thing on Tuesday morning, we were joined by mammal experts Angela and Ann, to see what we had caught. There was ‘no joy’ with the camera and small mammal traps, but the bat detectors recorded several different species! This data is still being analysed, but it looks like 2 of the UK’s largest bats (Noctule & Serotine) were both recorded as well as several Myotis species. All enjoying the tasty moths, beetles and flies feeding in the borders and hatching from the ponds.

Next up were Peter and George, who arrived early to survey the birds. Not easy in August as they are elusive and quiet after all their efforts leading up to and during the breeding season!! Despite these challenges, a variety of birds were recorded including the very ‘shy’ Bullfinch which likes to hide in the cover of shrubs & trees. A top spot!

Tracy, George and Nick helped identify the colourful selection of moths (and a European Hornet!) trapped over night.  Highlights included a Rosy Footman and a male Black Arches (great antennae!).

© Dave Peckham
(DJP imaging)

Rosy Footman
© Mitch Perkins

Black Arches
© Mitch Perkins

Black Arches
© Mitch Perkins

A micro-moth Metalampra italica, identified by Nick, was a rare find in Dorset. This tiny moth lives under the bark of dead wood and originally believed to be only found in Italy. It seems to be extending its range (probably accidentally introduced) and was first recorded from Devon in 2003..

Knoll’s resident reptile expert Rob, recorded grass snake and smooth snake under the refugia.  Tracy spotted a young grass snake having ‘a dip’ in the upper pond.  Tricky to see amongst the duck weed!

Snake searching
© Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Grass Snake
©Mitch Perkins

The ponds were full of life! Lots of microscopic water fleas and copepods providing food for newts, fish and small damselflies.

Pond Dipping!
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Water Measurer
©Tracy Standish

Damselfly Larvae
©Mitch Perkins

Pond skaters and water measurer were seen hunting on the surface and a brief pond-dip revealed greater water boatmen, diving beetles, worms, shrimps, water hog louse and flatworms.

Keith, Ann, Nick, Jackie, Ro, Liz & Jane used their expertise and ‘hunting skills’ to find a range of amazing insects.

Bees on Echinops
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Scarce Chaser
©Mitch Perkins

Brown Argus
©Keith Powrie

Bee on Scabious
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Some of the highlights included a Four Banded Flower Bee which was recorded in  the ‘New Meadow’. This burrowing bee has a high pitched buzz and is often heard before it is seen! It has amazing pale green eyes & feeds on nectar from the Labiate family including catmints and salvias. Like many Flower Bees it prefers light soils on south facing slopes.

Lots of tiny burrows, seen by Liz, Nick & Jackie, highlighted the importance of bare earth for many burrowing bees and also predatory beetles, spiders and solitary wasps. As a result of these observations, Neil is planning to maintain some bare areas of soil and help increase the diversity of life at Knoll.

Anthophora Flower Bee
©Tracy Standish

Meadow Brown
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Metalampra Italica
©Tracy Standish

Another insect spotted in the ‘New Meadow’ was a Migrant Hawker. These dragonflies, uncommon migrants in the 1940’s, now breed in the South of England and, with climate change, are expanding their range.

Under the oak trees, Nick used a pheromone to lure Clearwing Moths. These beautiful moths are fast fliers and are notoriously elusive!

Southern Hawker
©Mitch Perkins

Holy Blue
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Val, Jane, Julia, Helen, Anna & Jean kindly volunteered to ‘test run’ a timed survey, recording pollinators in five areas around the garden.  They provided very useful feedback which will enable us to improve the survey design.  It might be something we can use to engage the public in future years.  Thanks to all for their help!

Our great thanks to Dave for capturing some great images of the wildlife and the people involved in the day and also to all the others who captured on camera some of our interesting finds.

Report Mitch Perkins Photo Credits Photo credits: Dave Peckham, Tracy Standish, Mitch Perkins

If you would like a two page printable summary (in pdf format) to retain – select the image here to view/print

Some footnotes from the Editor!

Another interesting sighting this time reported by Rowena Jecock was the Bee spotted below, she writes:-

“I was sure this was a red-tailed queen bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) when I saw it during our survey, but now looking at the photo I’m not certain: it could be a female B. rupestris (a cuckoo bumblebee that parasitises the red-tailed bee). I will submit this photo to i-spot to see if the experts can help.”

…and finally

‘….unfortunately none of our 3 trail cameras setup found anything in the early hours – later in the day however, one interested party did decide to come and investigate!