Whiteknights Park, the university campus where I work, has happily shared in the considerable bounty of goldcrests currently in the country. One birder reported two flocks of 10 each in a small corner of the campus this afternoon. Even better, firecrests are being found among them. I saw one at dusk on Monday, mixing with goldcrests probably prior to roosting. Yesterday morning I saw two, among a mixed flock of tits and nuthatches (four nuthatches in close proximity, in itself quite unusual behaviour). David Flack from the Meteorology department – probably one of the more dedicated campus birdwatchers – went one better and saw a definite three near the Harris Garden fence this afternoon. It puts my lengthy wait in the cold for a first of this species more than four years ago in increasingly sharper perspective, but however common they get here I’ll always think of them as a bird of rare brilliance.
We’ve also been blessed by a plentiful fall of additions to our campus species lists. Today 27 MSc students were sent forth to gather woodlice as part of an introduction to keying out species. Not only was one of the woodlice they found a new species for campus (Porcellio dilatatus) but they also came bearing a fancy weevil with extraordinarily long tarsi and a beautifully sculpted little beetle that lives under bark called Uleiota planata. It also happens to be a national rarity.
It’s amazing what 27 pairs of eyes can find, but I think it also demonstrates nicely the genuine beginners luck phenomena in natural history. A beginner will look anywhere, even places an ‘expert’ wouldn’t bother because we think we know better. In the next week or so I’ll endeavour to post a bit more information about what we found – well, really what they found – both here and on the Whiteknights Biodiversity blog.