It was designed, I think, as a citizen science project, but I think few of my fellow citizens who are not botanists will stay the course. The documentation is complex, you need a gps device, and it is time consuming (and if the square is dull, a chore).
I did the first of my two surveys today in my square, which is on the western edge of Chipping Norton. The NPMS was not designed with such a square in mind; most of the square is either arable (with not even a hint of a wild plant) or difficult to access, with scraps of woodland given over to pheasant shooting. The square is also encroached by urbanisation. The most interesting scrap of land was what might best be described as set aside, though more probably it is lying fallow awaiting the developers - the kind of scruffy habitat that Mick Crawley, the author of British Aliens would find of some interest. It does not appear as a habitat in the NPMS guidance.
I understand that others in north Oxfordshire have struggled for the same reason as me. Comment about what is at each of the targets within the square might have added an extra dimension to the scheme, giving a snapshot of what the countryside really is like, but it has not been asked for. A pity.
With some difficulty I did manage to mark out 4 5x5m plots and one 25m linear hedgerow, fairly close to the targets, recording all the plants in flower and some where I was 100% certain of the leaf id. Still the total species from the square was a very disappointing 52. Now to fathom out how to send in my data.
If the NPMS survey was the lowlight of the week there were some real highlights. On Tuesday my wife and I went along to Cothill Fen, just west of Oxford visiting Dry Sandford Pit, Parsonage Moor and Hitchcopse Wood. Below are some of the pictures from the trip.
Towards the end of our walk, my wife confirmed that she is a witch with an ability to commune with nature; getting a little worn out from plant hunting her comment was 'that we needed something small and furry'. Immediately up popped a stoat, wandering nonchalantly towards us, and almost at the same time a brown long eared bat made slow glides past us stopping occasionally on a tree or in the undergrowth. This is the first time I have ever seen a bat in full daylight.
|Dry Sandford Pit|
|Dry Sandford Pit|
|Woodland Flowers in Hitchcopse Wood|
|Brown Long-eared Bat|
Then on Wednesday I went on BSBI recording mission, organised by Sue, the Vice county Recorder, to Cornbury where access is usually very limited. In 2 1km squares we recorded around 160 species; mostly in established woodland but with a quarry and a marsh. Standout for me was an adder basking on the bole of a tree, so deceptive that I was no more than 2 feet away, yet only realised what it was when it wriggled away. There were three orchids in leaf, common spotted, common twayblade but I could not be certain of a third so it will be back to Cornbury in June!
|Common Twayblade Leaves|
Yesterday I took another look at some pyramidal orchid leaves. The key in Poland works to a point, but discrimination against Chalk fragrant orchids falls down when the plants are young, because reliance is placed on the persistence of the leaves - leaves of pyramidal begin to die down at flowering.
|Pyramidal orchid leaves|
|Pyramidal orchid leaves with scale|