A damselfly basking in the sun photographed Philip Gillespie.

One of the ways the garden has already celebrated nature and biodiversity this year was to hold the Big Botanics BioBlitz. A day for our visitors, enthusiasts and local experts to come together and discover the Gardens wildlife. This was the fifth BioBlitz to be run by the Botanics. We have previously explored the wildlife of our regional gardens at Logan Botanic Garden in 2014, followed by Dawyck Botanic Garden in 2015 and Benmore Botanic Garden in 2016. We began our BioBlitz journey in 2013 in Edinburgh when we recorded 556 species on the longest day of the year.

However, our event this year had an added significance, thanks to all the wildlife records made so far. We were able to pass the milestone of 1000 species recorded in the Botanics.

Out of a grand total of 332 species found on the 8th/9th of June, we had 20 new records for the Garden. But which one is the 1000th? Keep reading and you’ll find out!

Photograph by Phillip Gillespie.

The start of the BioBlitz actually took place the evening before when a small group of visitors were taken on a wild walk through the gardens looking for creatures that come out at night: Botanics Wild. And they weren’t disappointed…

The grounds were covered in young frogs (careful steps were taken!). Two tawny owls filled the skies with their well-known hoots. Various types of moths started to frequent the light traps. There was evidence that the resident badgers had been out and about with a snuffle mark or two. And they even had several types of bats circling overhead. We would like to thank Graeme Wilson, manager of The Wildlife Information Centre and Natalie Todman of Lothian Bat Group for sharing their expertise and enthusiasm which helped to make the night a truly magical experience.

The brimstone moth was one of 26 species found in the traps. 

At the crack of dawn our second Botanics Wild event took place focusing mostly on birds and wildflowers. The extremely knowledgeable Rik Morely of Wester Hailes Wildlife assisted the group is seeing some of the 32 bird species recorded that day. The group also enjoyed wildflower highlights from our own fabulous garden guide Cathy Bell and had the opportunity to learn about foraging with Ian Edwards.

Having felt like the 24-hour day was surely over by now, we got ready to open the gates for our main event.

We welcomed hundreds of visitors to come and celebrate wildlife with us and other like-minded organisations. Some of the day’s highlights included pond-dipping, bug hunting, meeting the morning moths, various talks, building bug hotels, small mammal trapping (a wood mouse!) and the launch of our new trail that compliments The Lost Words Exhibition at Inverleith House.

Visitors hunting for bugs in our ecological meadow

A massive thank you to Butterfly Conservation, TWIC, Lothian Bat Group, Edinburgh Natural History Society, Wester Hailes Wildlife, British Arachnological Society, Scottish Beekeepers Association, Compassion Edinburgh, Edinburgh Living Landscape, RSPB, and Sequent Photography with the Edinburgh Photography Group for making the day informative, friendly and fun!

And now back to the important announcement…

The 20 new species found at the Big Botanics BioBlitz included 3 bees and wasps, 2 lacewings, 3 spiders, 5 bugs, 3 beetles, 2 flies/bark-flies and 2 moths. The first to be recorded, making it the 1000th record for the Garden, was the campion moth.

The campion moth

This beautiful moth, Sideridis rivularis, is named the campion after its larval foodplant. The caterpillar feeds within the seed capsules of various campion (Silene) and catchfly (Lychnis). A big thank you goes to Katty Baird for moth trapping at the event and for finding such a lovely species to add to our lists.

Katty Baird, local moth recorder, and I looking at the 1000th species 

The biodiversity recording in the RBGE is incredibly important and it is all thanks to Dr Robert Mill. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his tremendous contribution to conservation within the Garden and for personally mentoring and supporting my own recording development. He has recently retired, and I am very happy to know that he will be staying at the RBGE as a research associate so I can continue to learn from him!

Photograph taken by Phillip Gillespie

Thank you to all our helpers, volunteers, staff and friends for making the Big Botanics BioBlitz such a success. We would really like to do more events of this type in the future so please follow our Botanics Stories, Twitter and Instagram feeds.