Sunday, 25 January 2015

The first flower of 2015

Pyramidal orchid
Image: O. Duffy
When we encouraged people to send in their images of plants in flower for this year's New Year Plant Hunt, we expected the first wave of participants to head out a-hunting as the sun came up on New Year's Day.

What we didn't expect was a picture of a daisy tweeted at us during the first hour of 2015! When Oisin Duffy said he couldn't wait for the Plant Hunt to start, we should have taken him at his word. It was probably not the best photograph that Oisin has ever taken - the images on this page are testament to how good his camerawork actually is! - so I'm not reproducing it here. 

But it was taken at 00.53 on 1st January so is enough for us to give Oisin the award for First Flower of the Plant Hunt. His prize is the chance to share his three botanical wishes for the year ahead. 

Oisin in the field
Image courtesy of O. Duffy
But first, Oisin (24) tells us a bit more about himself and recording in East Donegal (VC H34): "Since July 2014, myself and Mairéad Crawford have been carrying out botanical recording in our home area of East Donegal. 

"My first interaction with the BSBI was on a field trip back in 2013 along the west coast of Donegal and it was a fantastic experience.

"I was still relatively new to botany at this stage and everyone gave their best effort to help with identification in a way that was informative but also easy to understand. 

Parnassia palustris
Image: O. Duffy
"Their enthusiasm spurred me on to become more involved in botany and myself and Mairéad began regularly recording around Waterford (as I was on an internship with the National Biodiversity Data Centre at the time). We then spent a full year engaged in recording various taxonomic groups from bumblebees to butterflies and moths and of course plants. 

"Later in 2014 I noticed that East Donegal had a vacant slot for county recorder and I thought it might be an idea to get involved with recording back home, to help out and maybe fill a few gaps in the distribution maps. A quick e-mail to BSBI Irish Officer Maria Long and I was put back in touch with the wonderful Ralph Sheppard (Vice County recorder for West Donegal H35). 

Lough Mourne, one of Oisin's stamping grounds
Image: O. Duffy
"Neither myself or Mairéad have looked back since, we’ve been given fantastic mentoring by Ralph and we’ve really improved our field identification skills over the last 6 months. We’ve taken part in the Irish Species Project, BSBI Ireland AGM and the New Year Plant Hunt, and we both hope to continue recording throughout East Donegal for Atlas 2020".

And here are Oisin's Three Botanical Wishes for 2015:   

"Wish I – Personally I’ve been greatly influenced and helped along in my botanising by Ralph Sheppard so my first wish is basically acknowledging the great effort he has put into assisting myself and Mairéad with our botanical endeavours. 

Common Twayblade
Image: O. Duffy
"In fact the whole BSBI community and the wider community of those involved with biological recording have been extremely supportive and I think it’s important that this supportive and helpful environment has a light shone on it: firstly, just so that those who are helping others with botany (through whatever means) are acknowledged; secondly, it may encourage others to become more involved with recording in their own areas if they know just how much support is available to them; and lastly, if it wasn’t for Ralph, I doubt that I’d be writing this piece for the BSBI right now!

"Wish II – That the Galway Botanic Garden Project maintains the level of support it has had for the last few years but that it also gains new followers and supporters. The project is very worthwhile and I’ve been actively involved since 2013. I am currently on the board of directors and also deal with the social media side of things (which I genuinely love as I get to raise awareness and talk to a great group of interested individuals on a daily basis). 

Lough Gorman, where Oisin goes out recording wild plants
Image: O. Duffy
"I would really like to see even more people becoming involved with the project, everything from becoming a financial supporter to simply following us on Twitter (@GBGproject), liking us on Facebook, sharing ideas and spreading the word further about the project and of course with the actual growing of our native plants. If you have experience with this, your advice would be invaluable. Any and all help we receive will be greatly appreciated.

"Wish III – I am really interested in nature education and showing people the importance and beauty of nature. Personally I try and communicate this through social media. I would love to see an increase in people getting involved with biological recording, be it already interested individuals who want to take the next step and contribute data or complete beginners who have always wanted to become involved but just never had the time/support to make it a reality. 

Bee Orchid
Image: O. Duffy
"In particular I’d love to see a really great turn out for the BSBI Annual Summer Meeting which this year is being held in Coleraine from the 12-16th of June".

Thanks to Oisin for sharing his three wishes - he's certainly a great example of how BSBI can inspire and support our next generation of botanists. You can follow Oisin on Twitter (@OshDuffy) and on Facebook and his blog is on the list (on right) of blogs by BSBI members. 

If you want to hear what he sounds like when interviewed on the radio about the New Year Plant Hunt, click here. If you want to read an article by him, click here. But if you want to meet the man himself, you'll just have to go to this year's BSBI Annual Summer Meeting. Details to follow, but please pencil in those dates!

Our only remaining prize is the big one: New Year Plant Hunt 2015 Star Recorder, whose name should be in lights but he/she will have to settle for appearing here in the next few days. Watch this space!