Lucy: April, the first month of the training programme, has absolutely flown by – probably because we’ve been so busy! We started off learning about newt ecology, and have been taught how to identify between the different UK newt species, how to conduct torch surveys, net ponds, and correctly put in bottle traps. So far we haven’t had much luck trapping any Great Crested Newts in the Blackdown Hills themselves, but out torching and netting on the Mendips one evening I had a bit more luck and managed to see two male Great Crested Newts, as well as some smooth and palmate newts. After newts we started on dormice; Conrad taught us how to check boxes correctly, and we’ve been out several times now, but so far have only found one: a torpid female. We have also been learning about bat ecology and the various trapping techniques, which include setting up mist nets and harp traps, in which we caught one whiskered bat! More recently we have started botany and conducting NVC surveys which, somewhat surprisingly considering I have no previous experience in this area whatsoever, I have found the most enjoyable. There is something very satisfying about being able to recognise and identify the plants around you (well, some of them anyway!) especially when a month ago, I wouldn’t have been able to identify a single one.
Jon: My names Jon and I am one of the three trainees for 2017. Over the past few years I've done a lot of bits and pieces with the aim of entering the ecology sector so this traineeship will be invaluable at getting much more rigorous insight into ecology life! I am looking forward to spending the season outside, a stark contrast from my previous desk job with Dorset County Council. April has flown by! It has been a very fun month jam packed with training in protected species. This has involved learning the ecology and undertaking field work on Great Crested Newts, Dormice and beginning to get a grasp on botany. Searching for Dormice was particularly fun due t the variety of animals taking refuge in the dormice boxes, including coal tits, bees and brown long eared bats. The idea behind getting all these skills early on was to get us employable on the days we weren't at Blackdowns so was a very fun but important first month. I'm really looking forward to what the next few months will entail!
Kitty:My name is Kitty Maurice, I am part of the 2017 Natural Features Training Project for 2017. I come from a small village in North Devon and have grown up living in the countryside, I have always loved the great outdoors, nature and conservation. I decided to follow this route as my career path and went on to study Conservation, Agriculture and Sustainability at university. This trainee ship offered a fantastic opportunity where I could develop my knowledge and skills further and importantly the traineeship provides specific training and practical experiences essential for a future job in Ecology . So far the first month has flown by! It has been full of new experiences, exciting encounters with wildlife and specialist training with professionals. The skills and knowledge our leader Conrad has are amazing. Some of my favorite experiences so far include Mammal trapping and handling, Bat identification using deceased specimens, harp and mist netting for Bats and bottle trapping Newts! To be honest, it is to hard to choose one best part ....there are too many to choose from and each day provides so many new and interesting experiences. I have learnt so much already and I am looking forward to what the next few weeks bring, each day is completely different adventure and you never know what wildlife is around the corner!