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Trainee Blogs - August 2015

3rd September 2015

Emily: Having missed the first week of August due to holiday this month has flown by quicker than ever! We have been busy looking at reptiles, bats and dormice as well as doing a few botanical surveys.

Whilst checking under reptile mats we spotted several slow worms (10 together under one mat!) and a grass snake and learnt more about their ecology. The dormouse surveying was really interesting as we had a full array of small mammals in the boxes including a yellow necked mouse, wood mouse, dormouse and even a shrew!

Most of the bat surveys I did during my masters were bat activity surveys so it was nice to look at assessing roost potential of sites and do some emergence surveys. Although getting quite late in the season there are still some late flowering plants around in the meadows including black knapweed and devil’s bit scabious. September looks to be another varied and interesting month including a course on moss id!

Laura: August has been a busy month of travelling far and wide to receive training from experts in their chosen field. We spent a day with Liz Biron at a calcareous grassland site on the Polden Hills learning how to identify calcareous plants, many of which we’ve never come across when surveying sites on the Blackdown Hills. It was nice to see plants I did not recognise and could learn from scratch!

We have been on two trips to the Perch SSSI helping to look for Dormice with the Somerset Mammal Group. Our second trip proved most fruitful when we found a Pygmy Shrew, a large Yellow-necked mouse, a Wood mouse and two Dormice, one with a collection of babies! The Dormice young were only estimated to be a few days old – a very rare site indeed.  We also have been to two events this month: The Honiton Show and our very our Discovery Day at Otterhead Lakes. Our Discovery Day received a total of 125 visitors and we had a steady influx of families all day. A particular highlight was the reptile walk and mammal trap walk led by Conrad. With up to 50 people on each walk, Conrad was swamped!

We have also been on two bat surveys this month. After a lengthy PowerPoint on bats and how to survey them we headed out to a site where there was a confirmed roost of Brown long-eared bats and Common pipistrelle bats; and we were not disappointed!

Next month will be a continuation of bat and botanical surveying. Tom and myself will also have to say goodbye to Emily as she embarks on the start of her PHD in the middle of September.  My favourite picture this month, although there were many to choose from, had to be of the Adder we found at Quants Nature Reserve underneath a refugia mat. It was the first time I had ever seen an Adder in the flesh and what a beautiful one it was.

Tom:  August has flown by for me as I have had a week off for a holiday half way through. Nevertheless, this month has yet again been filled with a great range of surveys and events. Earlier in the month we visited a calcareous site on the Polden Hills. This was great experience for us trainees, as calcareous sites in the Blackdowns are quite sparse. As a result there were many new plants and grasses for us to learn - it felt like we were starting all over again!

We also had a day at the Honiton show. It was great to chat with locals, many who live within the Blackdown Hills, and talk to them about what our project is all about and what they can find! We have continued to survey dormice at the Perch SSSI. This time we had an array of species including dormice, wood mice, yellow-necked mice and Pygmy shrew! It was great experience handling all these different mammals on a single day.

As we are nearing the end of our placement, I have been looking for jobs in the consultancy sector and have been selected for an interview for an Assistant Ecologist position. The interview will be next month, so fingers crossed!


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