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Trainee Blogs - July 2015

11th August 2015

Tom: We started off July by visiting "The best bog in Britain!" as named by David Allen, which is located at Hense Moor. This area  has some of the best remaining examples of lowland mixed valley bog in Devon, and is typical of this habitat in South Western Britain. We saw long-leaved sundews, round-leaved sundews and Britains largest spider - the Raft spider.

On the 17th we had a very busy day. In the morning through to the afternoon we were lucky enough to have a White-clawed crayfish training day on the Culm with Nicky Green. It was a really good experience and something none of us had ever done before. Unfortunately we only caught the invasive crawfish - the signal crayfish. Nonetheless it was still a very interesting day! In the evening, myself, Emily, Laura and Conrad went on the Blackdown's Big Bat Survey. This involved doing a walked transect which led us through a field full of rather inquisitive bullocks, which in the complete darkness was quite unnerving!

Throughout the month we have continued to do botanical surveys for landowners across the Blackdown's. This has been really rewarding as now I feel like I am becoming very confident in the common and latin names of the plants we come across... However with every site we visit there is always at least one new plant we haven't seen!  My photo of the month is of what seems to be hybrid Black Knapweed flower that we saw towards the end of the month at Mount Fancy Farm.

Laura: Wow, July has come and gone in the flash of an eye! At the beginning of July myself and the other trainees discovered Hense Moor with the help of David Allen, a well-known environmentalist in the Blackdown Hills area. Much to my delight we found the Great Sundew (Drosera anglica). This plant is very rare in the UK – Hense Moor being one of a handful of places where it is found in the UK. It was a lovely thing to see and one of the highlights of the month for me.

In the middle of July we had a brilliant time with Nicky Green who taught us the basics on Crayfish identification and surveying. We laid out traps with Nicky and found 4 invasive Signal Crayfish and we briefly caught a glimpse of a native White Clawed Crayfish! It was great to learn about a species which I would not have had the opportunity to learn about if I had not been volunteering with the Blackdown Hills Natural Futures team.

On the same evening we also took part in the Blackdown Hills Big Bat Survey 2015. This was my second time taking part in the survey and this time round I was with Conrad, Tom and Emily for the Whitestaunton transect.  Next month we will start our bat surveying in earnest with some late nights penned into the diary. I’m looking forward to being able to identify different bat species by their calls and to watching a bat roost on a clear night (keeping my fingers crossed for good weather!).

At the end of July I also managed to get a photo of a Silver-washed fritillary at Mount Fancy Farm BC site during a Natural Futures guided walk event. This was the first time I had seen a SW fritillary and it felt great!

July has been a haphazard month for me with a few days off in Iceland and a few days off elsewhere. Notably this month we have started to concentrate on surveying sites in detail and compiling reports for landowners and interested parties afterwards. I will be working on this and I will be making friends with the National Vegetation Classification Guides (NVC) in the months to come.

Emily: July was another action packed month, two highlights for me were the White Clawed Crayfish training with Nicky Green and visiting Hense Moor with David Allen. After learning about the ecology of White Clawed Crayfish, threats and surrounding legislation in the classroom it was interesting to go out in the field and spend an afternoon checking traps and looking under rocks. I was lucky enough to see a White Clawed Crayfish but the fact we only found one at a site where populations have previously been high was quite a shocking demonstration of how White Clawed Crayfish are suffering in the UK as a result of the introduction of non native American Signal Crayfish.

Hense Moor is a very interesting site and definitely lived up to the hype! We saw many rare species including great sundew, over 20 early marsh orchids, more than 10 lesser butterfly orchids, white beak sedge, red rattle and a raft spider.

We took part in the Blackdowns big bat survey, walking a transect and recording at set points, this went well until we got to a field of rather excitable bullocks and had to find an alternative route back! August looks set to be a good month; i’m looking forward to the Bioblitz, more Dormice box checking and bat surveys.

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