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Trainee Blogs - May 2017

31st May 2017

Lucy: May was the month of the mammals! We spent an evening learning how to set up mist nets and harp traps for catching bats. We set them up in the woods next to a lake; the first bat we caught was a brown long-eared bat, so we readily extracted it from the net and began to record its age, weight, sex etc.  After we had processed the bat, we marked it so that we could recognise it again, released it back outside, and settled down to wait again. After a half hour or so with no more bats, we checked our harp trap and found….the exact same brown long-eared bat, only looking slightly more disgruntled this time! Possibly not the brightest bat around…

We also used Longworth mammal traps for the first time in May, and Conrad showed us how to set them up, hoping we would catch some shrews. Unfortunately, no shrews showed up, but we did manage to catch and handle several wood mice and bank voles.

We have also been using the good weather to continue with our botanical surveys. We visited a spectacular church yard full of wild flowers and grasses, which served as a nice introduction into the meadow species. 

Jon: May has flown by! We were very lucky this month to have had very nice weather, allowing us to make the most of the training. With the return of the hot weather came the emergence of reptiles. This enabled us to learn all about the native reptiles and find lots of adders whilst out on the heathlands, something I haven’t seen in a long time.
The start of this month involved a couple of nights of bat mist and harp netting, alongside learning how to ID in the hand. Although I have done a bit of this in the past having an expert showing me exactly how to species were different was incredibly useful.

All this fine weather is also showing the plants off at their best, softening the blow to the daunting prospect of botany identification and surveying. All three of us trainees are definitely growing in confidence now when identifying plants thanks to the bountiful knowledge and endless patience of Conrad. Although the chance of getting friendly with ticks is high these surveys are taking us to some beautiful parts of Devon and Somerset, getting to visit a range of habitats from ancient woodlands to wildflower meadows. I feel very lucky to be able to do this three days a week.

We also did a morning of mammal bothering. This involved putting out lots of Longworth traps in an area of woodland hoping the small mammals would be so intent on the seeds and mealworms they would not realise they are walking into a trap. We managed to catch a number of wood mice and bank voles which was great. The curse of the 2017 trainees has been strong so far with only one siting of Great Crested Newts and one of Dormice in total. I have faith, however, that we will strike gold in June and be inundated with the little creatures! 

Kitty:Another month has been and gone! It has been a very busy and enjoyable month filled with surveys, training sessions and exploring the Blackdown Hills landscape. We have been spending a lot of time out in the field working on our botany identification...Grasses are confusing me and the Latin is an alien language but besides that I think I am getting there!

Every day there are still plenty of new things to learn keeping myself, Lucy and Jon on our toes. We have visited some amazing sites including a beautiful church yard packed with wildflowers, meadow sites and enchanted woodlands. In one woodland site we stumbled upon a beautiful tiny new born fawn curled up in the bluebell undergrowth, this was defiantly one of the highlights of the month for me!

During May we also checked a some Dormice boxes...unfortunately no dormice to be seen that day, however just as exciting for me, a number of the boxes were occupied with blue tit nests either full of eggs or cheeping chicks. An interesting little survey for May included collecting  lots of Ticks to send off for analysis, not a survey I would like to do every day but they were very interesting to look at close up...before they decide to eat me!  Additionally we have conducted some Butterfly and Adder surveys where I saw my first Adder, along with plenty of slow worms and common lizards. June has continued to be a big learning curve full of new species and amazing wildlife experiences...I am sure June will be just as exciting and there will be much more to see and learn!

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