Lucy: Fortunately for us, the training programme has been extended by a month, so I can put off the inevitable job hunt/real life for another four weeks! We have been lucky enough to attend two specialist training courses this month; firstly, we spent a day learning about otter ecology and survey techniques, and it was really enjoyable to spend a bright autumn day walking along the river bank looking for signs of otters. The second training course was a badger ecology and survey training course, and it was probably my favourite specialist course of the programme! I learnt so much, and we even spent an evening (a rather rainy evening it must be said) standing perfectly still trying to spot badgers outside a sett complex. However, although we had spent the day putting out bait and setting up camera traps, we were unlucky on this particular occasion and did not manage to spot any badgers. I will be really sad to leave the Natural Futures programme at the end of the month, and all the friends I have made, but feel as though I am ending the programme with a much better chance of securing employment in the conservation sector than I was seven months ago (touch wood!)
Jon: In October we undertook a two-day badger ecology training course. This was a culmination of classroom based learning, baiting the setts to hopefully get very close to the badger and camera trapping the setts. Unfortunately, the badgers were very shy on the night in question however we got some fantastic footage on the camera traps. Similar to the otter training we spent a morning searching for the edge badger territories. Once you know what you are looking for its hard to miss them! The final day of the traineeship was learning about the statistical package ‘R’ at Devon Biodiversity Records Centre. Although this was a day spent in the office it was something I have been wanting to learn for a number of years so getting to grips with the basics was actually good fun.
And that’s it! Sadly the traineeship is over. I have not only built up a mountain of knowledge over the past 7 months but also some great friends. I am moving on to work for Natural England as a conservation advisor in November which is primarily down to the hard work and patience from Conrad and James, so a massive thank you to both of them.
Although this is the end of the three-year programme at Blackdown Hills, I hope this has shown the importance and success of such a traineeship which, to my knowledge, was one of a kind in the country.
Kitty: September was supposed to be our last month, but we continued on into mid-October for some more training which turned out to be my favourite training of the whole summer. Firstly we did a day’s training on Otter surveying where we looked at all varieties of field signs such as tracks, prints, spraints and camera trap footage. Our last training days were 2 days of Badger surveying and ecology, looking at field signs, locating sets on a local farm and learning about their ecology and habitat use. One evening we stayed out long past sunset in the hope to see some badger foraging but unfortunately we were unlucky on this occasion, however we did get some great footage on our camera traps that were set the previous week, we saw feeding, scent marking and even a badger using a couch for a nap. The cameras also caught footage of deer, pheasants, mice, squirrels and lots of birds including a Wood Pecker.