Hi, I’m Beth, an MSc student studying Species Identification and Survey Skills at Reading University. Part of the degree involves doing a six-month placement at an ecological consultancy. This blog will document my experiences during my placement at Ecology by Design.
May began with something I had very much been looking forward to, Adder handling training. I had seen a couple of Adders before but never had the opportunity to learn how to handle them. We did a mixture of learning how too ‘tail’ and ‘hook’ them safely and also used gauntlets to pick them up from the coiled position. I thoroughly enjoyed the training and by the end everyone had picked them up successfully and safely. We also spent some time looking for them on the heathland which was great practise for me for reptile surveys in general. I did the training because I am doing a reptile translocation in July and there is a known population of Adders there. I am really looking forward to getting started with that project. I have also done several reptile surveys this month and I still haven’t found any under or around the mats!
I’ve gained much more experience with Bat surveys over the last few weeks, having completed a couple of activity transects and lots of emergence and re-entry surveys. I mostly do emergence and re-entry surveys, which involves watching a feature or general area of a building to see if Bats are roosting there. I am coping well with getting up at strange hours and it is always worth it when you can see Bats leaving or entering the building that you are surveying. Another side of Bat surveys is Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRAs), which involves assessing a site’s potential for Bat roosting. I am getting better at spotting potential access points to buildings such as gaps in soffits and misplaced roof tiles. On a recent PRA I got to see Brown Long- eared Bats roosting behind an old wasp’s nest in a loft, they are difficult to spot until you get your eye in!
During May I also gained more experience conducting office work. I have learned how to order biological records to use for Background Data Studies which is one of the first steps to completing a report. I also wrote my first bat inspection report, which was concerning a PRA I assisted with earlier in the month. I have also completed several more Preliminary Ecological Assessments (PEAs) which involve mapping habitats at a site and considering what species could be affected if planned works take place. PEAs enable me to practise my plant identification skills and to improve my knowledge of habitat suitability for key species.
Towards the beginning of the month I attended a Great Crested Newt (GCN) training course, which is aimed at people who are working towards getting their license for newt surveys. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the course leader signed a few essential skills off in my log book so I am a bit closer to being able to apply for my license. We had a practise at all methods of GCN survey and managed to catch a female GCN in one of the bottle traps. I also learned about legislation and bio security which is very important when surveying and handling newts.
At end of the month I got to do my first Otter and Water Vole survey at a large old house with a stream and lakes in the grounds. The survey involves walking along the bank of the stream (or wading through if shallow enough) and searching for signs of either species. Signs include holts, burrows, latrines, feeding sites and footprints. Unfortunately, we did not see any signs of either species, but it was good for me to practise following the survey protocol.
May has been another great month, during which I have gained lots of experience and new skills. I am looking forward to doing my first reptile translocation and breeding bird survey in June!