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.
June began how May ended, with lots of bat surveys! I am getting used to doing a dusk survey, having a couple of hours sleep and then doing a dawn survey. I enjoy being awake to see the sunrise and have found that I see all sorts of wildlife in the early hours of the morning, including a Hare on a country lane in the Cotswolds and several Barn Owls on some of the sites we have been surveying. I have done several surveys that have had very high activity and some that have been completely quiet, I prefer it when there are lots of bats to watch zooming about. One survey was conducted to monitor a bat roost in a beautiful old church, and I got to see a Brown Long-eared Bat on a thermal imaging camera, it’s awesome seeing their ears move round when they hear a noise. I was also able to practise identifying warm patches in the church rafters which show where bats have been or currently are. I helped with several more Preliminary Roost Assessments, one of which I will be doing the bat surveys and writing the report for (with guidance), I am looking forward to increasing my skills and experience in this area.
This month I spent time preparing for reptile surveys by cutting shed felt to the appropriate size and ensuring there are enough to set out for each survey. Towards the end of the month I helped place lots of mats on a large site, I now feel comfortable with the best places to put them and how far apart they should be spaced out to produce the best survey possible. I also got my first reptile under a mat, a rather large female slow worm! This was great preparation for a slow worm relocation I began assisting with at the end of the month, which involves catching slow worms found under mats and relocating them safely to a suitable new habitat, so they are not harmed by machinery, building or habitat destruction.
Another first for me during June was helping to set up Dormouse tubes at a beautiful site in Surrey with acres of ancient woodland. This was done to monitor the populations in the area and involves climbing up lots of muddy banks to get to the coppiced hazel that is preferred by Dormice, I got absolutely covered in mud! Tubes are attached to branches using wire and are checked periodically for signs of nesting.
Another highlight was a survey on a golf course, which involved checking local ponds for suitability for Great Crested Newts, and although some ponds were dry or inaccessible, I was really pleased to see my first Pyramidal and Bee orchids, they are so beautiful!
Overall, I gained lots more survey experience in June and ticked a few wildlife encounters off my ecology bucket list. I was also very pleased to get the company’s ‘pat on the back award’ for my effort this month. I received vouchers for equipment for my other passion, horse-riding. I haven’t spent the vouchers yet, in fact I might do that this evening!