Somerset Wildlife Trust

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March Update - Change is in the Air!

 18th Mar 2015

Change can definitely be seen out on the reserves as Spring takes a stronger grip; the days are warmer, the flowers are blooming and the insects are beginning to buzz. Change is also happening with the Trainees as Claire has successfully found a job and the rest of us continue our training and begin the job hunt.

Monthly Round Up

We’ve all been busy with individual bits of training and gaining even more qualifications this month. Now that wildlife is more active with the warmer weather there has been a bit of a focus on survey work as knowledge of what is present on the reserves is vital if we hope to conserve it.

The highlight of the month for all four of us has to have been our last Trainee Day, organised by Claire.

Individual Summaries

Beth -­ March has been jam packed with a nice mix of assessments, training and reserves work.

Work out on the reserves has included a final flurry of burning up the last piles of scrub we have lying around, which was greatly helped by the Navy coming out to give us a hand for a day. On the nicer days we’ve been treating stumps, to prevent scrub growing back. It’s lovely to see signs of spring are everywhere, especially in the woodlands.

I’m pleased to say that after our best ghostbusters impressions Olivia and I have passed our Pesticide Assessments! It was probably one of our most difficult assessments as there was a lot of maths involved, so we are both relieved to have that under our belt.

There has been plenty of opportunities to get together with the other trainees this month. Olivia, Chris and I spent a day discussing all things Otter with Jo Pearse from the Somerset Otter Group in preparation for the Annual Otter Survey in April. We all went on a road trip down to Dorset for a day of Personal Effectiveness Training with all of the Wildlife Skills Trainees. The absolute highlight of the month has to be our final Trainee day, which we spent down on the Levels. Despite the ridiculous early start (we had to meet at 4.30 am) it was a fantastic day and we managed to squeeze in elements of all of our roles with some booming Bittern surveys, burning brash and helping with a school group. We saw some brilliant wildlife and had fun reflecting on everything we’ve learnt over the last nine months. I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent a last day as a foursome and, although we will miss Claire loads, her new job sounds amazing and I hope it all goes well!

Beth and Olivia Pesticide credit Beth Aucott
Beth and Olivia doing their best ghostbusters impressions!

Chris ­- Hallelujah! It’s spring - and with it the start of the survey season. It has been great to get out and about this month and involved with some really interesting projects too.

The start of the month Jo Pearse kindly inducted us to the vagaries of Otter surveying. The following day we had our amazing day organized by Claire (Very happy she’s got the job she wanted, but sad to lose her from the team). This was followed by 3 days 'bryologizing' on our reserves with the BBS Bryophyte Ecology Group.

The following week saw some of the lowest tides for 200 years and I was lucky enough to be invited along with Somerset Environmental Record Centre to assess monitoring techniques for our coastline. We were greeted with fabulous weather and the enthusiasm of Nigel Philips and the participants made for an even brighter day.

After a few days tying up some loose ends and a refresher of the Integrated Habitat Survey system used within The Trust, the Latter part of the month was highlighted by readying for my first UKBMS butterfly transect, a Visitor Risk Assessment at Street Heath and planning for our final residential.

Chris and his prize credit Claire Critchley
Chris and his 'thank you' present from the school group

Claire -­ My final month! It was a nerve-wracking beginning to the month. Since Christmas I had been actively looking and applying for jobs and I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted for four interviews at the beginning of the month. Somerset Wildlife Trust have been brilliant supporting me get the job, helping test me on my ID skills and read over handouts and presentations I had to produce for the interviews. I am pleased to report that with all this support I got offered the very first job I went for which I accepted so as of April I will be a Learning and Visitor Experience Officer for RSPB at the Ribble Discovery Centre in Lytham. This role is beyond what I ever expected to be offered because it is a mix of teaching school groups and working with adult volunteers. It really has all been made possible due to this traineeship and all the opportunities and staff support I have received.  

Even though I am starting a new job I was determined to make the most of every last moment at this amazing organisation. That included completing 2 more AQA’s in wildlife gardening and leading a guided walk as well as doing my intense teacher training course, something I had been looking forward to all year and it lived up to expectations. It was brilliant and exhausting but taught me so much and I feel a lot more confident in my ability to teach and plan lessons.

My highlight of the month though was the Trainee Day. The day was cram packed and was a culmination of all the roles and it showed me how much we have all changed and grown as a group. Ten months ago we were all just keen and enthusiastic individuals trying to get into a very competitive industry. Yet on that final trainee day it became apparent how much we had all flourished and developed because of this traineeship. Each of us has improved our flora and fauna ID knowledge, practical skills and communication skills, all of which has increased our confidence and enabled us to achieve far more then we could have dreamt of. It really has been a privileged working and learning alongside three other very talented Trainees in Somerset and hearing my very first Bittern with the other Trainees that day was a very special moment and topped off an unforgettable nine months.

Olivia -­ March has been a very busy month with lots of survey training and I have taken on a reptile transect at Westhay and a butterfly transect at New Hill and Tannager in the hope of improving my I.D skills! Chris and I attended the BRECOG Bryophyte survey on the Mendips which included  two of our own sites Black Rock and Ubley Warren. It was a great chance to learn from national experts and we came away with a much better understanding of the survey methodology and bryophyte ecology.

Claire and I attended the Easter event at our Quants reserve where we were giving a guided walk. There were a surprising number of visitors on the day despite the terrible weather and people seemed to have had a good time.

All four counties trainees had a get together in Dorset this month for some personal effectiveness training. It was all about being assertive without being aggressive and dealing with conflict.

Some good news this month was that Beth and I both passed our pesticide assessments so that’s another ticket in the bag! In other slightly sadder news Claire is heading off to pastures new landing a lovely job as a  Learning and Visitor Experience Officer with the RSPB at Ribble Discovery Centre. She will be greatly missed by the other trainees and we wish her all the best in her new role.

Species Spotted in Somerset

So to end here is March’s round up of the special species we spotted in Somerset ­

  • Bittern
  • Scarlett Elf Cup
  • Great White Egret
  • Tufted Duck
  • Teal Duck
  • Heron ­ in a tree
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Woodcock
  • Barren Stawberry
  • Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus

Scarlet Elf Cup credit Olivia Dullaghan       Barren Strawberry credit Beth Aucott
Scarlet Elf Cup                                                                  Barren Strawberry


Photo Credits: Pesticides and Barren Strawberry - Beth Aucott, Chris's prize - Clair Critchley, Scarlet Elf Cup - Olivia Dullaghan