Somerset Wildlife Trust

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May Update - Reptiles, Orchids and more

 11th Aug 2015

May Update

May has been a fantastic month for wildlife spotting with the trainees attending a reptile training day down in Dorset and seeing smooth snakes and sand lizards for the first time. The reserves are alive with wild flowers and butterflies and it’s fantastic to be out working in the beautiful Somerset countryside.



May was an interesting month with lots of different things to keep me busy.

Out on the reserves we’ve had lots of different jobs to do as normal. We’ve been carrying out some Tree Safety Surveys and clearing fallen trees from paths and fence lines. I’ve been continuing to work on my fencing skills and I’ve been getting re-acquainted with the brush-cutter to clear some bramble re-growth. I’ve spent a fair amount of time working on creating Nature Trail posts for Harridge Woods. I’ve really been enjoying the experience as right at the beginning of the year I helped put some in at Black Rock but now I’ve been creating them all from scratch; debarking the timber, marking up the posts and then routing and painting the markings on them.


We’ve been involved with the selection process for the next intake of trainees. It’s been really interesting to see how the selection process works from the other side of the table. It also showed us all how much we’ve progressed over the last 11 months; we were the ones who had written those application forms just a year before! As well as shifting through the forms we also helped out with the running of the selection/interview day. It was great to get to meet those who are going to take our places, and know how much they are going to get out of it.


 Olivia and I took part in our hardest training course yet; tractor driving! It was a pretty intense three days but we did it!

I’ve been to Dorset a couple of times this month; once for a reserves staff trip to Purbeck where we visited a couple of different sites learning about their management and different partnerships between organisations. The second time was for a Reptile Training day at DWT Upton Heath. Steve Davis taught us all about the 6 British species before taking us out on the heath to see what we could spot. We found four different species in the end including a rather stunning Smooth Snake!

I also spent a morning over at Bridgewater College, talking to students about starting a career in conservation and my own experiences. It was an interesting morning and helped me to realise just how far I’ve come over the last eleven months.

I’ll end this update with some exciting news. I ventured over to Dorset for a third time this month; for an interview for an Assistant Ranger position with the National Trust at Studland. I’m very pleased to say that they offered me the position so I’m going to be spending my summer working on the Dorset coast!

Nature trail posts

Nature trail posts



May has been fantastic. Everything is now in flower and I have received a great variety of training. Starting with a week of Aquatic Macrophytes with Dr. Carl Sayer of UCL, I went to a range of stunning acid heath and chalk stream sites and it was an extremely enjoyable week with him and his students. I also had an informative and jam packed day of grass ID with Dom Price at the Species Recovery Trust at Figsbury Ring. I had two days QGIS training with the excellent Mark O'Connell. Apart from a very comprehensive overview of this powerful and free software, his introduction to statistics was enlightening - something I thought impossible. I helped out serving apple juice, kindly donated by Orchard Pig at Whitefield Nature Reserve. It was an extremely well attended event with over 70 visitors. The Exmoor Bogs and Mires Project team ran a very informative training course with in depth identification of a range of plants in advance of their survey season monitoring the positive effects of re-wetting Exmoor. Finally I enjoyed a stunning refresher afternoon at Torhole Fields Reserve getting back up to speed on IHS (Integrated Habitat Survey) - While the botany was stunning, the limelight was somewhat stolen by a young fawn who came out of hiding straight towards us, bleating away. Christopher Hancock managed to get a couple of stunning pictures.

fawn - chris




May has been a varied month with lots going on. We had the interviews for the new cohort of trainees who will begin in July. It was interesting being on the other side of the interview process and we have four fantastic new trainees who will take over from us. This month Beth and I did our Lantra Tractor driving course, it was more challenging than we were expecting but we’re now well able to back up a tractor with trailer through a narrow gateway! The reserves and surveying staff had a fantastic trip to Purbeck to visit some of the reserves down there including the RSPB’s Arne reserve where we were lucky enough to see a lovely smooth snake. This wasn’t the only reptile we saw this month however as we also attended a trainee reptile training session in Dorset. We had a fantastic day of reptile hunting with the highlight being a lovely juvenile sand lizard. We were also lucky enough to spot our first Dartford Warbler that day which we were delighted with. Also this month I attended a bog plant training day with the Exmoor Mires Project, it was a fantastic day and very informative.

Olivia and Beth Tractor certificate

Olivia and Beth passing their tractor course.


Species Spotted

Greater Butterfly Orchid

Bee Orchid

Sand Lizard

Dartford Warbler

Smooth Snake


Bee orchid 

Bee Orchid


smooth snake

Smooth Snake(Photo taken under license)


Photo credits- Nature Trail Posts, Olivia and Beth passing their tractor course, Bee Orchid and Smooth Snake- Beth Aucott, Fawn ­ Christopher Hancock