Friday, 14 September 2012

Survey photos...

And finally some photographs from my surveying exploits...

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Dark Bush-cricket (male) (Pholidoptera griseoaptera)

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Lucilia spp.

Southern Hawker (female) (Aeshna cyanea)

Photos from Norfolk....

Next, our college camping trip to Norfolk!  A few friends from Writtle decided to have a much needed break after our year of dedicated study(!)... we packed up our tents and headed to the north Norfolk coast for a couple of nights.  The stomping ground of one of our group we had a ready-made tour guide.

We went to visit Blakeney Point one day and saw the Common and Grey Seals basking on the point, plus lots of Terns.  We moored the boat and took a walk on the Point which was absolutely beautiful.

Blakeney Point

Oystercatcher on Blakeney Point

We had a trip to Wells-next-the-sea where we did a spot of crabbing and ate an ice cream.  We also spotted this rather political van which apparently receives regular paint job updates depending on the current political issues!

Following that it was back to Stiffkey Saltmarshes which was where we were camping for a wander out to sea!  It was a lovely trip and a beautiful place to spend a few days in the sunshine.

Matt the Tour Guide and the Girls

Photos from Scotland trip...

Ok, so I promised some photographs in my last post... so let's start with my trip to Scotland back in June.  I spent almost a week over the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend visiting my parents in Prestwick, Ayrshire.  We had a few day trips outs and about and I visited some of my old haunts.  I was keen to get out and see the local wildlife.  Whilst I have always loved animals I didn't have an appreciation of UK wildlife when I was younger and therefore totally overlooked what was on my doorstep.

We visited Culzean Country Park and its clifftop position overlooking the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran is beautiful.  My brother worked here as a Ranger over a decade ago and lived on site.

Culzean Country Park - view across to Arran

This is the view from one of the footpaths - you can see Arran in the background.  It reminded me a little of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica... but cooler and with fewer mosquitoes!

We walked along the coast line to a small town called Maidens.  From much of the Ayrshire coastline you can see Ailsa Craig which is a granite outcrop in the middle of the sea.  Granite was quarried here and Scottish curling stones are made from it.  However, now it is a SSSI and SPA and is managed by the RSPB.  

Maidens Beach looking across to Ailsa Craig

We took a trip up to Stirlingshire one day and stopped off at the Falkirk Wheel which is a rotating boat lift which joins two canals and is really quite fascinating (if you like engineering!).  From the top of the lift there are lovely views across to the Ochil Hills.  I used to live at the foot of these hills and it brings back some lovely memories.

Falkirk Wheel - Ochil Hills in the distance

After Falkirk we carried on to Stirling - another of my old stomping grounds.  We visited the old town and walked round the castle.  The photo below is the view from the castle across to the Ochil Hills with the Wallace Monument and the river Forth in the foreground.

I used to have this view from my living room window!

Back to Prestwick and a walk along the sand dunes revealed a bit of erosion between the dunes and Old Prestwick Golf Course.. a somewhat pointless fence!

Prestwick sand dunes

There was however an abundance of bird life along the dunes and on the beach.  Dunlin and Ringed Plover edged along the tide line, Skylarks above the golf course and a few Reed Buntings flitting about the gorse.

I have to say I do miss this beautiful beach and the views over to Arran, and beyond.

I'm looking forward to going back over Christmas when I will try to take some wintery shots of the beach and the sea!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Where did the Summer go?

Cripes.  It's the beginning of September.  I'm back to college in a few weeks.  What happened to my summer holiday?  I'll tell you what happened to it.

My summer holiday was spent doing (at least) weekly butterfly surveys of the college estate; going through the break up of a 7-year relationship (very sad) and subsequently moving house, and; more surveying for butterflies (few and far between).  It's been a tumultuous couple of months but I am fortunate enough to count one of my key strengths as resilience.  So, onwards and upwards, eh?!

I have moved to Writtle which is where I am studying.  It is super handy for the college and library which is excellent news for my third and final year of hard academic graft.  It is also ridiculously handy for the village pubs and student bar which is terrible news for my limited budget but great news for drowning my sorrows!

Anyway, back to matters of the natural world.  As I have mentioned a lot of the summer has been spent conducting point count surveys for 4 species of butterfly: Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Gatekeeper.  The inclement weather we've had over the winter, spring and summer has resulted in a pretty poor showing in butterfly numbers, felt across the whole of the UK.  The college estate was no exception to this trend. With numbers in the single figures I have a real lack of any interesting data for my hypothesis at the moment.  However, what I do have is over a decade's worth of transect and weather data for the estate.  This will allow me to look for patterns within that and hopefully draw some useful conclusions.  As far as I am aware not much has been done with the combined data before so it should prove to be interesting.

I'm recording surface and ambient temperatures at each of my point count sites and each data logger is housed within a small length of plastic pipe.  These bits of pipe are attached to either end of a 1m plastic stake.  A couple of these have gone missing over the course of the summer and it frustrates me that people just rip them out for fun.  Yesterday, as I stood quietly counting 2 Speckled Woods (it didn't take me long!) I looked up and spotted my missing stake in the tree above.  After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to the college with one of my lecturers, a window pole and a long plank of wood we managed to dislodge it from its leafy home and retrieve the loggers.  Each of these loggers had 6 weeks worth of temperature data on it so I was incredibly relieved to have spotted it up there!

At the end of August I assisted an Ecologist on a dusk and dawn Bat survey down in Brighton.  The purpose of the survey was to determine whether there were any bats living within an old ex-convent before the planning application for development was submitted.  It was very interesting to hear all about the processes but also to get out and do the survey itself.  We discovered some Pipistrelles foraging along the boundary hedgeline, but nothing in or out of the building.  It was a pretty spooky place and I was a bit nervous.  The dawn survey was fun to do because it was gradually getting lighter rather than darker and it was lovely to watch the sun come up. We also went up into the loft space to check for any signs but there was nothing to report - just spiders!

More to follow soon with some photographs as well....

PS I've also added a badge for my LinkedIn profile here as well should you wish to get in touch that way.