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.

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