Jasmin is an undergraduate student from Reading University who is on placement in the Exeter office for three months. Here she writes about some of the highlights of her first month. She has been busy!
On day 1 of my first week I was treated to a Reptile Handling and Surveying course taught by Sue – this would come in very handy considering the number of reptile surveys I was about to embark on. Sue took us to a nearby site where we learnt how to check reptile tiles and handle any wriggly slow worms we may find under there. I even saw my first wild adder! A pretty good start to my placement, don’t you think?
That evening I went with Colin to do my first bat activity survey. I got to spend a couple of hours watching pipistrelles swoop down right in front of me! This was a perfect opportunity to see the bat detector equipment in use and learn the survey methods. The heterodyne was emitting all kinds of out-of-this-world sounds, including that unmistakable feeding buzz every time the bats caught their meal.
I observed Colin doing tree surveys this week. We located our first tree on the list, and as Colin positioned the endoscope, a tiny little face appeared! It was a Myotis species who had made himself at home in a split tree trunk. This was my first up-close encounter with a bat, so a very exciting moment! Later in the day we also checked some bat boxes which had been put up as a mitigation measure – 3 pipistrelles snuggled up in one of them. I learnt a lot about potential roost features (PRFs) in trees such as lifted bark and splits.
Sarah and I went to do a European Protected Species Licence (EPSL) check during week 2. The site was a new build which had incorporated bat boxes and bird nesting places in the design of the building, as required in the mitigation plan for the licence. This is how the ecologists ensure wildlife is being considered whenever a new development is built.
Almost one month has passed, time is flying by! I had an early start to go to a site in Somerset for a destructive reptile search with Colin. The sun was shining while myself and another ecologist kept our eyes peeled as the digger operator gently scraped away the top vegetation. It proved very easy to mistake the wriggling movement of an earthworm for a juvenile slow worm! Whenever something caught our eye we’d put our hand up and yell “stop!” and wait for the digger to move aside before diving in to capture the animal. Walking around with a bucket full of rescued slow worms, frogs and toads was a pretty good day in my opinion.
The next day Jess and I headed up to Barnstaple to do an EPSL check. This time we were looking for dormice boxes. Most of them had been inhabited by wood mice, but the last box had fresh green leaves, which equals… dormouse! Hooray!
A third of my time with Acorn has passed, and I have already gained so much experience. So far, my favourite activity has been the reptile surveys, but it’s also been great to get familiar with how the office works and having a go at report writing. Now, bring on the next month!