Acorn Ecology Guildford

Laura in Guildford

GCNs, Surveys and more… It is amazing what a difference four weeks spent in the right place at the right time can make. It was a great pleasure to have had a work placement at the Guildford office.

Week 1

Habitat search on Magic maps, data search report writing, bat sound analysis on Analook and BatExplorer, bat dusk emergence survey, static bat detector positioning and bat activity transect

Day 1

I left for Guildford in great anticipation to start my work placement at Acorn Ecology and to see Sarah and Martin. I was barked-in by Alfie, Dolly, Winnie and Poppy and purr-greeted by two resident cats, Ernie and Bertie, known for their chill-out attitude. Acorn Ecology Guildford

I spent my first day in the office as there were no field visits planned for that day. It was exciting to learn how to use Magic maps for data search and observe data search request form filling. Later, I worked on bat call analysis on Analook. It was a great feeling to be able to apply theory to practice.

Highlight of the day – Barbastelle (a very rare bat) roost confirmation in a barn in one of the projects!

Day 2Acorn Ecology Guildford

Another busy day at the office: more bat call analysis on Analook, gaining more experience in differentiating bat calls – amazing!

Bat dusk emergence survey planned for the evening. All gear set up, ready, steady, go! Lots of butterfly wings found at the site.  However, just a few flew around… Ok, maybe more luck next time…


There is always plenty of work to do at the office. So, I rolled up my sleeves and learnt how to download files from static bat detectors and how to use BatExplorer. More bat call analysis on Analook. Bat dusk emergence survey planned for the evening. We saw and recorded quite a few noctules on their foraging mission: I wished them luck 😉.

Day 4

Acorn Ecology GuildfordI was trusted to do data search for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) report. It was great to use Magic maps and learn how to fill in species table in PEA report. It helped me to get my head around protected species lists on various websites related to current legislation.

A bat activity transect was planned for the evening. My first ever!!! I was worried as it was pouring down with the rain during most of the day. Luckily, it cleared up in the evening and we were ready to go. Before the transect, Martin and I had deployed two static bat detectors in the trees as inconspicuously as possible.

The survey was great. I was recording all heard and seen bat species on the bat recording sheet and mapping their activity. Martin was recording them on a static bat detector. It was fun to identify them in flight. So many bats flying around! We spotted nauthiusius, serotines, noctules and loads of common and soprano pipistrelles. One of the bats flew just above our heads and disappeared into the bushes. Amazing how good flyers they are!

Day 5

Data search for PEA report: long lists of bird and plant species, crowned by a rare sighting of two white storks. An amazing way to learn more about birds and flowers in the area.

Week 2

eDNA sampling for great crested newts (GCNs), a Phase 1 map creating, bat dawn re-entry survey, Preliminary Bat Survey (PBS) and PEA, bat call analysis on Analook, bat activity data analysis and entering final bat activity results into a report

Day 6Acorn Ecology Guildford

Days flew by so quickly and the week was going to be even shorter because of Monday Bank holiday, head start on Tuesday. The day started by collecting static bat detectors deployed five days ago. Thankfully, we found them exactly where we had left them. Then off to another site to sample a pond for GCN eDNA and carry out PEA for the site.

It felt like being engaged in scientific research as we were using a special bag, two pairs of gloves, a sampling ladle, a pipette and tubes to be filled and sent off to the lab for analysis. Samples were carefully taken, shaken, and pond water pipetted into tubes.

Then it was time for PEA. I was in great anticipation and ready for my first PEA. I was responsible for mapping all features and taking notes for the site. Martin led the walk and we were recording all features, trees, flowers, animals and birds. PEA was completed and we headed back to the office to process all the data we had collected.

It felt like that was a very special day because I got involved in so many new things. Back at the office I created a Phase 1 map for the site we had surveyed. What a rewarding day!


Day 7

Acorn Ecology GuildfordThe day started very early as we had a bat dawn re-entry survey planned for that morning. My alarm went off at 1.30 am and I woke to the sound of rain drops drumming against my window. The rain gradually subsided and was gone by the time we met at the site, good for us and especially for the bats! Positions taken, eyes glued to the house which was still cosily tucked in under a thin blanket of the retreating night. So quiet. All you could hear was the sound of rain droplets dripping from the roof and a lonely blackbird song. Then, out of a sudden, all birds woke up – a chorus of blackbirds, robins, wrens, finches, crows and pigeons. No bats, neither seen nor heard though…. And suddenly, as if from nowhere, there it was! Heard and seen! My waiting paid off. Creeping fog which sent shivers down my whole body during those vigil hours –  forgotten and dismissed. The survey finished and we were off for home to get a bit of sleep.

At midday we met again at another site for a PBS and PEA. After careful inspection of the site bat droppings were detected, samples taken, all nooks and crannies checked, a Phase 1 map drawn and plants identified. Back to the office for some more work on reports. Early finish as it had been quite a long day.

Acorn Ecology GuildfordDay 8

The day started with another eDNA sampling for GCNs. After all samples were taken, we returned to the office where I created a Phase 1 map and put up together a report for the site. I wrote habitat description section, selected photos for the site and prepared their description for the report. Unfortunately, weather forecast was not promising: thunderstorms for the rest of the day with torrential rain. Dusk emergence survey had to be postponed.

Day 9

Office work was planned for that day. I worked on species list, created a bat activity map for bat dusk emergence survey, analysed bat calls on Anabat, did bat activity data analysis and entered final bat activity results into the report.

Week 3

Two PEA and PBS, a Phase 1 map creating, bat dusk emergence survey, bat dusk emergence map creating, static bat detector positioning, bat activity transect and data search for a report.

Day 10

Monday started like a typical Monday morning in London: two hours and thirty minutes on the road in traffic jams! And that’s only 35 miles to reach my destination in Guilford! At last I made it just on time for PEA and PBS for a site. Sarah was leading the survey and everything was done quickly and smoothly: habitats, plants and features recorded, buildings assessed, samples taken. It was a great opportunity to practice my wildflower ID skills and I also realized that it’s not only wildflowers and native trees that matter: it is important to know your garden flowers and bushes, too. So, a Friday trip was planned to a local garden centre for a field study on garden plants. Another tick on my to-learn list 😉.

Then we were back to the office and worked on transferring collected data into reports. My task was to create a Phase 1 map for the site.

In the evening a bat dusk emergence survey was planned. A good learning opportunity to ID bats using a bat detector. To see and hear a bat always makes me smile 😊.

Day 11 and Day 12

Two busy days at the office. It is always quite hectic during this time of the year. We had to do some catch up with report writing. It involved more Phase 1 map creating, bat call analysis on Analook, bat activity data analysis and bat dusk emergence survey map creating.

Day 13

Acorn Ecology GuildfordThe day started with PEA and PBS. Sarah, Martin and I meticulously inspected all plants and habitats on the site. Also, we checked the building from outside and inside. In the attic we found a few bat droppings. Bat dropping samples were taken, all bat-friendly features marked –  job done for now. Back to the office for transferring data into files. I worked on creating a Phase 1 map for the site and identifying specimens collected in the field.

In the evening Martin and I went to deploy static bat detectors on the trees and later John joined us for a bat activity transect. We moved very slowly in the darkness listening to bat calls on our bat detectors, taking bat activity notes and identifying bat species. Dark and quiet it was, just us and bats, and possibly a stag beetle somewhere near-by 😊.

Day 14

Acorn Ecology GuildfordAcorn Ecology Guildford







The morning started with a Phase 1 map creating – done! Next thing to do – data search for the report – birds-done!  After that we were ready for a visit to the garden centre to learn some garden plants. Too many plants to take pictures of… We even came across a sign saying: ‘Please do not remove this plant – Robin Nesting!’. After having explored the garden centre, we returned to the office for a birthday party: Happy Birthday, Sarah!!! What a great epilogue to the third week!

Week 4

Data search for a report, bat call analysis on Analook, bat activity transect data analysis and final results for a report, bat transect map creating, report proof reading for GCN eDNA, dawn re-entry survey and its bat activity data analysis, entering final bat activity results into a report, bat activity transect, observation how to set up a new report

Days 15 – 19

During my last week, I was happy to be able to enhance my ecological skills acquired in previous three weeks at Guildford Acorn Ecology office: data search for a report; bat call analysis on Analook, bat activity data analysis and entering final results for a report, bat activity transect and its map creating.

Acorn Ecology Guildford

And, yes, I had a chance to do some GCN report proof-reading. Also, a complete report to read!

A huge THANK YOU, Sarah and Martin!


What a lot to fit into 4 weeks! If you are interested in the Certificate Course, or any Acorn Ecology Short Courses, take a look at them on our website.

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