TCV's Conservation Handbooks

I am now a wildlife tracking ninja..

July was truly epic! The month kicked off with a two-day LANTRA Brushcutters and Trimmers course, which has given me a qualification that I can use to manage habitats like meadows. I must admit I was a bit scared at first. I’ve never used a brushcutter or trimmer of any sort before and I was nervous about wielding a machine, with a spinning blade on the end, which was bigger than me. But I soon relaxed (although I was super paranoid about decapitating hedgehogs) and I really felt I had achieved something at the end.


Our Brushcutter trainer Willie Johnson helping me set up the machine

june brushcutter

tidying up after our practical training

I then got to go and meet up with all the other lovely Natural Network trainees at Skelton Grange Environment Centre in Leeds. It was quite an inspiring day hearing about everyone’s projects and spending time with people who are so motivated to help conservation and people.


The whole gang at Skelton Grange

I delivered my first TCV training course with my placement manager Amanda, entitled ‘Citizen Science in Your Community’. This course was designed to advise community leaders on how to incorporate citizen science in to their community group activities and how it could benefit them. It was exciting to be the one providing the training for once, and it was great to practice public speaking.


We did a cheeky pokemon session while training

The real highlight of the month was visiting Kindrogan again, the Field Studies Councils centre up in lovely Perthshire. I signed up to go on their Wildlife Tracking course, led by Dan Puplett from Dan Puplett Nature Awareness. It was such a wonderful weekend.

tracking adams hedgehog

A cheeky hedgehog print, Photo by Adam Ross

I decided to sign up because I was so inspired by the short mammal tracking workshop that Paul Barclay (a fellow trainee) led a few months back on my Woodland Biodiversity Workshop. He took us on a journey from a few tufts of bedding material, to a footprint, right up to a badger sett, and it was amazing to see just how excited everyone was, and we hadn’t even seen a badger.

tracking badger skull

a badger skull, you can tell it belongs to a badger because of the defined ridge that runs along the back of the skull

I wanted to be able to show our volunteers how they can unlock the workings of the natural world through tracking. I also wanted an excuse to go back to Kindrogan, and to talk about poo.

tracking sand trap

putting out a sand trap is a great way of collecting footprints to practice identifying them. We had a mixture of red squirrel and fallow deer prints here

We learnt so much! We covered: footprint morphology, bird Language, bone and feather ID, feeding signs, trailing, stealth exercises, sensory awareness, recognising lacks and larders, and of course, poo. If there’s one man who can enthuse you about poo, it’s Dan Puplett.

hare poo

Dan has his own collection of different animal poo in tiny jam jars

I meet an awful lot of incredible specialists in nature; experts in lichen, bumblebees, dragonflies, wildflowers, the list goes on! I often think about whether or not I should start to develop my own specialist subject in wildlife. The problem is, I love everything too much! I can’t decide! I think that’s why I loved the tracking course so much, we looked at everything from otters to toads to birds to bugs, and how to track and recognise signs of them. After this weekend, I think tracking might become my new ‘thing’.

tracking bible

The tracking bible!

I feel like I am getting trained up to my eyeballs! And as I near the end of my traineeship (although I’ve still got a few months to go!) I am becoming more and more confident that I will be able to find work in the environment sector.

That is what is so amazing about the Natural Networks traineeships. There is so much conservation and community work that needs doing, and so many people that want to do it, yet it is so unbelievably difficult for aspiring conservationists to get their first break. There just aren’t that many conservation jobs about, and certainly not many that are willing to cover peoples financial needs whilst they gain training and experience. I am tired of seeing full time positions advertised, with full time responsibilities, which are unpaid. My traineeship is not only paid, but we receive a fantastic training budget that helps us get qualifications and training that would otherwise be unaffordable.

When things get hectic in this job role, I always try to remember how lucky I am to be in this position that gives me both invaluable work and training experiences, and the freedom and space to be innovative and creative. AND it enables me to pay for my food and rent!! I really do hope more trainee schemes like this appear in the future, as I simply cannot stress enough the value of them.



Tracking porpoise skull

QUIZ TIME: Can anyone guess who this skull belongs to? Comment below if you think you know that answer..

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