TCV's Conservation Handbooks Esmee Fairbairn acknowledgement

Month Three as a Natural Talent Trainee

As the months go by, my time as a Natural Talent Trainee just seems to get better and better! I am continuously learning and developing, and having the best time while doing so. This month has brought some beautiful weather meaning I have spent a lot of time out in the field, which is always enjoyable in the gorgeous sunshine.

At the beginning of the month I visited the nearest TCV office at the Tree Life Centre, in Bristol. I met with Project Officer Karis who showed me around the wonderful community tree nursery. I spent some time with the volunteers, planting up some vegetables into pots, which will hopefully be sold to the public. It was a very enjoyable day, great to learn what kind of things The Conservation Volunteers get up to! I hope to get involved with some events there in the near future.

As always, a day out in the field with the very knowledgeable Liam Olds is always a great way to learn, from photography skills, to field skills..

Liam Olds carefully looking for Snail Hunting Wasps – making sure they don’t escape!

Photogenic thumb…there is a butterfly there somewhere I promise

This month I managed to get out and about a couple of times with Liam to some of his reclamation sites. These sites always show up wonderful things, such as Bee Orchids and an array of hoppers and bugs. Here are some of our finds…

Bee Orchid

Gorse Shieldbug

Dingy Skipper

Calocoris roseomaculatus adult, rosy makings on the wings

Calocoris roseomaculatus adult

Calocoris roseomaculatus nymph

Lovely little Dormouse

I am privileged to be able to get involved with a variety of different things during my traineeship. Once a month I will be assisting with a Dormouse round. Last year I spent a season working towards a Dormouse License, although I had a lot of practice scruffing Yellow-necked mice and Wood-mice, I did not see a single Dormouse. This season I have been lucky enough to assist with surveys at another site. It was my first visit this month, and after a long season last year not seeing any Dormice I was not expecting much, but you never guess what…first visit and I saw my first Dormouse, even got the chance to handle it. What a lovely little thing!


Wildflower ID Course with Gwent Wildlife Trust

I thoroughly enjoy my botany outings with my exceptionally knowledgeable mentor, Steph Tyler. This month I have done quite a lot of botanising, not only with my mentor but I also attended a Wildflower ID course held by Gwent Wildlife Trust, and a Sedges course held by SEWBReC. All go hand in hand, adding to my identification knowledge, which will come in useful when it comes to identifying host plants of Hemiptera.

Mike and I started our second project at Ffos y Fran, a huge open cast coal mine. It was a pretty impressive visit, we got to have a special tour of the site. It was amazing to see the scale of the mine and the amount of ground moved by the huge trucks. We are interested in collecting samples (Hemiptera) from three different restoration areas at the site. Each of the areas are at different stages in their restoration, and so it will be interesting to see what species are found at each of the areas and how they compare.

Ffos y Fran, open cast coal mine

I managed to recruit a keen volunteer to come and help with sampling. We headed for the beautiful Silent Valley, the site we surveyed was the stunning ancient ant hill field, which is grazed by Gwent Wildlife Trust’s ‘woolly lawnmowers’ during the winter. This type of conservation grazing has created a magnificent wildflower rich field, which was alive with hoppers and all things small and wonderful. It will be really interesting to see which species crop up in this hidden gem.

Ancient Ant Hill Field at Silent Valley Nature Reserve

This month I finally made it to The British, a post-industrial site in Abersychan. With the promise of coal tips I managed to drag Liam along to help out with a spot of surveying. Sadly, it was a very windy day and not much was on the wing, but we did spot two Bilberry Bumblebees which are always good to see. We used the suction sample to collect insects from different habitats, all ready to identify back at the museum on a rainy day.

The British

Boardwalk repair

I took a day out of surveying to get involved with some practical conservation work. I re-joined the old volunteer team at Gwent Wildlife Trust, it was good to see some familiar faces along with some new. We spent the day at the lovely little reserve, Dan y Graig, where we repaired some boardwalk before getting to some (a lot of) raking! All worth it, when you see the results in the long run. A task which may seem boring, but when surrounded by a great group of people is always enjoyable!

I look forward to seeing what July brings, until then be sure to follow me on Twitter !