Here we are in mid July, and the season is in full swing! At the moment I feel like a child in a sweetshop. There’s so much to see and I don’t want to miss anything before it’s gone for another year!
Once again, I’ve made the most of all the wonderful opportunities on offer here at FSC Preston Montford and Head Office. I’ve been linking in with local entomologists and bryologists in north Wales, as well as learning from the paid and unpaid Shropshire specialists who give so generously of their time and expertise.
The long hot summer has been bliss, with many great days spent with Shropshire Wildlife Trust, (thanks to Kirsty Brown). I was able to join her and Dan Wrench (Biodiversity Officer and County Ecologist) on an NVC assessment of a new site acquired by the Trust on Prees Heath (site of a WWII airfield), and was interested to hear how valuable the assessment showed it to be.
We went on a hot foray in search of cave spiders with the Shropshire entomologists, found a profusion of orchids and spiders in the disused Butcher’s quarry, but failed to find the right caves!
In mid-June, I went back to my Liverpool TCV roots for a staff meeting, and catch up with Liverpool Natural Talent trainee (Annan) and Amy styles (our line manager). It was great to see the old gang and also to chat about how Annan and I were getting on in our respective placements. I don’t have close geographical contact with a TCV base, but am assisting in the planning and running of another “Picnic in the Park” in the Countess of Chester Country Park in August. It’s great to think that the Friends group, which first met 12 months ago, is now organising its first major public event with the support of TCV. Added to this, two of the original volunteers from the Green Gym have now trained as Volunteer Officers and are running one of the weekly sessions. Even though I’m a distance away, I still feel very much a part of what’s happening in the park and TCV in general, (thanks to the great friendships I made last year as a Natural Networks trainee and to the great job that Amy does of keeping in touch and providing support).
Near the end of June, I had a week’s holiday on Ynys Enlli (where I used to work), and I assisted with Manx Shearwater surveying of chicks and eggs. What a privilege! These birds have an amazing life cycle…one egg is laid in a burrow and once hatched, the parents fish very large distances (currently being monitored), returning only on the darkest of nights to feed the chicks. Under this cover of darkness, the birds escape attack from gulls, and come screeching in in their thousands, providing an unforgettable experience for anybody staying on the island. This continues until the chicks reach optimum size. Then the parents depart for south America, leaving the chicks to slim down sufficiently to leave the burrows and then follow their parents. One of the oldest birds recorded so far is more than fifty years old!
Back to work, and knowing that the Field Studies Council provides excellent fieldwork experiences for children and GCSE and A level students, I was wondering how my placement could link in with the A level curriculum. I had the opportunity to participate in a really dynamic morning session on carbon sequestration with Angela Munn (Education Team Leader at Preston Montford), in which students learned about the carbon cycle and how to measure for carbon in woodlands. I learnt loads and was very impressed by the amount of self evaluation the students had to demonstrate whilst undergoing a rigorous morning of practical activity….real “learning by doing”!
The fun hasn’t stopped there! A really informative Spider and Harvestman day course at Preston Montford, run by “Spider” Nig (Nigel Cane-Honeysett), Rich and Charlie, and then a masterclass as part of Chester Zoo’s “Wildlife Connections” project on butterflies and moths last Saturday…..
Which leads me on to acknowledging the supportive help given to me by Charlie and Sam Rudd (Curriculum and Development Manager, Head Office) who are great sounding boards for ideas and have been so helpful in assisting me to FOCUS! The Aladdin’s Cave of interesting “stuff” which this traineeship has opened now needs managing, and I am working on honing my sights ….
As ever, huge thanks to TCV, the FSC and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation for allowing me this fantastic opportunity.