It’s now the third month of my Buglife traineeship and the biggest highlight was getting to go on my first Field Studies Council training course, staying at Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales for 4 days. Working on a freshwater project with Buglife and spending a lot of my time in and around ponds it only made sense to get up to speed with the world of freshwater invertebrates.
I spent much of the rest of the month planning my TCV solo project which will be based in the Southside of Glasgow and something I’m really looking forward to getting started on. There was even more planning to be done with an exciting event I’m organising at RSPB Black Devon Wetlands Reserve. On Sat 5th Aug there will be a great family fun day and aquatic BioBlitz around the reserve, find more details here. I’ve been busy sorting the running of the day and recruiting volunteers to help, and will be heading over for a site visit later in July.
Life in a Shell // Snail Diary
On one of the first site visits I’ve been on to a current population, myself and my colleague Ally collected more specimens from a site in North Lanarkshire to create a second breeding group for the captive rearing programme. Things are really stating to get underway with this side of the project…
One of the areas I felt I knew nothing about was in wildflower and plant ID so I took the opportunity to attend a course ran by Central Scotland Green Network. After a morning of learning we headed for Fallin Bing near Stirling for a practical session outdoors. As we walked around the site spotting the wildflowers we had explored in the classroom, it became easier to identify and understand how the different families are connected. It was really helpful to realise which were the food plants of the invertebrates I had been studying and we found some great wildlife down among the plants also.
It was a great day for ladybirds, hoverflies and bees, and we spotted a lot of different spider species on the thistles. My favourite was this cucumber spider, with the back of its abdomen looking like Wilson the volleyball from Cast Away, it made for a pretty cute predator just waiting for some prey to fly into its web among the thistle.
Meeting the Local Invertebrates
At the start of the month I took part in a TCV training course – Introduction to Invertebrates as a test to myself to see how much I have been learning and to pick up on some great new information. It was a brilliant introduction to all invertebrate groups and was finished with an afternoon session along near Stirling Castle where we found a whole host of beetles, bees and butterflies. Being on a course which was running from my office was great as it allowed me to meet some local community groups as we were out and about in the afternoon and organise some events of my own. I bumped into a few nursery groups and ended up planning a visit to a nursery group in Stirling for the end of the month. This will be my first chance leading an outdoor session with a younger age group, 3-5 year old to be exact,and I’m excited to see what different activities and games I can plan!.
The main event of the month was my first ‘proper’ training course, staying at Malham Tarn in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. This was a four day course by the Field Studies Council and has been one of the best experiences so far, I can’t recommend taking a course through FSC highly enough. Day one was travelling to the site – through the lovely wee town of Settle and making my way across the Dales to the historic site at Malham. A definite high point is the food provided: cooked breakfast, packed lunch and three course meal every night not to mention the famous 3pm cake break. After an introduction to Sharon and Peter Flint who were leading the course we headed to our rooms in the old stable building for a sleep before our first outdoor excursion the next day.
We went out the next morning to various sites around the Dales to learn the different methods of freshwater sampling and got a full overview of the creatures we were finding. There were some amazing locations and the full variety of life was found in the different pools, ditches, streams and lakes around Malham. Sharon and Peter’s exhaustive knowledge meant that we each took out of the day what we needed to, they were so open and approachable and welcomed all questions. Each afternoon and into the evening was spent in the lab getting to grips with microscope work. I decided to work my way through the Gastropods, as they related most to my work with Buglife, it was strangely addictive to work through the keys and find that I could get most of them correct.
Day two and another field trip, this time to Upper Gordale Beck where we kick-sampled the river and went searching for cased caddisfly larvae further up between the hills. With more lab work in store in the afternoon I decided to really look at Odonata and get up to speed on my dragonflies – this ended up being one of the most enjoyable sessions I had. Some delicious chocolate fudge cake, a walk around the tarn and some time watching the unique bird-life brought the course to an end on Sunday night.
I had a great couple of days in beautiful surroundings and found it was a huge boost in the right direction. FSC courses offer the chance to make good connections and enjoy a peaceful weekend of study to genuinely take in a lot of new knowledge, you can get as much out as you put in and I can’t speak highly enough.
Until next time…
Be sure to follow what I’m up to on Twitter, and check out TCV Natural Talent for an update on my fellow trainees.
Thanks to the Esmée Fairbarin Foundation for funding this brilliant programme. Find out more about them here
Also to Buglife Scotland for hosting my placement. Keep up with all the amazing work they are doing and support the small things!