I don’t mean to brag but I’ve had a really great month and thought I should tell you all about it. I’ve barely been in the office and I’ve been off on a bit of a jolly most of the time. I haven’t been on holiday, I’ve just been lucky enough to be sent to work in some very pretty places. Plus, the sun has been shining and it’s actually been warm enough to wear shorts, so I’ve had a big smile on my face the whole time!
The Biolinks project has kicked off now at the FSC so I’ve been lucky enough to go along to the courses. I have been getting into beetles and improving my spider identification skills. I’ve always wanted to get to grips with beetles but I’ve never really known where to start because they’re so diverse, there’s 4000 species in the UK belonging to 103 families – so they’re a slightly daunting group to tackle. Thankfully, Caroline Uff was teaching the course – she works as an ecologist for the National Trust who went on a few beetle identification courses a few years back, having known very little about them before, and now she’s an expert! She was very helpful, pointing us in the direction of some of the easier groups to get to grips with so since then I’ve been going out and about practicing. I’m now on a mission to try to find as many different longhorn beetle species as possible, they’re big and colorful so they’re a good family to start with. I’ll be going on two more beetle courses soon so hopefully I’ll be able to get to grips with a few other families.
The Beetle ID course was in the Shropshire Hills Discovery centre, one of the many lovely places I’ve visited this month (photo from their website).
I have not been completely distracted from spiders and I am still really trying to improve my ID skills. I’ve been on one of the biolinks “learn to love” spider courses, which focuses more on spider ecology rather than identification but it was still really useful to learn a bit more about that side of things. Then, over this next bank holiday weekend I’ll be in Pembrokeshire on a 4 day spider identification course. The course is taught by Lawrence Bee, who’s a national expert and he made the new Field Guide to Britain’s Spiders, so I’m really hoping I can absorb all of his knowledge!
Another lovely day out to FSC’s Bishop’s Wood Centre for the Learn to Love Spider course.
My own identification course
I’ve been the student and the teacher this month. Last week, I taught my own invertebrate identification course at the Slapton Ley FSC centre in South Devon, which 17 people attended. This was just an introductory course for some of their tutors and volunteers who wanted to start looking invertebrates in more detail. However, I was pretty impressed with myself because this time last year whilst I was completing my masters I’d have a full on meltdown before doing any form of presentation/public speaking, I’d get so nervous I’d forget how to speak English. Thankfully, they were a lovely bunch so it all went well and they said I was very informative. After going through how to identify various orders and some common species in each we then went out to explore the Slapton Ley NNR so they could put their new skills to practice- it was almost as if I’d placed the species there myself because there were lots of nice easy to identify inverts waiting for us along the path. The sun was shining and we were right by the beach so rather than work it felt like I had a mini holiday down there
Other things I’ve been up to
I attended the National Forum for Biological Recorders conference with Nia. This was all about skill development for biological recording and specifically how to get more young people interested in studying under recorded and less-charismatic species, so the efforts of the TCV Natural Talent traineeships were mentioned quite a few times! It was a great way for us to meet other people in the sector who study and provide training to help the study of these species and to meet people who went through some of the other trainee schemes. I met past Natural Talent trainee Ryan Clark, so it was interesting to find out what he’s up to now. Sue L (last year’s trainee at the FSC) was also there to give a talk on how it can be a struggle to get your foot into the door in the conservation sector, so it was lovely to catch up with her afterwards.
Back to spiders: I am now well-underway with developing my own spider identification chart for “easily recognisable” species. It will be a photographic fold-out chart for the species included in the spider recording scheme’s (SRS) species surveys (srs.britishspiders.org.uk/portal.p…/p/Species+surveys). The FSC do already have a spider fold-out ID chart but the problem is that this is slightly misleading as some of the species on there can’t be reliably identified in the field. Therefore, if anyone tries to submit records using that chart, their records won’t be accepted. I was worried that this might put people off spiders altogether. However, there are some species you can easily identify in the field. So that’s what my chart will be all about. As well as photos and info on how to identify each species I’ll also include information about the British Arachnological Sociey and how to submit records. I intend to give these charts away for free, in an attempt to get a few more people interested in/recording spiders. I’ve got all of the photos and info together so now it’ll be sent to the publications team so they can make it look pretty.
I think that’s probably enough rambling from me for now.
Thanks for reading!