My 10th Journal update!

Ancient Woodland Plant ID Course

Very shortly after completing my tree course, I was out of the office again on a course learning how to identify ancient woodland plants. This was run by Mark Duffell (Young Horticulturist of the Year 2001!!) for the Field Studies Council (again – their courses are fabulous, and Mark is especially good), in beautiful woodland called Beechfield Dingle, somewhere in between Welshpool and Shrewsbury.

I really am loving Arbtech’s unlimited CPD fund

As this was a single-day course, there was limited time, so the day largely revolved around Mark highlighting ancient woodland indicators and then going through the process of how to identify plants like ferns and grass, among others. Whilst this wasn’t as interactive as other courses I’ve been on (like the FSC Tree ID course I went on), it got the job done in the time we had.

Mark is very knowledgeable and was engaging enough to impart a lot of his experience on the group. I now know a variety of species indicators for ancient woodland habitat; you need at least six species in the same habitat to know for sure.

I also learnt about the “Campion” plant family; I think I’ll be able to remember that information easily enough!

Body parts and ferns

The most useful part of the day was how to distinguish between species of the same genus, as they are often very similar. For example, we looked at the differences between English and Spanish bluebells and their hybrids. We also learned how to tell the sex of ferns, belly-buttons or bums?!

Mark tried to teach us some Latin (botanical) names of plants and whilst some of the names are logical when you think (hard) about them; I’m still focusing on recalling the common name and then Googling – other search engines are available! – the Latin afterwards.

Overall, a useful day – I definitely need to do some more research but this was a great introduction to what to I need look out for. I’ve got a few more day courses with Mark, which I am looking forward to after attending this one. Top marks, again.

Now for something completely different

A lot of my updates lately have been about courses, even though I’ve still been out and about regularly shadowing our more experienced ecological consultants on a variety of surveys.

Today I am reporting briefly after a long day (headed down south, to Hampshire) to give fellow Arbtecher, Craig Williams, a helping hand with a particularly large site that required comprehensive reptile and badger surveys.

Reptiles and badgers!

We examined the site and found the badger sett that required observation. Then, once we’d got our bearings; we started to set the site up by equally spreading out reptile felts across the site and logging their location and number using a handheld GPS device.

This was fairly easy once you got into the swing of things, Craig and I make a good team. We had a system in place where every few tiles we would swap roles from carrying and laying out the tiles to mapping the tile location and navigating to the next section of the site.

This was a big site and it took a long time to set out all of the tiles properly. When we finally got back to the badger sett, we set up the infrared camera rig on appropriate trees, which Craig will check along with the reptile tiles once a week for the next 8 weeks, to monitor and record any activity.

Craig is a great teacher, but unexpectedly decided to test me on various ecology knowledge along the way (and to make sure I could set the cameras up by myself). I guess it all helps make sure I am heading in the right direction. Definitely good fun but I wasn’t expecting a test! I didn’t ask for a score :)

I’m going back in a month’s time with Craig on a monitoring visit, so I can see the activity on site and hopefully record some interesting findings; fingers crossed there will be badgers on the camera and some reptiles for me to identify and possibly handle, under the tiles.

This experience should enable me to really get the best out of my upcoming Reptile and Amphibian ID Course (online) with Acorn Ecology!


A message from Amy

Thanks for reading this instalment. The next journal blog will be up soon, as I chronicle my journey from ecology zero to consultancy hero. If you’d like an automatic notification of this, follow us on twitter (@superfastsurvey) or sign up to our mailing list below. Please also feel free to share this and leave any comments below. Are you trying to break into the ecological consultancy industry, or are you a graduate trainee like me? I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what courses you enjoyed, or share your thoughts if you’ve been on a similar or the same course as me!