If you’re looking for the second installment of my journal, you can find it here:

Amy Campion’s Journal: Becoming an Ecological Consultant #2

Mammal Survey and ID Course

To clue up on mammals, I attended a mammal identification weekend ran by The Mammal Society in conjunction with the Field Studies Council – this was held at the Preston Montford Centre in Shrewsbury. The course was run by Penny Lewns, a mammal expert with a particular interest in badgers (Meles meles).

We began the day with a classroom session designed to give us an introduction to mammal identification, so that we knew what we were dealing with and could expect to learn during throughout the weekend.

We were then introduced to Longworth traps (picture below), focusing on how to operate them in order to catch small mammals, such as mice and voles. After loading them up with hay and food we took them to a woodland area, set them up and left them over night; with the hope that come the morning we would have some mammal company to ID! That afternoon we went back to the classroom to learn about the history of mammals in the UK.

Longworth Mammal Trap

The Longworth Mammal Trap (Amy Campion, Arbtech)

Saturday Morning… We Got Company

The following morning we all trooped off to check our traps and luckily we had some fury little friends to have a look at – I was so impressed with my two field mice that were in my traps! We were instructed on how to handle them and then made a record of what we found.

Field Mouse ID

Amy Campion being instructed on mice handling and ID

An Important Discovery

During this session, we also made an important discovery (at least, for the Shropshire area); a harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) nest was discovered. This was the first sighting of a harvest mouse nest in the Shropshire area ever (!) and was therefore interesting to see and important to record.

Later that day we went for a walk around the grounds to see if we could spot any mammal signs using the skills we’d been taught thus far. We came across an extremely large and quite impressive badger sett:

Badger sett Arbtech

Large badger sett

It was great to witness the sett. Once it had been discovered by one of the course delegates the signs of badger activity around the site started to become obvious to everyone. For example we found, plenty of badger hairs around the entrance; dung pits with typical badger droppings in; scratched trees; and a complex burrow system, which appeared fairly well established.

The field centre was in a beautiful setting with a diverse range of habitats and wildlife. The course was pretty intense i.e. 3 days of 9am – 9pm! But overall it was well worth the time invested and long, tiring days! At the end of the course we were given an attendance certificate after we sat the mammal ID Test – that I was relieved to pass.

Summary of the Course

This course was really helpful in terms of surveying and identifying different species of small mammal, such as voles and mice. Field voles (Microtus agrestis) are abundant in numbers so we managed to catch a couple in our Longworth traps, and similarly is the case for bank voles (Myodes glareolus). However, field and bank voles are not protected species, unlike their water vole cousins, which are (partially) protected under Schedule 5 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) – similar to badgers. For this reason it is obviously very important to be able to distinguish between the different vole species, if your job entails conducting surveys for of development sites. During the classroom sessions, we spent a significant amount of time reviewing protected species legislation, which was helpful as this is largely what Arbtech and most other ecological consultancies use to guide recommendations in survey reports.

I would highly recommend this course, as I believe it was good value for money: for £250 we received three full days of tuition and field work instruction. I feel my knowledge and confidence has come a long way in just a weekend and am looking forward to building on this during the summer survey season. It was also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people in our industry – and the sun being out all weekend probably helped!

I am so proud of my certificate – they’re starting to mount up now – and really feel that my journey to becoming an ecological consultant is well under way. :D

Mammal Society Certificate Arbtech

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 surveyor 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 leave any comments below – even if it’s just to say that someone out there is reading this!