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Katrina Rimington, Placement, Bournemouth University

July 5, 2010
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Katrina Rimington, Placement, Bournemouth University 

Monday, 28th June. 

East Stoke Fen, Skunk Cabbage Removal and River survey. 

Seven volunteers arrived with the knowledge of removing an invasive Asian species known commonly as skunk cabbage. The area was known to be a piece of wetland notorious to cause you to become knee-deep in orange coloured mud. Iron ochre mostly of bacterial origin makes it this rusty colour and is common in soils located in permanently saturated low-lying areas, which the skunk cabbage seemed to love due to the volume of plants found. Everyone had the challenge of sludge surfing with huge planks of wood. However, then quickly gave up and just went for it resulting in many volunteers completely covered head to toe with mud.    

To clean off our orange mud covered clothes we decided for second part of the day to walk through Tadnoll and Winfrith Nature Reserve to the River Tadnoll, which leads into the River Frome, to relax and undertake an improvised river invertebrates and wildflower identification survey. 

River survey of the river Tadnoll

Survey are important to create an understanding of the quality of ecosystems, both terrestrial and marine. Many common invertebrates were found like Stone Fly Larvae, Blood Worms and Fresh Water Shrimps. Along with the encouraging signs of Otter activities, for example spraint found on a rock and a half eaten Crayfish claw. It was the perfect end to the day 

  

Tuesday, 29th June. 

Tadnoll, Fencing and River Survey. 

The first part of the day for the seven volunteers was to support a recently built fence that had started to bend with its own weight. It was a good team building exercise as everyone had to work together and it was hard work. The sun was beaming and everyone realised quickly how much hard work goes into the everyday activities of the wildlife trust. 

Team building activities, fencing.

The area was being fenced to allow plans for a picnic and small off-road parking area at the entrance to the reserve. This then would make the reserve more accessible for the public. 

For the second half of the day we planned to revisit the section or river in the reserve, where we undertook the identification survey, as we loved the river section so much. This time we brought along essential kit like nets, trays and identification guides to aid our identification, as the day before our knowledge skills were limited and we were using only our hands. We entered the river system from an alternate direction and as a result we decided to do a meadow net sweep to see the types of vertebrate life living in the hay meadows we found around the river. 

Female Banded Demoiselle Damselfly

There are so many invertebrates present in meadows that it is possible to single out only a few for special mention. Wet meadows, particularly those alongside streams and rivers, have dragonflies and damselflies, such as Beautiful Demoiselles and Banded Demoiselle Damselfly (female shown above), which are associated with running water habitats. 

Wednesday, 30th June. 

Moth Identification and UWC Site maintenance. 

Most of the day was spent identifying moths obtained the night before with the use of a moth trap. The species with the most specimens found was the impressive elephant hawk-moth. It is common and widespread, often occurring in gardens, and June is the best time of the year to see them. It is a large striking moth, with bright pink wings and body, and tinges of green and brown. Collectively we all managed to find 38 species, which took a long time as most seem to look the same with the tiniest tiniest differences. 

Elephant Hawk-Moth

myself holding an Elephant Hawk-Moth

After this we all helped with some site maintenance at the Urban Wildlife Centre. These included pulling up weeds, the odd bit of gardening, fixing doors, painting, and associated tasks. 

Thursday 1st July. 

Bat Survey, Ashley Wood. 

Today we were all up bright and early with the idea of a bat survey in mind. It’s important to get an idea of bat populations in Dorset woodlands as a healthy bat population is a good indicator of a well-managed and healthy woodland as it would be evident the food source they depend on are also thriving. During the early part of the morning the outcome wasn’t looking too good as all we came across were birds nest and hornet’s nests but some had encouraging signs of bats with old and some fresh bat droppings. However, with a little persistence and patience we were rewarded with a maternity roost of Long Eared Brown bats. Handling females was not an option so we carried on and come across two lone males in two different boxes, which we were able to handle. 

Long-Eared Brown Bat Long-Eared Brown Bat in a bat box

We carried on, now with high hopes, and fantastically found not one but two male Bechstein’s bats that are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. This was not expected as the Bechstein’s bats are thought to prefer more enclosed woodland habitats along with running water nearby. However, Ashley wood doesn’t have such habitat and so it was a breakthrough to find them in this particular wood. After returning them to the roosts we then went off to find two Pipistrelles, suspected to be Soprano Pipistrelles as they were found the previous year in this area. However, when trying to handle the Pipistrelle they took flight and so we had to rely on our identification skills. Being someone who absolutely loves bat this was an amazing experience. 

Male Bechstein's Bat

Myself inspecting a bat box

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