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Skills 4 the Future – best bits from the last few weeks

May 9, 2013

Its been a busy few weeks for all the Skills for the Future trainees but as always loving every moment of the variety of work and the places we get to visit! Here are a few of the best bits to keep you posted:-
Forest Schools

‘Emma, Kerrie and Megan were away in Sussex last week on a four day Level 2 Forest School Assistant course.
Forest Schools is an innovative way of educating and inspiring children in an outdoor setting. The course was an excellent opportunity for us as trainees due to the ever-increasing popularity for this method of teaching and the ideas/concepts we could take away and use in our placements at our individual centres.
At the end of the course not only did we get to take away our very own handcrafted sycamore mallets, charcoal elder pencils and wooden medallions, but we also had a whole new collection of skills that we cannot wait to apply..
Emma says:
“I have had time to reflect on all the tree-rific (sorry!) skills and knowledge I acquired during just 4 days in Friston Forest.”

timber hitch


our fire

Emma – Kimmeridge

Brushcutter – Monday 22nd April –Sally and I passed our brush cutter training! (Ssshhhh, don’t tell my mum! I’ll be being roped into a summer of strimming for her otherwise!).

Butterfly Transect – Tuesday 23rdApril -I helped do my first butterfly transect at Sovell Down, with warden Nigel Brooks and fellow Skills trainees Amy and Megan. What a glorious day for it! We managed to record a good number of Brimstone and a Small tortoiseshell.

Megan – Chesil

Chesil Beach News: Sadly there has been another influx of dead birds being washed up along Chesil Beach covered in PIB, a sticky white substance. This is the second time in 3 months that birds, such as guillemots and gannets, have been affected by this type of pollution and washed up here. We are encouraging people to sign the petition to put pressure on the IMO to make PIB discharges into our seas illegal. You can sign here:

Emma and Megan helped lead the Great Dorset Beach Clean, which was a great success at Chesil Beach and Kimmeridge on Sunday 21st April. We had over 100 people give up their time to help wildlife and collected up 87 bags of beach litter between them, thanks to all that took part!! It was a great day for wildlife too, with the sun shining there were skylark high in the skies, wheatear hopping around the edge of the Fleet and a solitary swallow come over off of the sea.

Sally – Brownsea 

Its been a lovely few weeks on Brownsea Island with the signs of spring finally arriving! Due to all the rain our tracks have been in a bad way, our poor Landrover has been rattling and bumping all over the shop driving down our main track, so we decided a little r and r was needed. Out came the dumper truck, shovels, a couple of tons of gravel and willing wardens…our mission was under way! With achy arms after three days of gravelling you could hold a steaming cup of tea whilst driving down the track and not spill a drop (erm…well near enough!). As you can see not all of the jobs we do are exciting, but maintenance is a large part of being a warden.

Deer Census – We carried out our annual deer census on the Brownsea Island nature reserve as a part of the Purbeck wide census. There were high numbers of Sika deer on the reserve. Afterwards with bacon sandwiches in hand we swapped notes with the Brownsea National Trust rangers and all in all we counted 47 deer, lovely to see but far too many for such a little island! Deer can be very destructive as they browse off much of the woodland regeneration.

Moth Trapping – As the weather has finally started to improve we’ve been able to start putting out our moth traps. We gather round (tea in hand) to identify the moths. They’ve been very successful and we’ve had some beautiful fresh specimens including: Purple Thorn, Oak Beauty, Clouded Drab, Pine Beauty, Grey Pine Carpet, Early Grey and many more

Purple Thorn


Amy – East Dorset

We’ve been busy on Upton Heath looking out for our native reptiles that are popping up everywhere! Families from across the county joined us for a Reptile Ramble across the heath and, even though the weather was a bit grey, our licensed wardens still managed to find a few slow worms and common lizards to show off. Followed by an afternoon of fun activities and the chance to look at some sloughed skins and even pickled reptiles, the morning was a real success and we hope to see the kids that were so enthusiastic to get involved out on the heathland leading their own rambles to look for our residents.

Tom – West Dorset

Bat Boxes: Around 60 boxes have been placed around Powerstock Common (3 boxes to a tree & all facing SW, S & SE as bats tend to move with the sun during the day from box to box). All box locations are recorded via GPS and will be checked again in 4-6 weeks. They’re Installed under the supervision of licensed wardens and will hopefully attract the rare lesser Horseshoe bat. Three were seen hibernating back in February in one of the bat caves on the common.
Tom, Amy, Sally, Claire & Charlie – practical trainees

felled tree

After weeks of worrying and exhausting training, the practical trainees are now qualified to use chainsaws and brushcutters out on the reserves. We’re all raring to go and carry out some practical habitat management – roll on the next season! With plans to fell on a number of sites across the county, none of us can wait to put our training into practice and see the benefits of our work for wildlife first hand next year!”

Charlie and Claire – Mid Dorset

Recently work with the mid-Dorset team has involved a lot of fencing and bird surveys. Fences can be put up for a whole host of reasons, e.g. boundary markers, temporary livestock fences, rabbit and deer exclusion areas to name a few. So as wardens, being able to build a good fence is a vital part of the job.

Charlie down a hole

Charlie and Claire have been hard at work carrying out bird surveys, this helps monitor birds in each reserve from year to year, but also helps practise your bird identification skills!

Wildlife Sightings

Megan – Little Tern spotted whilst out on the fleet at Chesil. The little terns are slowly but surely making their home around Chesil with 16 individuals being regularly seen coming and going.

Little Tern

Sally – A quick glimpse of a Water Vole whilst out running on the Island. Reed Warbler have been seen and most certainly heard singing their hearts out in the reed bed on Brownsea. Sandwich Tern are now back on the lagoon, with pairs getting cosy on the islands.

Charlie and Claire – Whilst carrying out a bird survey at Bracketts Coppice they spotted a female Pied Flycatcher.
Emma – We had a first for the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve (and possibly Dorset) – a Furrowed crab – found over the Bank Holiday, interesting as it is a climate change indicator species.
Amy – male sand lizards spotted coming into full breeding colours, first of the dragonflies buzzing around the ponds on the heath with Large Reds being regularly spotted on a warm day and Dartford Warblers heard singing in their territories across Upton Heath.

sand lizard

Kerrie – We definitely have an otter at Kingcombe! We’ve found spraint and prints right outside the centre!
Tom – Butterfly Transects: Peacock and Green Veined White.
Reptile Surveys: Powerstock Common: seen 7 Slow worms, 1 Common Lizard, and the odd toad, frog & vole seeking refuge under tins. Also as we were searching for tins we saw a few newts in margins of ponds but hard to tell what they were 😦


Water Vole Survey at West Bexington: No Sightings but few possible latrines and found droppings along ditches in reed bed & all over a mink trap funnily enough!

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