Skip to content

A spring in our steps

June 10, 2014

Spring is well under way – the flowers are blossoming, bird chicks are growing fast and the weather is occasionally warm. Fittingly, the trainees are also progressing with the program – we are at the four month marker now, how time flies when you’re having fun!

Whilst each trainee has been focussing on specific aspects of conservation that they would like to train up on, we have also had a number of joint training sessions. These have usually been identification sessions on a variety of Dorset-wide species such as crayfish, amphibians, dragonflies and damselflies, and reptiles, and led by various staff members of Dorset Wildlife Trust.

White-clayed crayfish. Photo by Megan Shersby.

White-clayed crayfish. Photo by Megan Shersby.

A trip over to East Dorset saw the trainees on a crayfish session. We had all heard of crayfish before, but our native crayfish species, the White-clawed Crayfish, is under threat! There is an invasive species called the American Signal Crayfish,  whose arrival in a stream or river will cause the demise of our native species. The native species is still holding on though! We kitted up in our waders and plunged into the cold waters to see if we could find any. With a little rummaging, we managed to find two individuals. Congrats to Chloe for finding one, and to Sam for his valiant efforts.

Megan heads into the river to search for crayfish. Photo by Megan Shersby.

Megan heads into the river to search for crayfish.
Photo by Megan Shersby.

Amphibian training saw us searching ponds on Powerstock Common Reserves for newts, specifically the Great Crested Newt which is a protected species. We had to visit a number of ponds before we found one, but in the meantime we found both smooth and palmate newts, a common frog, newt eggs and a variety of other interesting wildlife.

Lorraine learns how to identify a Great Crested Newt egg. Photo by Rachel Janes.

Lorraine learns how to identify a Great Crested Newt egg. Photo by Rachel Janes.

Happy eggs hunter. Photo by Rachel Janes.

Happy egg hunters. Photo by Rachel Janes.

At last we found one and were all pleasantly surprised by how distinctive this species is, particularly the males!

A very happy Sarah (Hudson) with a Great Crest Newt

A very happy Sarah (Hudson) with a Great Crest Newt. Photo by Rachel Janes.

I think everyone’s favourite fact, but especially Sarah’s (Hudson), is that juvenile newts are called efts!

An eft (juvenile newt)! Note the gills on his neck. Photo by Megan Shersby.

An eft (juvenile newt)! Note the gills on his neck. Photo by Megan Shersby.

Staying with the freshwater theme, but emerging onto the dry land, we moved onto Odonata training. Odonata is the umbrella name for dragonflies and damselflies, two groups of insects that are closely related but actually distinct from each other. With various identification features covered, we headed out onto Winfrith Nature Reserve to see which species we could find.

Intrigued by the sweep net - we promise there was something in it!

Excited by the sweep net. You can’t see the damselfly but we promise there was one in there! Photo by Rachel Janes.

When looking at these insects, the main features you’re looking for are:

  • the way the wings are held (upright for damselflies, stretched out for dragonflies)
  • the colouration and patterning of the body
  • the colouration and patterning of the wings (some species have coloured wings, many have coloured spots on the wings)
  • the size and colouration of the eyes
  • what time of year it is
A Scarce Blue-Tailed Damselfly. Photo by Megan Shersby.

A Scarce Blue-Tailed Damselfly. Photo by Megan Shersby.

If you’ve got an interest in dragonflies and damselflies, why not check out the free identification guide on the Dorset Wildlife Trust website? Follow this link! Better yet, why not report your sightings of these insects to the Dorset Wildlife Trust via Facebook or Twitter?

Last but not least, we went out to Upton Heath Nature Reserve on a search for reptiles with our traineeship leader, Steve. Did you know that the UK has a variety of native reptile species, all of whom are found in Dorset?

There are three lizards (Common Lizard, Sand Lizard and Slow Worm) and three snakes (Grass Snake, Adder and Smooth Snake), as well as a number of non-native species. If you’re interested in finding out more, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust charity have information about all of the species (and amphibians as well!).

Male sand lizard on Upton Heath Nature Reserve. Photo by Megan Shersby.

Male sand lizard on Upton Heath Nature Reserve. Photo by Megan Shersby.

On our heathland adventure, we found all three lizard species and the smooth snake. Sand lizards and smooth snakes require licenses to handle and disturb as they are protected species.

Chloe learns how to handle a Smooth Snake. Photo by Megan Shersby.

Chloe learns how to handle a Smooth Snake. Photo by Megan Shersby.

Our over-arching interest in wildlife means that we are always spotting interesting species when we are out on the reserves, and we’ve each got our own particular favourites. When we all head out together, we end up bouncing knowledge off each other and learning from each other about the wildlife in Dorset.

Grey Wagtail bird (seen during crayfish training!)

Grey Wagtail bird (seen during crayfish training!). Photo by Megan Shersby.

The distinctive Cinnabar Moth, at the Urban Wildlife Centre. Photo by Megan Shersby

The distinctive Cinnabar Moth, at the Urban Wildlife Centre. Photo by Megan Shersby

Yellow Archangel plant (found during amphibian training!). Photo by Megan Shersby.

Yellow Archangel plant (found during amphibian training!). Photo by Megan Shersby.

There finishes the round-up of our joint identification training sessions in spring, stayed tuned for an upcoming blog post on what each of us has been getting up!

Written by Megan Shersby

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: