Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The other side of the fence

On Tuesday, Rachel and I ventured the other side of the airfield fence at Gatwick, to learn about the important work of the airside operatives; an integral team at the airport which we do not often get to meet. It was a pretty early start, shuttling over to the airside operations building in order to catch the night shift hand-over. We met in the operations briefing room and gave a presentation to the team, explaining our work and the biodiversity project at Gatwick.

We spoke about which species of conservation concern can be found at the aerodrome, and how our staff volunteering programme has grown over the past 4 years. We also explained how the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership helps Gatwick to manage its land-side biodiversity areas without impacting any operations and maintaining a safe environment for people and wildlife. 

The talk seemed to be well received, and for the remainder of the morning we accompanied the bird dispersal unit on their rounds in the yellow ‘ops vehicle’, Leader 5. These guys know the airfield and its operational routines like the back of their hand, and they demonstrated the responsible ways they help birds and aircraft avoid conflict.

A pause at the western end of the taxiway

We learned in particular about the 'Scarecrow' bird dispersal system, which plays species-specific sounds to scare birds away from operational areas. This has been a valuable experience for Rachel and I, to understand the work of airside operations and the management of the airfield habitat.

Katie demonstrates the 'Scarecrow' system

The other great result is that we have been invited back to give further talks to airside teams about conserving Gatwick’s biodiversity, and to offer further opportunities for staff and their families to get involved.

Many thanks to Helen, Katie, Simon and all the Black Watch team for their warm and friendly reception.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Night at the Aviation Museum

I convinced our newt surveying team to push new frontiers on Monday, so it was over the site boundary and into the territory of the Gatwick Aviation Museum (with the curator Ashley's permission of course). Things seemed to start off so well, with a Common Toad vying for the spotlight...

I was at that moment we realised the Clulite torch hadn't actually charged up, and we were going to have to borrow Ashley's spotlight instead, which would suffice for the pools here, but not for the deeper Gatwick ponds...
   I also hadn't realised that my camera was on hybrid mode, so all my rubbish shots are accompanied by banal chat and bad language, sadly capturing none of my usual witticisms.

It was still a productive visit though, as we recorded four amphibian species, including a non-native; what we thought was a Marsh Frog, with its bright green dorsal stripe blending in well with the blanket weed.

Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda

Our other two species were Common Frog and Smooth Newt. No owls were calling, but I did hear the nocturnal flight calls of some late-season Redwing.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)

Thanks to Tom F, Rina and Ryan for giving up your evening!