Tuesday 4 July 2017

Weathering June

There were soggy June days….

Handy woodland foot bridges built by Tom S and his volunteers 

And scorching June days...

River Mole grasslands, North West Zone

But most were great days on the project! Here is my round up of the June happenings:

We kick-started The Wildlife Trust's '30 Days Wild' with a series of wildlife events for Gatwick staff and local residents. Uptake was much better this year, and it is incredibly gratifying to see people engaging with a range of wildlife walks, talks and activities such as forest schools.

Riverside Garden Park pollinator walk

Azure Damselfly (using a clip-on macro lens for my camera phone)

The Long-horned Bees have received further executive visitors in the form of Sussex University Profs. Francis Ratnieks and Dave Goulson, with their PhD student Gigi. 

Part of Gigi's project will be focusing on our LHB colonies, which is really exciting as few detailed studies have been carried out for this species. Her mark-recapture work (which doesn't harm the bees), could reveal insights into how many bees there are in each colony, which plants they like best, how the overall population is faring etc.

A queen-marking cage used for Honey Bees also work very well to temporarily hold this female Long-Horned still

Into the woods; this summer I'm spending most of my time carrying out repeated baseline habitat condition surveys, which takes me back to 2012 and my first summer in ecology. Those early days were incredibly challenging, but then formative times mostly are!

Woodland habitat survey of Upper Picketts Wood, Land East

Looking back over my data, it seems I did alright with my botanical species identification... In fact, past-Rachel had indeed correctly identified Field Forget-me-not, so present-day Rachel has to amend a recent record. You win this round past-Rachel. (Took you over 4 years to find a Purple Emperor butterfly though didn't it?)
Ecologists Rina and Lucy with Royal Holloway Uni placement students Kajayini and Roxanne

While I was going a bit weird out in the woods, we had some extra help out on the sites for our annual ecological monitoring.  

Adult Grass Snake just prior to shedding (Photo by Anna-Marie Lawn)

Late summer breeding bird surveys with Tom F : Two new species to the survey were Eurasian Hobby and a daytime calling Tawny Owl

Our Dormouse surveys haven't turned up any of the critters so far this year, but we did accidentally disturb this hornet's nest, which we felt bad about, but was pretty cool to see...

On the hottest day of the year, I happened to be up in London, as Gatwick Airport Ltd received several awards from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). My project work comes under Gatwick's central Environment, Health and Safety Team, who are an incredibly diligent and hard working bunch; my hat is off to this team and they really deserve the recognition. Despite near heat-death on the tube (next time it's hiking boots), it was good fun hanging out near the Royal Victoria Docks.

A smoggy haze is the downside to a hot day in the city

Gatwick was this year's headline sponsor for The Big Bang Fair at the South of England Showground. The festival celebrates science, technology and engineering careers, with students attending from schools all over South East England.

Kevin Lerwill from Gatwick Greenspace. 

 It was pretty intense and we engaged over 100 students with our biodiversity stand, which included water quality assessment through pond dipping for invertebrates. 

Tom Errett from Gatwick's central EHS Team

Demonstration of bat sonograms and surveying technology by bat ecologist Martyn Cooke

Back over to our sites, and our invasive species management is well underway, with teams of Gatwick staff assisting Tom S with tackling Himalayan Balsam along the River Mole. 

Goat's Rue is another invasive plant starting to spread here, so we are doing our best to dig it up cleanly from the roots. I don't know much about Goat's Rue management as their doesn't seem to be much online literature, so any further advice appreciated!

Our Gatwick Honey Bees (Apis melifera) had a challenging season with the extreme June weather, and decided they didn't feel like swarming this year. We have 6 colonies and a few of our queens have now superseded, so they should be looking stronger for mid-summer.

(Put your speakers on/ headphones in for these...)

Our trail cameras are picking up some lovely footage (thanks to volunteers Luke and Jason for maintaining these); now the next step is to comb through it all and enter details into irecord! 

The fluffy coat on this poor old fox must be seriously hindering him on the hottest day of the year...

I love Grey Wagtails, so am hoping this one has been breeding nearby...

However, our best day of June was The Day The Container Arrived (which sounds like a really dull dystopian sci-fi novel.)

This is exciting for us, as we've been planning for a field base for the past few years, and have hit a few challenges and hurdles along the way. It has been worth the wait though!

Tom S now has a new base for volunteer activities and forest schools

So I feel that I have shown admirable restraint the last few days, only very gradually sneaking the entire contents of my car inside...

Blimey, did you make it to the end of all this? That is some staying power, well done you!

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