Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Work experience with FPCR

This week I am working at FPCR on a work experience placement. The company is mainly architecture-based, but they have a whole host of ecologists, botanists and ornithologists working in their team to ensure that all their designs are eco-friendly and suitable for the wildlife around the proposed building site. 

On my first day I accompanied one of the ecology team members to an arable site where planning permission was being applied for. We were mainly surveying the types of habitat bordering the site, including wildflower & wild grass meadows, patches of woodland and hedgerows, but were also recording all the different species of flora and fauna we saw to see if the site needed to be protected from development. If it were down to me every site would end up being protected but I trusted that the ecologist knew what they were doing as they seemed equally concerned about the wildlife decline as much as me. It took around 4 hours to survey the entire sight and we concluded with a very healthy species list, including a ringlet, a small tortoiseshell, a green-veined white, a small white and a picromerus bidens. I took many photos during the trip so that I could do some identification work when I got home in the evening. The photos below are a selection of this shots...


On the second day I went out with a 2nd team to search for possible bat roosting sites. The two ecologists which I went with both had climbing training so that they could get into the tree canopy, where they were using a digital endoscope and bluetooth monitor to investigate the tree knots and cracks for bat droppings, scratches or even bats themselves! Having surveyed around 5 trees I was given the job of uploading all the information we gathered to a online spreadsheet to send to the developers. If any of the trees have roosting potential they will most likely be protected from felling, but if that's not possible then an alternative option may be picked, such as bat boxes or mitigation. Obviously the ecologists do all they can to protect the species. 


I spotted this ant's nest whilst doing some photography around the site. The eggs look like mini tic tacs! Colonies can have thousands of individual ants, with each and every one doing certain jobs to help the whole nest have a successful hatching rate. This photo was taken with a 55 - 250 lens, but a macro image would have been even better...


My third day was one of the most exciting. At around 5:30 in the evening the ecology team and I set off towards a location (which I can't disclose) in search of Daubenton's bats. The site was a huge airfield with a very small, abandoned brick building in the centre. The 'I' shaped concrete beams which made up the roof for this building provided cracks and tunnels for the bats to roost in at night. We had around 3 licensed bat handlers in the group, allowing us to net-trap the bats to sex, weigh and measure, giving us an insight into the health of the colony. The site has plans for over 500 houses, so one of the teams jobs is to advise the architects and builders to ensure that as little disturbance is caused to the bats as possible. This may include wildlife corridors, fences to stop cats (and children) reaching the roost, thick hedgerows surrounding the building to prevent any access, and to also limit the amount of artificial light reaching the roost. It was a fascinating evening. I managed to get a few shots which weren't too blurring, which was hard in the darkness...




I used a bat detector to ID the species using the roost, which was very exciting as I had never used one before. We detected Soprano Pipistrelle bats, Noctule bats, Daubenton's bats and even one lesser horseshoe bat which is extremely surprising as they are quite rare in the region we were in. Today I have been converting the bat recordings into audible files and graphs, further helping us clarify our findings. I am borrowing the detector to use around my patch tonight, so hopefully I will record some more files!


If you want to see some of FPCR's recent ecology projects, click here.