Training our future ecologists

Thursday 5th October 2017

Mark Pritchard, a My Biodiverse Society Trainee updates us on what the team's been up to over the last few months, including moth identification, phase 1 habitat surveying, and searching for invasive marine species and more.

The coming of storm Aileen across Merseyside this week signalled the end of the 2017 ecological calendar for Me, as I sat safe and warm inside the confines of Merseyside Biobank at Court Hey Park, listening to the wind and rain pound the windows outside. This is a challenging time of the year for wildlife, when the invertebrates begin to think about where they are going to hunker down for the Winter, Swallows, Swifts and Martins start to venture back across the English Channel for warmer climes until next Spring and our summer mammal babies become teenagers, keen on venturing out away from their parents exploring new habitat. The season for biological recording is far from over!!!

Soon our local wildlife sites will be full of glorious, colourful and interesting Autumn fungi to record, the leaves will begin to change colour making tree identification easier, a host of Winter waders will arrive on our wetlands from Scandinavia in the east (check out Lunt Meadows for a real treat) and the Mersey Estuary will be teeming with a host of wildlife wonder as birds come together en-masse.

But what about August .. what have The Biodiverse Society team been getting up too lately????

For myself August was all about completing my phase 1 habitat site surveys, finalising my report writing and learning about Lepidoptera... as I became Mark the Mad Moth’er. As part of my personal project into the World of Competent Moth Recording, I attended a Manchester Metropolitan University training day on ‘Moth Ecology and Identification’ alongside our lovely project leader Joanne Moore and Catrin Watkin, who you might remember as one of last year’s Year 2 Merseyside Trainees. I co-hosted two moth trapping recording evenings in August, joining up with members of The Lancashire Moth Group - Ron Moyes & Colin Daly. Together, we recorded 56 interesting macro-moth species for Stadt Moers Park including Ruby Tiger, Dusky Thorn and Twin-spotted Wainscott, the latter a potential first for the area, and certainly for the local wildlife site.  Twelve volunteers turned out for the event, practicing their identification and chatting to the moth experts. Feedback indicated everybody enjoyed the wonderful wildlife on offer as well as the delicious choc-chip muffins I brought along.

August has also been busy for the rest of the Trainees. Jonny could be found on the coast, stretching from near Cumbria all the way down to the Pier Head in Liverpool, as he is actively searching for invasive marine species within our piers and docks. Have you seen anything unusual on the coast lately? I managed to tag along on one such survey and caught myself a Shore Crab (who was extremely cross at me). Paul meanwhile, could be found on much higher elevation and many miles away, surveying Longridge Fell near the Forest of Bowland, leading a work party of 15 hardworking volunteers through tricky blanket bog and heathland terrain. Amelia, ever the sensible professional ecological surveyor amongst us, concentrated on her site surveys, mapping and reports, completing an impressive 5 site visits in the process.

As we approach the end of our Traineeships we are collectively spending a lot of time wrapping up our primary job duties and unable to get out as much, busy proof-checking our reports, adding to our appendices section, sending in our biological records to local record centres and digitising our phase 1 maps using geographical information software (GIS). Time is being spent evaluating our individual personal projects, progressive personal development and planning future ideas that we can implement as a legacy of our project.

As this is my final blog for the project I would like to thank my fellow Trainees Jonny, Amelia and Paul for an unforgettable year working together, as well as Jules, Cheryl and Joanne for their superb teaching, mentoring, patience and non-stop support.

Please continue to send in your wildlife records by tweeting us @Lancswildlife with #WildlifeCounts or by contacting us on Facebook.

You can also join two Facebook groups that will be promoting ways of continuing the Biodiverse Society Project momentum of surveying local wildlife sites, throughout Merseyside and Lancashire.