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Weeks 6-7: Surveys & Stumbling

Posted: Monday 20th October 2014 by OliFoulds

Veteran oak tree in Derbyshire Inside a veteran oak! Oli Foulds

A useful skill to work on when you've just started going along on surveys is the ability to walk through difficult terrain while writing actual, real, legible words on paper.

 

What I did:

• visited three planning sites
• went on four vegetation surveys
• assisted with a hedgerow survey
• assisted with a veteran tree survey

 

I’m getting plenty of experience of surveying so I’d better explain what it is we do on surveys! The conservation team is responsible for keeping up to date ecological information on Local Wildlife Sites (LWS), which are the most important wildlife sites in the county outside of the Peak District National Park that don’t have a statutory designation like SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest). The Wildlife Site Officers must repeatedly assess the wildlife value of each LWS to determine if the sites are keeping their wildlife value as the years go by. They must also assess the nature conservation interest of new sites to determine if they should become LWS as well. In order to do this the surveyor has to walk around the site making a list of all the plant species that are present and note down how abundant they are. Many of these species are likely to be commonly found all over the place but some species are given more value due to their national or local importance. These more important species are known as indicator species and if the surveyor finds enough of them at the site then it can be considered for LWS designation.

The bulk of the survey work I’ve been doing has been following surveyors around local wildlife sites, frantically writing down every plant word I hear them say. Studying zoology meant that I actively avoided learning anything about plants despite being repeatedly told how they are a very large and important part of every ecosystem. Now that I’m actually out here doing the work it turns out they are a very large and important part of every ecosystem. Learning to ID plants is a long and repetitive process and so the earlier you start the better. I’ve got a lot of learning to do…

A useful skill to work on when you’ve just started going along on surveys is the ability to walk through difficult terrain while writing actual, real, legible words on paper. I’m finding that the more easily I walk round a site, the more useless and scrawled my notes are. My advice is focus on the paper, take the slips and trips and be prepared occasionally to have to jog to catch up because at this stage everything you write down will help you later on! Once autumn gets here the plants won’t look like they do in the book so it’s worth really getting to grips with the common species while they are in flower. Then as a reward you can start learning the Latin…
 

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