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Weeks 14-15: Headache & Hawkweed

Posted: Tuesday 16th December 2014 by OliFoulds

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust surveys 82 species and they’re aaaaaaaaall green, Oli Foulds

I’m onto the serious stuff now!

What I did:

  • Assisted with two PSYM pond surveys
  • Began putting together a management plan
  • Contacted landowners and arranged surveys of Local Wildlife Sites in South Derbyshire
  • Helped at an “All About Trees” family event in Dronfield
  • Visited a farm with a Wildlife Site Officer to look at flooding problems and assess wildlife value
  • Surveyed a section of the Archaeological Way to make a species list for the Limestone Journeys project
  • Helped at a family event in Carsington
  • Carried out my first solo Local Wildlife Site survey!

This was an action-packed few days. I mean it’s not exactly been a dillydally so far but this has taken a step up! Plenty of conservation work and people engagement meant I was getting some really good experience in different areas. A lot of my office time was spent trying to find contact details for landowners of Local Wildlife Sites and contacting them to ask for permission to survey their land. In the end I was able to get survey permission for four sites so it has been left to me to survey these sites myself and produce survey reports to send to the landowners. I’m onto the serious stuff now!

I went on my first solo survey of one of these sites and was faced with the slightly daunting prospect of having to list every single plant species I saw without being able to just point and ask (my old trusted method). This time I only had my ID book to ask and he didn’t give answers very quickly. This site had a fairly small area of grassland and a larger area of woodland and I needed to get through the whole lot in six hours. Not a problem!

After half an hour I sensed a fairly major problem. I had moved about twenty slow, leaf-staring, page-flipping metres. I needed to survey another 480 metres, which at that rate would take me another twelve hours. I didn’t bother with the maths at the time as it was pretty clear to me that faster was going to be better. I couldn’t afford another 15 minutes staring at a hawkweed (there are over 260 hawkweed microspecies in the British Isles and their sole purpose is to confuse surveyors). Luckily, everything started to speed up after this. The pace quickened as I found more species I’d already seen and fewer species that needed identifying.

I reached the end with barely any time to spare and my brain literally hurt from non-stop identification. The final list added up to 82 species including 9 I couldn’t identify and had to photograph to get help with back in the office. That’s a result I’m happy with and it bodes well for the next surveys. Hopefully those sites will be smaller and completely hawkweed-free.


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