Today was all about ecology. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am starting a survey of Greater Horseshoe Bats in West Devon and tonight will be the first night of data collection. To make sure I can interpret the data correctly, I have also completed surveys of the habitat and vegetation immediately around where the detectors have been placed. I am particularly interested in the impact of fine scale habitat features such as wildflowers, hedgerows and animal dung. What this means is a series of transects, some quadrats, a 20m length of fluorescent guy rope and counting cow pats. It’s a glamorous job but someone has to do it. So here you are – this is what field ecology looks like:
Covering six different survey sites across three farms there is a lot of leg work involved. Swimming through waist high grasses, climbing steep fields and lugging the kit across river and valley I definitely did an honest day’s work today! Despite being overcast, it has been close and warm today and if it hadn’t been for all the flies this would have been a nice day for shorts and t-shirts. Of course I can’t be too upset about the flies – after all a fair few of them may end up as bat breakfast – the very reason I am surveying in the first place. Still, I wish they wouldn’t fly in my ear.
Using a 20m (pre-measured) rope as my guide I surveyed regular quadrats within the radius of the detector. If I encountered a hedge I sampled the size, density and diversity at regular intervals. If I encountered dung I made an estimate of the percentage cover of the survey area and if I encountered grazing or fallow land I surveyed the wildflowers.
The bat data collection is done by some very clever detectors, loaned to me by the Devon Wildlife Trust as part of the Devon Bat Project. This work will help us to learn more about these enigmatic little mammals but is just a drop in the ocean compared to the amazing work these people do with farms, local communities and their partners. Meeting with, and speaking to, the land owners has been a wonderful experience and has filled me with hope that in the hands of these custodians our wildlife is valued, respected and protected.
I’m looking forward to getting the detectors back next week to see what we have!
PS – look what was just around the corner of my survey site – I am on the edge of Poldark country here (aka Cornwall).