Post the British Ecological Society Undergraduate Summer School it feels like I haven’t done a great deal, but this will hopefully show what I have actually done! If you follow me on social media you’ve probably seen most of this, but I have condensed it all down for this.

Work

Firstly, I’ve been doing a fair amount of overtime in my ‘day job’ of proof reading transcribed letters for various hospitals. It’s not the most glamorous or well paid job, but I have been so lucky in that it is ridiculously flexible and work from home, and it does pay the bills. It means that provided I am not made redundant any time soon, I can supplement my student loan and still live in my family home, and also means that post university I should be able to undertake a lot more voluntary work/work experience/seasonal work alongside and still be able to manage financially while I continue building my skills portfolio and get the 2-5 years of experience often called for in ecological consultancy job advertisements.

In the week following coming home from Scotland I was definitely suffering from post-holiday blues, in part because it was a holiday for me and who doesn’t get the blues upon returning home, but also because we had done so much in a short space of time that suddenly everything at home seemed quite… mundane. Not one for boredom, I decided to do something about that!

Glow worms!

Secondly, in preparation for an event I was running for Bristol Nature Network, a glow worm walk, I decided I should probably go for a night walk to see if I could actually find some! I’d never seen a glow worm (Lampyris noctiluca, a beetle rather than a worm) before, and I had found the local records for them, so decided to have a bit of reconnaissance. I was really lucky in that, to my immense surprise, I found some within less than one minute of entering my chosen site!

When it came to the date of the event I was quite nervous. I didn’t know if we would find any, because I was very aware of the fact that the walk was timed with the tail end of their breeding season. We were, however, lucky to find two adult females who obligingly glowed for us, and it was an enjoyable walk with some lovely people. Despite the fact that the thought of talking to people in this sort of setting makes me nervous, I found that although I stumbled over my words occasionally it was much easier to talk about something I am interested in and knowlegable about.

Riverfly monitoring

I was introduced to George, who has recently been appointed as Project Officer for Bristol Avon Rivers Trust and has also recently completed riverfly monitoring training. He was interested in getting a site of his own, and I was interested in getting some help with my site. My reasons for this being that it’s more enjoyable with someone else and it’s not easy to take all of the equipment to the site on my own on foot, but mostly because it would be helpful to have that extra support available if I’m ill or otherwise unavailable, so it is good to know that the site will still be monitored. We agreed to meet up to do July’s monitoring together, and it was great to meet him! This month we got an ARMI score of 8, the mean of our site since monitoring began is 8.2, so this is reasonable!

On my way home I found some nice spiders in a wall, so started tickling them out to get a better look. While doing so I was approached by two mothers and their children who were curious about what I was doing. Upon telling them I had fully expected the usual cries of “Ugh! Disgusting!” but I was pleasantly surprised when they were all really interested and asked lots of great questions, one of the mothers explaining that her sister is an ecologist also interested in this sort of thing.

Camera trapping

I popped my camera trap outside one night and found one of this year’s cubs playing in my garden! I’ve been studying this family all year, and have loved every single minute of it!

Since getting my camera trap I have inspired three other people into getting one as well: my partner’s grandmother, who lives on a large plot of rural land just outside Bath and regularly records roe deer, muntjac, rabbits, foxes, pheasant and other birds; an old school friend who has a family of hedgehogs nesting under some tarp in her garden; and a neighbour who has a fox-obsessed toddler. My camera is a relatively inexpensive one and I have had so much fun with it, so I am glad that others are also experiencing this too and I am glad that there is a good quality yet reasonably priced one on the market for curious people, and I love when I get to see their footage too!

Moths!

The Butterfly Conservation University Moth Challenge came to an end and all results have been sent off. It wasn’t a great success this year, as previously discussed, but that’s okay because I will make sure it runs much better next year and I have plans put in place to ensure that! I also went to Feed Bristol on Saturday morning to help Grace go through the contents of the moth trap set up the night before, and though there were no hawk moths, there was an abundance of lovely wasps and some beautiful species of moths, one of which I had never seen before: the gorgeous mother of pearl moth, Patania ruralis. No photograph that I can take would show just how pretty it is, it has really earned the common name as the wings are definitely mother of pearl!

Butterflies

I’ve been participating in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count , sitting in the garden to do so and I’ve seen a surprising amount of butterflies this year compared to others. Maybe this is because I’m actually looking for them? I did find an extremely worn deceased painted lady in Bath though, and saw one fly over the garden last week as well, which was a bit of a treat!

Garden

I haven’t made it up to my allotment in ages – I feel quite bad about that and am wondering whether I should keep it on, but I do still really want to! I have, however, pottered around the garden and planted out a few insect friendly plants and made plans to remove the artificial grass and re-turf this autumn. Yesterday I saw a beautiful wasp that I had never seen before, I originally thought a hornet, but it seemed too small to be one. After a little research, it turns out that this visitor to my butterfly, fly and wasp feeding station was a queen Dolichovespula media (median wasp). She’s gorgeous and I hope to see her and/or her offspring return!

I’ve seen plenty of mated queen ants wandering around, and found lots of damselfly larvae in the pond too. I’ve enjoyed sitting in the sun in the garden listening to a podcast on Spotify, I especially enjoyed the episode on Rotifers!

Learning

Rockpools:
I’ve watched BBC Four’s The Secret Life of Rockpools on iPlayer, especially great after the rockpooling I’ve done over the last year in Devon (in one of the places they filmed) and in Scotland. I will be by the coast in Dorset later this August and hope I get the chance to have a poke around then too! I definitely recommend watching this episode, it was so interesting!

Driving:
I’ve been practicing my driving theory test, as I plan on re-taking that soon (I passed it in January 2017, but it was so long ago that I have to re-take it) and then I will dig in and actually learn to drive. I will need to if I have any hope of getting to surveying sites eventually!

French:
I downloaded Duolingo, and started to re-learn French. I can get by with the basics, but would love to be able to add another language to my CV and it would potentially help in the future. My next step with this, aside from continuing with Duolingo and other resources, is to find someone I can speak French with, because I have some sort of mental block that I can’t get over whereby I just can’t speak it – I feel like my accent butchers the language! It is still early days though, and I’m currently still at the stage where it feels like I am refreshing my GCSE French rather than learning anything new.

Entomology:
I have been studying Bugs 101, a free online course provided by the University of Alberta, surprisingly in-depth and not as ‘basic/beginner’ as I feared it might have been. I wish I had paid the £35 for the option to get a certificate at the end of it now, but it’s really useful nonetheless and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in entomology.

Relaxing

Finally: yes, I have taken the opportunity to try to relax a little before September and the return to university. It has to be said though, I am really looking forward to getting stuck back in again! Reading this post back, however, I haven’t been as idle as I felt I had been!

Published by StudentEcologistBristol

I'm a mature student studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science BSc (Hons) at the University of the West of England.

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