Do monitoring teams hibernate?

What does the team get up to over the winter months?

The majority of our survey work takes place during the spring and summer when the species we’re looking at are most active and easier to find and/or identify – hoverflies, bats, plants, etc. Sadly this doesn’t mean we get to spend the winter tucked up snoozing like the dormice! So what do we get up to during the winter days?

A lot of our time is spent looking at the data collected the previous season. Some, including the dormouse, orchid and butterfly records, are good to go straight away. So we can look at numbers between sites and/or over the years as well as sending species records to the Local Record Centres. Other collected data requires further analysis to get it to this stage. Bat calls recorded in the field need to be identified from sonogram characteristic and breeding bird survey data needs to be collated into territory maps. Our wonderful team of office volunteers are currently busy doing the bulk of this. We’re then busy writing project reports and disseminating information to the reserves teams and activity leaders.

Sonogram of Barbastelle and Common Pipistrelle bat calls

Besides looking at existing data there is also the need to plan the next field season, it always seems to creep up suddenly! Some of our surveys are going to be evolving this year; I’m in talks with activity leaders about taking the bat surveys to new reserves and looking in more detail at the linkages between reserves. These will be building on the old surveys and looking to gather additional information about our Nature Reserves and Living Landscapes. We’re also in discussion with the Reserves Teams to ensure we are monitoring the sites and features that they are most concerned about. We have to be careful not get over-enthusiastic and think up more work than we have time to do!

Before the survey season starts in earnest, some equipment need maintenance and some older kit may need replacing. We’ve walked our dormouse box transects, ensuring the routes are clear and the boxes clean and sound. Old, damaged boxes are being replaced where necessary by new ones, made by our wonderfully productive volunteer carpenters. With the help of the money raised by the winter appeal we’ve bought a couple of new recording bat detectors (which we can sync with GPS units to get accurate locations for the records) and have sent one of our old ones off for repair.

Monitoring and Research conference 2016

Of course this winter we’ve also been busy planning the Monitoring & Research Conference that took place on the 18th February. This involved lining up a wide range of speakers and displays, booking the venue and catering and the of course juggling everything on the day. Not to mention several of us put together talks and displays for the day. A full report on the conference is being written separately so I’d just like to thank everyone who came along and made it such a good day.