Planning ahead...

Usually at this time of year we’d be contacting all our Ecology Group volunteers with details of what surveys are running this year that you can get involved with. Sadly the current Covid-19 situation has meant that plans have been put on pause, but not forgotten.

Whilst many are finding themselves with enforced leisure time we are beavering away behind the scenes trying to work out new ways to run surveys when the restrictions relax a little and allow us outside for something other than exercise.

This includes pushing team survey dates later in the summer where possible but also looking at opportunities for surveyors to go out alone (or with a member of their household). As yet nothing is confirmed as it all depends on the progress of the covid-19 outbreak and how/when the government advice changes. We thought that you might like to hear some of the things we are working on though….

Chalk butterfly surveys (Totternhoe Nature Reserve, south Beds) – these surveys have always been self-led as they are so weather dependant. Hopefully we’ll be allowed out by the time they start flying….

Rare Species Guardians (North Chilterns Chalk, south Beds) – a new project looking for a few key rare plant species that are found on calcareous grassland and monitoring their populations. Work may be done singular or in small teams – our Man and Musk Orchid surveys fall under this and we will be surveying them this year if possible. Other species and sites will also need to be surveyed though.  (If you are interested in taking part besides the Ecology Group Man and Musk surveys please contact conservation officer Elizabeth Dobbie)

Heathland Management (Cooper’s Hill, Beds): The annual survey of the Rugby Club grassland is cancelled, but hopefully the management plots will be surveyed as usual in late July/early August.

HoverWatch (Old Sulehay, north Northants): The May survey is cancelled, as yet too early to say if the July survey will go ahead…

Bat pathfinder hedgerow surveys (Rockingham Forest, Northants): I’m hoping to get some static bat detectors out on some of the hedgerows to collect data when regulations allow this.

Bat transects (Various reserves across three counties): If possible, these will go ahead from July as normal. If group worm is still off the table, we are considering a scheme to lend equipment to some of our regular bat surveyors to conduct their own surveys. Although due to these taking place at night lone working is not recommended so my plan is to take my husband out with me!

Breeding Bird surveys (Various reserves across three counties): Unfortunately, current restrictions fall over the first half of the survey season, even if restriction relax data would be compromised. We are currently busy digitising and analysing data previously collected so we’ll use this break to catch up. Please just enjoy the bird song and where possible record species seen through #WidlifeFromHome & local recording schemes.

Aquatic Invertebrates (Various reserves across three counties): Again, as these are largely conducted by individuals once restrictions allow it these may continue, provided our working by water safety protocols are followed.

Dormouse dispersal (Various across three counties): If possible, the box checks will go ahead from July as normal. I am co-ordinating with licence holders to see if it’s possible to do some independent checks in May/June (as it is illegal to disturb a dormouse without a licence this has to be for licence holders only).

Dormouse footprint tunnel surveys (Various across three counties):  These will be postponed until it is safe for us to put the tunnels up and check them, fingers crossed that will be this summer.

Please note present government guidelines prevent ANY of our surveys going ahead, should these regulations continue all summer we may have to postpone all surveys for this year… but hopefully it won’t come to that. We will be in touch through the Ecology Group email list to let you know if/when any surveying can resume.

Government advice has been changing rapidly so please always follow that first and foremost. Even when regulations relax and allow some surveying to go ahead please do not feel obliged to join in, your health and that of your family are top priority.

Stay safe everyone.

Photos taken by various