Grappling with icy roads, Trimble training and career fairs in Barrow

Mari-Ann at career fair 2016

I’ve had a busy month in January, working on various projects and have been battling against the elements to try and make some more progress with my bog surveys.

One of my first trips out after returning to work in January was to Foulshaw Moss with Simon, David, Joe and Susie. I tagged along to do a walkover of the site and listen to what they had to say about how the bog was recovering. The management plan is due to be updated and so its progress needs to monitored for this to be done accurately and it was really interesting to hear their perspective and see some of the rarer sphagnum species that are now beginning to reappear there. In some cases sphagnum is even starting to smother the Molinia (purple moor grass) which used to dominate which is fantastic. We saw several snipe, a possible jack snipe and plenty of deer and also had some fantastic views of both barn owl and short-eared owl. I had a very enjoyable day and added a lot of species to my 2016 bird list!

I have been continuing with my peatland surveys of the Black Beck catchment which I’m making slow but steady progress with because of the very wet weather! I’ve had a couple of nice clear days up there though and am still on track to finish collecting the data with time to write up the report. I had a particularly treacherous attempt at surveying when we had all the snow a few weeks ago; there was none until I got up a bit higher on the last leg to the bog and then I realised I was surfing on sheet ice! I got a bit stuck but the great thing about Micras is that they’re small enough to man handle so with a bit of help I managed to pick up the front and turn it around and all was well in the end. It’s quite a long drive up so I decided not to waste it and instead spend the day at Hodbarrow practising my bird ID and had a lovely day birding in the sunshine.

I delivered the first of my Trimble training sessions a couple of weeks ago and, although the Trimble managed to wipe all of its settings before we even got started, it went surprisingly well and everyone seemed very interested and keen to learn about it. The Trimble is really useful because it enables you to collect data very quickly and easily (if it behaves) in the field and then turn it straight into a GIS layer with all the related data in an attribute table as soon as you get back to the office. We currently have two of these and there’s already a bit of competition for them on sunny days so advertising it to the rest of the organisation might not have been that wise! I have the final training session this Friday and hopefully it goes equally as well.

Mari-Ann at career fair 2016

Mari-Ann at career fair 2016

That week I also attended a careers fair at Barrow-in-Furness Sixth Form College with Mari-Ann to talk to students about our marine traineeships and volunteering opportunities. I really enjoyed it and used it as an opportunity to raise awareness of the conservation sector which I think is very poorly advertised in schools. I was disappointed but not shocked to find that not many people knew it was an option open to them and that it is actually reasonably accessible should they wish to pursue it. I agreed to attend another careers fair next month at Furness College as it is an issue I feel quite strongly about and so am keen to raise as much awareness as possible; I think too many young people showing an interest in wildlife are advised to follow an animal management route and are not given the option of nature conservation and I would like to help change that whilst I have the opportunity.

This month I gave another talk, this time to my local natural history group, Craven Conservation Group. I talked about my apprenticeship, volunteering opportunities and Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves and projects and it was very well received. The members were particularly interested to hear about the ospreys at Foulshaw Moss and also about our upland wetland restoration project and the benefits of restoring peatlands. I felt it was an improvement on my last talk and although I was still nervous, my voice was slightly less wobbly so hopefully I continue improving!

I hope your 2016 is off to a flying start, and your bird list (if you have one) is too!


About the Author: Kate Cartmel-Done was Apprentice Conservation Officer with Cumbria Wildlife trust from 2014 to September 2016