Several sunny days, witnessed some drone action and helped with the new marine trainee recruitment process

Sunny day at Thwaites Fell 2016

This month, February, has flown by! I’ve enjoyed several sunny days, witnessed some drone action and helped with the recruitment process for the next six marine trainees.

The surveys at Black Beck are still ongoing but I made much more progress this month with a couple of beautiful sunny days that meant I stayed out much longer and collected much more data. I now only have two more polygons left, and although they are quite big I am aiming to be finished by the end of this month, leaving me with a few months to spend analysing the data and writing up a report. This will be the first time I’ve written a report of this kind and I’m looking forward to getting some experience of it. One day I also came across a flock of golden plover feeding on the fell and it was lovely watching them.

A lot of my work this month has been focused around our marine training programme as our current trainees came to the end of their placements and we began the process of recruiting the next ones. I had been doing a lot of secretive work on their ‘Who Wants to be a Marine Conservation Officer’ presentation for the end of placement celebration event and luckily it went well on the day. I have added ‘powerpoint wizard’ to my CV and have already had to turn down a few offers of work on TV gameshows. I also did a lot of admin preparation for the selection day and made sure all the candidates and assessors would have all the paperwork they needed and again it all went smoothly on the day. It is always interesting for me to attend selection days we hold as I’ve never attended one myself and it’s a great way of learning what will be expected of me if I ever do. All of the candidates were lovely and it was very enjoyable meeting them all. This year we are recruiting four graduate and two non-graduate trainees and I am looking forward to meeting the shortlisted candidates again when they come for interview as it will be my job to show them round South Walney.

Grey seal haul out 2016

Grey seal haul out 2016

Towards the end of the month a few of us went down to South Walney to spend some time with Dave Morris from the RSPB who uses drones a lot in his work. The aim was to establish whether we would find them useful in our work on projects and reserves and whether they could fulfil all the requirements we have. We went out onto the spit to fly the drone over the bird and seal colonies there and see how they reacted. The birds were not disturbed by the drone at all despite the fact it is quite noisy and although the seals were unsure at first they stayed put and seemed to get used to it. The drone took pictures and video and when we got back to the office we counted the number of seals hauled out – 235! This is at least 100 more than our previous maximum count. We conduct the surveys lying down on the shingle so as not to disturb the seals so we’re not sure if it was just a very good day for them or if all our other counts have been way off and our view is restricted from the ground - either way it is great news! It was a very enjoyable day and I got a bit of birding in whilst I was there too. We are currently investigating the possibility of getting a drone.

Outside of work, I have been down to Bangor again to a visit day at the uni. This time I decided to stop off at a reserve nearby which I had heard about, managed by the North Wales Wildlife Trust, Spinnies. I was determined to see my first hawfinch as I knew they had been seen there and although we have plenty in Cumbria I still hadn’t managed to spot one. The reserve was lovely and we saw an abundance of birds as well as the elusive hawfinch! It was great to have woodland habitat so close to the beach so that there were so many different birds to see. It put me in a very good mood and might have been why I accepted my offer on the way home – I will be going to Bangor university in September to study ecology!

This month I’ll be saying goodbye to my teenage years and turning twenty! What are you looking forward to?


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