Friday, 5 December 2014

Ladybird tick at Nettlecombe Court

After my extended trip back from Slapton (via Aylesbeare), the trainee tutors reconvened at Nettlecombe for our last fortnight together. This time we would be sharing the experiences of our three weeks on placement and polishing our new skills. Aside from being great to see everyone again, the time has been frenetic; a mad mix of skills training and outdoor shenanigans.

In the past fortnight I've been shore profiling on pebble beaches, measuring succession in sand dunes, sampling invertebrates in freshwater streams, and looking at grazing impacts on plant diversity. We've made human graphs, redone all our basic stats tests, and simulated energy loss through food-chains using four buckets and a brace of plant pots. We've even had time to get a game of skittles in. It was definitely fun, but I. am. knackered.

By far the most exciting day we had was animal sampling, where we did everything from kick sampling streams to leaf litter sampling. Sampling around Nettlecombe is a prime example of what you can find if you only look, and – happily for me – also provided a new beastie for my ladybird list. The orange ladybird, Halyzia sedecimguttata, below was found on the dead bracken in the sycamore woodland. We managed to find 3 individuals between us; beautiful little amber beetles with 14 to 16 cream spots that clung, camouflaged, to the brown leaves. The orange ladybird is predominantly a tree dweller, feeding on mildew (commonly on sycamores). They’re mainly active between March and October and can be found commonly in old growth woodland in England and Wales, less frequently in Scotland.

Orange Ladybird

Other sightings in the last fortnight include a host of redwing and fieldfares, a green woodpecker, numerous nuthatches, jays, and a wonderful daylight view of one of the resident tawnies. The highlight, however, has to be the six gorgeous little wood mice, caught during our mammal trapping training.

One of six (was quickly weighed and released where found)

On Saturday I’ll be heading back to Nottingham for the Chirstmas holidays (with a manic dash to Holyrood thrown in for good measure). I’m hoping to get out in search of hawfinches again if the weather and timing permits. 

Thanks to fellow trainee Ilo for the photos for this post!