Friday, 2 May 2014

March Round Up

Here we are at the end of March, my last day as an I.T. Manager working for Barclays Bank is over and now that i'm home it feels odd knowing that i'm no longer employed and the rest of my life is ahead of me. My transition in becoming part of the world of ecology has taken a positive turn though in that i've managed to secure some bird survey work for a consultancy based in Essex and an update of progress there will hopefully be in April.

So what has been happening in March? Well it is difficult to believe that March has come to an end already. I put my name down to volunteer for the Kent Wildlife Trust and have got involved in helping them monitor for American Mink in the North Kent Marshes. The Trust are placing around 50 mink rafts at various sites in the marshes and I helped to build and locate 5 of them in coldharbour marshes just north of Sittingbourne. The raft is made of recycled plastics and within the tunnel is placed a basket containing a sponge and clay on top. The basket fits into a hole in the plastic allowing it to sit in the water where the sponge absorbs water which then keeps the clay moist. A mink being inquisitive is likely to inspect the tunnel and leave its footprints in the clay.

My first mink raft deployed and god bless all who sail in her! Don't like the colour of that water though, yuk!
 The knot of choice to keep the raft in place is the bowline, a tricky knot to tie.
After a mornings raft deploying I moved onto Elmley, no longer an RSPB reserve but still looking fantastic all the same. I saw at least 6 hares along the track up to the old farmhouse which holds many a good memory for me as I used to help out with the WEBS counts here and quite often sat in the kitchen enjoying a cuppa before heading out for the count.

March was a very dry month with plenty of sunny days which brought out quite a few bumblebees and butterflies. This site near to Darenth was alive with early queen bumblebee species, mainly Bombus terrestris or buff-tailed bumblebee who were actively looking for nest sites in the rough grass habitat which is ideal for them.
Lisa and I also visited Whalefest which is held in Brighton and is the cetacean equivalent of birdfair although much smaller but in years to come could be as big.
This lady, all the way from Canada, was wandering around in a dress of plastic bags to demonstrate the number of plastic bags used by 1 shopper in a year, none of which will bio-degrade.

One of the main themes for this year's Whalefest was cetaceans in captivity and a display of crosses, one for each cetacean that has died in captivity, provided a stark representation of the terrible and unnecessary loss.
 Back to the mink rafts two weeks later to check for footprints and you can just about make out what look like water vole footprints in the clay from this raft. No mink footprints were found which is good but not definite proof that they are not in the area.

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