2019 Diary of a Field Assistant - May
By Taylor Wildlife, May 30 2019 02:00PM
It's May. Rucksack packed? Check! Midge repellent? Check!
The time has come to start a new adventure in the wild glens of Scotland.
The landscape is breathtaking, and at times brutal. Getting to grips with survey techniques and navigation training with the guidance of experienced team leaders, everything starts to fall into place.
Walking out to your first survey area, a sense of excitement, determination and anticipation fills you with each step. You can get these surveys done!!
You've arrived at your start point (you hope!). Plotting your GPS coordinates; notebook and maps at the ready, you wonder what you will see today.
Manoevering through upland habitats proves a challenge; tussocks, heather and sphagnum moss bogs can be, in all honesty, a pain. But without them, there wouldn't be the fantastic array of species for you to find.
The first time you see or hear something new to you, or even something familiar that you love in such a beautiful place (for me seeing buzzards soaring high above, calling wistfully) is inspiring.
A couple of weeks in and (Scottish weather permitting) several surveys under your belt, the landscape seems more familiar and you will feel confident navigating through the vast moorland (although you will always be childishly happy when your survey route happens to take you along a path).
Gaining experience as you go along, you quickly learn the best (and worst!) places to put your feet when out on difficult ground. Your fitness levels quickly improve and your knowledge of the species and ecology around you increases. Undoubtedly, you will also discover muscles you didn't know you had, as well as a genuine and heartfelt appreciation for blister plasters!
Falling over is, i'm afraid, inevitable, and in hindsight can be comedy gold! At least there's no chance of you appearing on an episode of 'You've been framed', after all only a couple of bemused grouse and perhaps an observant eagle spotted you - but did you spot them? Quick! Where's my pencil?!"