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April's Diary - Training our newest recruits

By Taylor Wildlife, Apr 30 2018 10:00AM

The Scottish Highlands has mighty lungs. Windswept though it may be when her gusts lash across the heather hills and whip over bending burns, her force and the rough conditions she creates are finite. As her breath becomes feeble and the winds die down, the landscape comes alive.



People and wildlife share this imposing land. They mingle daily and no more is this true than here at Taylor Wildlfe. It's April, and the start of another field season! Besides discovering whether out walking boots have what it takes to survive four months of surveys, we also need to train the 2018 recruits; equipping them with the expertise they need to safely and efficiently work in remote locations.



Splitting into two groups for some basic navigation exercises
Splitting into two groups for some basic navigation exercises

Before starting with Taylor Wildlife, many of our Field Assistants are familiar with map and compass navigation. This is a solid foundation for carrying out the upland wildlife surveys which are undertaken during the field season. As this is such a vital skill, Taylor Wildlife spends time ensuring all surveyors are comfortable with this knowledge before incorporating the use of a GPS over the duration of our training week in Angus.



Field Assistants take turns leading the group.
Field Assistants take turns leading the group.

With support from seasoned staff, the Field Assistant's confidence and ability blossoms day by day and mile by mile, like the cherry trees dotting the landscape. It's immensely rewarding to see our new recruits trusting their own judgement to navigate and manouevre across tussocky grass, through sphagnum rich bogs and over lichen covered boulders when experienced staff gradually drop into the background.



New recruits learn to use natural and man-made features to aid navigation
New recruits learn to use natural and man-made features to aid navigation

Training our Field Assistants' to this capable stage is of great importance. To carry out ornithological surveys on Highland estates, we use a survey methodology called Brown and Shepherd. This technique is meticulously precise, so effectively combining map, compass and GPS navigation is crucial to follow it's specifications.


Once this technique is mastered, there's a real beauty which comes with applying Brown and Shepherd. Over time, our Field Assistants' will come to know the striking and endearing features that make each of their survey patches unique; forming a bond with the land with few other people will learn.



A typically scenic view from one of our upland sites
A typically scenic view from one of our upland sites




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