2017, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

A day at Juniper Hall

By Rowena

The other day I was talking to a friend and they asked me “I’d really like to know what you actually did at work every day”, because I’ve  got interesting new stories every week. Well, as I run the blog (as much as I can, inbetween teaching), I thought I’d write up a standard day at the River Tillingbourne, where I spend most of my time.

A day at the River with a (big) GCSE group

8.45am– Turn up to the tutor’s office for our morning meeting. Check where everyone’s going (100 at the river? Fantastic.) Listen to Jack crack out some amazing jokes and have everyone laugh.

9.00am– Set up classroom with whiteboards, booklets and check equipment. Put morning tunes on the SmartBoard. Check in with other tutors they’re happy with the day & plans.

9.25am– Check school have arrived in the main office. Photocopy nominal roll and check numbers.

9.30am– Meet teachers & group. Try and organise 100 GCSE kids into 4 class groups. They get distracted by the goats fighting. Finally get them sorted with waterproofs and wellies in the cellar.

Image result for wellies in mud

10.00am– Introduction to the river in the classroom, using ArcGIS and whiteboards and booklets. Give out equipment. Students get confused over hydroprops. Give out lots of pencils.

11.00am– Coach to the river. This is either 20 minutes of quiet, or utter raucous noise.

11.20am– Arrive at Crossways Farm. Give safety briefing and walk down road. Students scream at the muddy entrance. Horses sometimes try to escape. Give introduction to fieldwork and set students off.

11.45am– Stop horses from eating hydroprop. Watch student fall in river after attempting to jump across. Pick up 6 hydroprops from where they’ve been left discarded on the ground. Field sketches using SNOTT (Scale, Notes, Orientation, Time/Date, Title).

12.00pm– Coach to Abinger Hammer. Fieldwork first. Stand for 10 minutes watching last group mess around while rest of groups eat lunch.

12.30pm– Eat lunch now last group have finished. Hope nobody is dropping litter. Hope nobody has abandoned equipment in the river.

River

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1.15pm– Fish tape measure out of river. Coach to Gomshall 2.

1.30pm– Fieldwork at Gomshall 2. Students get completely soaked as it’s the last (and deepest) river site.  Find lamprey. Students scream more.

Mist on the river

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2.30pm– Return to Juniper Hall on coach. Students have break. Wrestle with data and printer. Also return waterproofs.

3.00pm– Methods game & methodologies in classroom. Give out more pencils. Students forget how they measured width. Remind them.

4.00pm– Cake break. Enjoy sunshine for 10 minutes.

Image result for cake gif

4.20pm– Teachers announce they want to leave early at 4.30. Quickly wrap up.

4.30pm– Put away equipment in cellar. Send through data to school on Dropbox. Answer emails. Print for tomorrow- another rivers’ day? Great! Perhaps get a cup of tea (finally).

5.45pm– HOMETIME! Perhaps drop by the kitchen for some dinner if it’s something good. Chocolate pudding? Don’t mind if I do…

 

And then we do it all again tomorrow!

 

2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Real Family Holidays

By Rowena

We had Real Family Holidays in on the 7th-10th April, one of my favourite times of year! The activities have been great fun, with some returning families from last year. Sunday morning was wild art around the grounds of Juniper Hall, and there were some excellent creations to be seen.

 

There were lots of inventive uses of natural materials collected from around the grounds. A mixture of stones, green leaves, a few flowers and sticks and twigs.

Gather round to enjoy everyone’s creations

There were all sorts of inspirations- the largest art of the day was a giant spider in it’s web on the Templeton lawn…

2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring on it’s way!

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, with a delightfully warm weekend- barely even coat weather! We’ve been writing up our Spring Index here like last year to calculate when spring is starting. Last year the average index (which is across all the FSC centres) was the 26th April, which was the same as 2015. I think this year it might be earlier though, as we’ve already recorded quite a few early indicators!

Spring Has Sprung – Darcie Rian

We look primarily at 4 indicator species, although we’ve also been recording others as well- and important events such as first lunch outside (11th March), and first time wearing shorts (13th March). The 4 big ones though;

  • Swallow
  • Orange tip butterfly
  • Horse chestnut budding
  • Hawthorn flower

We’ve already recorded our first orange tip last week (27th March), a whole 18 days earlier than last year’s, which was on the 18th April.

Beyond the Human Eye: Orange-tip Butterflies - More Than Just a ...

Train ticket butterfly (Source: Beyond the Human Eye)

Last week brought the first house martin to Crossways Farm as well on the 31st March, an exciting spot by Jack on the coach back from the river. I got my first swallow yesterday on the 3rd April, although up in Hertfordshire, not in our area for the Spring Index, so the competition’s still going for the first spot for us in Surrey.

Barn Swallow in flight - Olympus UK E-System User Group

(Source: E-group.uk.net)

We’re still waiting for our horse chestnut and hawthorn, but no doubt they’ll be on their flowering way soon. The warm weather today rewarded a pair of slow worms under the reptile mats. No mammals, but the bees were flying from the apiary down in the meadow as well, despite the grey clouds.

Slow worm

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Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Invasives Week

By Rowena

This week is invasive species week on Twitter, and I’ve been watching a lot of really interesting stuff come up on my feed all week. It’s been organised by the NNSS (Non-native Species Secretariat) and DEFRA to try and raise awareness of invasive species, and get people involved in recording schemes. Each day has a different theme:

Monday – Welcome to Invasive Species Week!
Tuesday – Biosecurity
Wednesday – Identification and recording
Thursday – Local Action Groups
Friday – Other projects

My favourite resource I’ve found so far this week (although it’s only Tuesday that I’m writing this…) has been the Journal of Ecology’s virtual issue, with over 20 different papers about different invasive species and up-to-date research in the area. I’ve downloaded them to my laptop, but haven’t yet had the time to read them… Soon.

On the NNSS website, there’s loads of free training on biosecurity and identification of non-native species. To be able to tackle invasive species effectively, it’s important to have the distribution and evidence of where species are found- NNSS have developed a set of apps to record different invasive species, and help identify individuals. I’m not familiar with all of them, although Juniper Hall do record a lot of our species on iRecord. We also have a fantastic species list from the University of Cambridge who visit each year, and record literally everything they see. I’m also on a mission to get my Birdtrack back up to date, as I’ve been birding a lot recently but actually have no count of what I’ve been seeing!

Introducing BirdTrack Home | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology

Wednesday is identification and recording day- So a quick list of invasives I’ve seen at our field sites before…

invasives

Himalayan balsam, Signal crayfish, Rhododendron, Ringed parakeet, Harlequin ladybird

I’ve not got time to update this again after today (which is still Wednesday, although I scheduled this for the end of the week) but it’s a cool initiative that seems to be educating a lot of people. I’ve definitely found a lot of interesting stuff I’m planning to read in the future this week!

Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall

BENHS Conference & Saproxylic inverts

By Rowena

At the weekend I travelled over to Oxford to go to the annual BENHS (British Entomological and Natural History Society) AGM. It was, in a few words, pretty great. A day full of lectures about various British insects, including art, history and a tour around the stacks of the Oxford Natural History Museum afterwards to see some of the collections.

Natural history

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One of the best days out I’ve had in ages- and you don’t actually have to be a member to attend the day either, which is great. The next couple of blog posts are going to be about what I learnt that are also pretty relevant to what we do over here at Juniper Hall.

Woodland ecosystems and saproxylic species

Saproxylic species are organisms that live in deadwood. The BENHS talk was focussed on woodlands, so I am going to as well- most of the research on saproxylic species focuses on woodlands. Saproxylic species make up 7% of all British fauna– there are over 800 beetles, 730 flies,  300 hymenoptera (bees, ants and wasps), and 50 moth species present within deadwood. Unfortunately many of these species are threatened by the need for “tidy woodlands“- the removal of deadwood. Over-management of parks and woodland gardens has a lot of fallen deadwood removed, to try and keep an area tidy. Standing deadwood and timber branches are also regularly removed, as it’s thought to be dangerous or a potential haven for diseases and pests.

Types of deadwood (Source: TVC)

At European scale, 11% of saproxylic beetles are threatened. It might be that part of the problem is due to woodland management, where modern harvesting practice does not allow trees to fully mature, cropping them before they can naturally produce deadwood. In areas that have been previously coppiced or pollarded, deadwood invertebrates are likely to persist in tree hollows, although the loss of this traditional woodland management causes saproxylic invertebrate numbers to decrease.

Image result for neglected coppice

Please help me! (Source: Greg Humphries)

So what’s better? To manage a woodland traditionally, using coppicing and pollarding, or to leave woodlands completely alone and prevent “tidying” of woodland, allowing a deadwood environment to emerge on the ground? Certainly it seems that either method is better than modern techniques of harvesting an area for trees, as this causes the total removal of material even before deadwood can form. It has been noticed that coppiced areas can produce special microclimates for deadwood fauna, however if an area is too-well managed, coppice reverts to being of little importance for deadwood conservation.

TM1497 : Lower Wood Nature Reserve - coppiced trees

To coppice, or not to coppice? (Image credit: geograph.org.uk)

Perhaps it’s too difficult to draw a conclusion on the best way to manage woodland for deadwood invertebrates when there’s little currently being researched on a large scale- more important, it seems, is to just try and create deadwood habitats to start off with, and worry about woodland management when our saproxylites are a little bit more stable in the future.

Image result for deadwood invertebrates

A happy home for many invertebrates (Source: Buglife.com)

2016, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Uncategorized

Conference 2016

By Rowena

I’ve not written a blog post for a while, because it’s just been incredibly busy! But I’ve got a little bit of time today. 2016 was a pretty intense year, but finished up by one of the most exciting events of the year- FSC Conference, this year at our very own Juniper Hall.

FSC conference is held every year for staff, to share ideas, meet people from other centres and have a bit of fun to celebrate the end of a successful year. I’ve never been to staff conference before- last year I was teaching!- so it was quite something to see it go from start to finish. First thing to arrive was the tent, and all the decorations had to be put up on monday…

Let there be lights

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The decorations were handmade, those on the trees by our amazing groundskeeper Sarah.

#christmas decorations

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When tuesday afternoon rolled around, suddenly JH was teeming with people as staff from other centres flooded in. We happily met friends from Malham Tarn, Rhyd-y-creuau, Flatford Mill, Slapton… And the activities began!

The main event was day 2, when we all dispersed into groups to visit different places in London and the surrounding area to look at sustainability. One of the FSC’s core values is sustainability, so we wanted to look at companies who were doing this really well and how we could improve. Groups scattered to London Zoo, the Natural History Museum, London Wetland Centre, Marks & Spencer, the Crystal, Bushy Park and Leatherhead Youth Project. I went to Leatherhead Youth Project, as I’ve worked with them before, and we met staff there to discuss their values and how they share them. Their passion to make a difference to young peoples’ lives was inspiring, and we took a lot away to share back with the rest of conference the next day.

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The evening of day 2 we had a barn dance in the tent out on the front lawn- the theme was “dress to impress”, and some of the costumes sure were impressive… and so was the dancing!

Spiral dance

Thursday was a quick morning roundin up our findings and what we wanted to take forward into the new year, then it was suddenly all over as we were waving goodbye to our new friends from all over the country. Till next year!

2016, Biology, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Bioblitz 2016

By Rowena

For half term, we ran our annual Bioblitz to record all the birds, bugs, plants and anything else on Juniper Hall’s grounds. In the weeks leading up, Daniel’s been busy handing out tons of flyers around Dorking and Leatherhead…

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So many leaflets!

Thankfully when the big day came the weather was kind to us! It all kicked off with opening our moth traps, which we had put out the evening before. Unfortunately there were only a few moths inside, as it’s getting to the time when they’re all tucked up and hibernating, but happily a few extras were brought along by the AES to admire as well.

Next we had Lisa and Saoirse open mammal traps in Templeton Woods. There were a couple of successes, with a water shrew, and then some wood mice later on in the ha-ha.

 Drawing quite the crowd

Later on in the lineup we had woodland and meadow invertebrate hunting. We got out the sweep nets, pooters and keys to see what we could find, scooping up grasshoppers, shield bugs, leafhoppers and moths. In the woods we had some fun charming worms too, making them wiggle to the surface to be identified.

The reptile mats didn’t reward any reptiles, but Lisa and a few families did find some hiding mammals and lots of insects- the ants just love colonising underneath the felting we’ve put down in our meadow.

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What’s Lisa found?

While Saoirse manned the ponds, looking for underwater critters, Rowena and Helen made some nettle tea with the kelly kettles, that took a lot longer than it should have…

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Putting on a brew!

Also throughout the day we had arts and crafts in the students’ common room, colouring moths and glittering invertebrates, and local societies joining us in the Templeton Room to promote bats, birds and bugs!

A big thank you to everyone that visited and helped, and to the lovely charities that attended; the Bat Conservation Trust, Surrey Bird Club, the Amateur Entomological Society and others!

We haven’t got final totals for everything we recorded on the day yet, but we’ll be sure to update once we do know what we managed to find.