Friday, 13 July 2012

A Day in the Life……

 …..Of an Urban Pollinators Project Fieldworker
Being confined to the Bristol office due to the wind and rain (again!), we’ve had some time to reflect on the overall variety of fieldwork we do in the city on a daily basis compared to the more stereotypical image of an ecological fieldwork day.  Typically ‘fieldwork’ in an ecological context conjures up images of fieldworkers wandering through the countryside, merrily counting bees and sitting in lush pastures counting flowers.  Certainly we did a lot of that last year when we were surveying farms and nature reserves; however, this year is very different…..

A typical day for the Bristol team:

Start the day with a leg-stretch in an urban nature reserve.  These are really varied in Bristol, ranging from small woodland areas interspersed with wildflower meadows, such as Badock’s Wood LNR, to large open spaces with a variety of habitats, like Avon Wildlife Trust’s Stockwood Open Space

We visited Stockwood Open Space one morning last week and had a fabulous time sampling the grasslands for pollinators.  Hidden amongst the grasses was a dense carpet of red clover (Trifolium pratense) which was heaving in bumblebees, butterflies and moths (check out our photo of a burnet moth!) and made a really lovely start to the fieldwork day.
Burnett moth on red clover at Stockwood Open Space

Late morning
A change of scene with a trip to sample back gardens.  A productive hour or so sampling a variety of gardens, and meeting a variety of people (and their pets!).

Gardens are always an interesting places to work in – you meet people who are often really interested in the project and the wildlife they have – so far we’ve heard of grass snakes, frogs, foxes and slow worms being frequent garden visitors as well as the pollinators!

Recording flowers in a back garden
Getting acquainted with the local residents!

Weather dependent but usually a picnic on-site or in the car – often in a supermarket car park if we’re wet and hungry!

After lunch
Now to sample a man-made surface.  These habitats are generally car parks, often in industrial areas, shopping centres and local businesses.  They’re a real change from nature reserves and gardens - rather than mud and people’s pets, we’ve got cars, lorries and vans to negotiate on our pollinator walks.  Unfortunately this does mean donning some ‘bright’ essential safety garments – check out the hi-vis jackets:

Sporting hi-vis safety jackets ready for a car park survey!
Although man-made surfaces are predominantly concreted areas, there are still some surprises to be had.  In a well known DIY store car park we weren’t very optimistic about finding any pollinators whatsoever; however, a well chosen shrub in the middle of the car park proved to be a hit with the local bumblebees and the site proved to be our busiest of the day.

Late afternoon
Time to round the day off with a trip to a churchyard.  Cemeteries and churchyards can be great places for pollinators, with older churchyards in particular, often having wildlife or slightly unkempt areas away from the main public paths, which allow wildflowers to flourish.  Our favourite cemeteries so far are: St Barnabas in Warmley, which is a lovely old churchyard on the edge of the city;  Ridgeway Park in Eastville, a now redundant Bristol City Council cemetery where nature has taken over the site (and we saw lots of tree bumblebees – Bombus hypnorum); and, St Mary’s in Henbury, another lovely old churchyard.

St Mary's Churchyard, Henbury - has a hidden wildlife area!
 Finally - Hometime!
Well, that’s four habitats visited in just one day, ranging from grassy and flower rich habitats to heavily used, mainly concrete urban habitats.  A bit different to the stereotypical view of ecological fieldwork I’m sure you’ll agree, but.....

.....It’s just all in a day’s work for an Urban Pollinators Project fieldworker.

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