Sunday, 19 June 2016

The surveying season

I love this time of year - lots of opportunities to get out and about at work. Or at least, there would be if I hadn't moved into management! That's why this week's foray onto Old Winchester Hill NNR was even more valuable.

I'd managed to join a party of Natural England staff and volunteers from across the country, taking part in extremely detailed floristic surveys on this chalk downland NNR in the South Downs National Park, east of Winchester. The usual way of surveying for floristic diversity is through a 'quadrat' - just a square of usually bamboo canes, where you identify all species and estimate the percentage cover in the square. On this survey - part of the long-term monitoring network of sites across the country, with the same quadrats surveyed periodically to pick up changes resulting from management of climate change - the quadrat was 2m square and comprised 25 individual cells, each needing all mosses, grasses and herbs identifying. They usually take hours to complete, especially on such a diverse site as Old Winchester Hill.

The views on the steep slopes, across to the Iron Age hillfort and the sweeping vistas of the South Downs were stunning, and on the day I was up there, we even dodged the showers (and the ticks - ugh!).

It has certainly been a changeable week weather-wise, with last weekend seeing the break in the weather. On the Sunday,Ii managed a quick potter around Testwood Lakes nature reserve with a friend. It's a series of lakes owned by Southern Water, but turned over to wildlife and managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. The lakes themselves aren't especially wildlife-friendly, but the ones not used for boating/watersports do have a variety of waterfowl in the winter months, and the meadows and wet woodland surrounding them are great for invertebrates and wildflowers.

I'm off work this week on a 'staycation' (!) so hope to get out and see all my favourite local sites - really hoping for some dry weather.

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