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Monday, 24 November 2014

Looking back to warmer days....

As we head into the cooler months we review the ecological monitoring information that we gathered during the spring and summer of 2014. Monitoring is an important part of the work we do as it allows us to look at the potential affect that our management may have on habitats and wildlife. It also means we can build up a clearer picture of what species use the estate and in what ways so that we can target our management to be as beneficial as possible. Some projects have been well documented on the blog, the Curlew project being one of our focuses for this year, but many other things are counted, measured and recorded.
Female black darter at little Barbrook reservoir.
Some monitoring is carried out annually such as upland and woodland birds, snipe, woodcock, ring ouzel, whinchat, dragonflies, and red deer. While some is carried out every 3-4 years, vegetation recording for example, changes in habitat are slower and working in this way means we have more time to focus on different habitats by studying them on a 3-4 year rotation. During 2012/13 we recorded the upland vegetation; looking at the plant species and the structure of vegetation over the moorland as we battled through Molinia tussocks and traversed ditches.

Flowering hares tail cotton grass
In 2014 we started studying  woodland structure; recording features such as tree species and size, canopy cover, presence of shrubs and deadwood, as well as the ground flora. This time the challenge being head high bracken and midges.
Other specific species may be looked at if they become of increasing importance, Willow tit for example, were added to our monitoring early this spring as the RSPB were keen to learn where they are breeding due to concern about their decline.
We even have data that is recorded every 10mins 24 hours a day, luckily we have some clever gadgets which do this automatically for us! This kit is used to study the hydrology on the mire and uses pressure to record data on flow rates and water levels. We simply have to find the kit on the mire every few months and download the data.

Some of our data feeds into national databases; our bird data is entered into a national RSPB database and so informs the national picture of what is happening to our birds. Other data is used in local landscape partnerships, such as our hay meadow recording, where we pass our data onto the NIA (Nature Improvement Area) a grant which funds different projects in the area, including our hay meadow restoration.
Bee on yellow rattle in Curbar meadow.
Needless to say we could not possibly run such a comprehensive programme of monitoring without our volunteers who put in hours of hard work. Many came to us with fantastic skills such as bird identification, which we have put to good use, while others, new to monitoring, have been trained to enable them to use their new knowledge to contribute to our understanding of the estate. We are also increasing the work we do with groups that have been carrying out their own monitoring in the area before the partnership existed, such as Derbyshire amphibian and reptile group.

It is still too early to draw any conclusions about long term trends between our management and the impact it has on the habitats and wildlife of the estate, but we continue to use all the new information to inform our decisions on what we want to achieve and how we are going to get there.


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