Firstly I will introduce myself. My name is Laura Quinlan and I am 1 of 3 Natural Future Trainees taking part in the Natural Futures Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. I come from a town called Wellington in Somerset (just beyond the Blackdown Hills AONB) and I have enjoyed nature and conservation volunteering since my teenage years.
Myself and the other trainees have been up to all sorts since the start of the training programme. We have been on botanical surveys to Quants and Ruggin, finding Duke of Burgundy’s in the process. I’m ticking that butterfly off my list of must see wildlife!
We have also been out to Blackdown Common to trap and identify newts. In fact, there were so many newts we had to remove the traps after half an hour so we wouldn’t cause a newt massacre. Eek!
Some of the fauna and flora we have seen include Albino Bush Vetch, an Albino Early Purple Orchid, Duke of Burgundy’s, Great Crested Newts, Dingy Skippers, Wood Anemones, Speedwells and much, more!
My favourite plant so far has been the Quaking-grass (Briza media) we found at Young Wood. In the next month we have loads of newt surveys coming up and hopefully I will get to see my first dormouse up close. Fingers crossed!
The first month has flown by! There have been many highlights and everyday had brought us new plants, butterflies and habitats, with hopefully many more to come over the next few months.
I am relatively new to the area and have moved from Lincolnshire which has quite a different landscape, it still amazes me when I turn a corner and see some of the incredible views out over the hills, it is easy to see why the Blackdown Hills are an AONB and as home to many rare species is more than deserving of protection.
I applied to join the project as a trainee because after completing a Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation I ended up working in the recruitment industry for three years and am looking to get back on track for a career in ecology.
Some of the highlights of the first month, for me, include; watching a Duke of Burgundy at Quants, seeing a pond swarming with Great Crested newts, nearly stumbling over a Roe deer kid and realising I can actually identify some plants!!! Over the next few months there will be a lot more to learn, in June I am particularly looking forward to Dormice surveys and the grasses/sedges workshop.
I have chosen this as my favourite photo from the first month for two reasons; firstly I had never seen a white bluebell before and secondly it highlights how much variation there can be between plants of the same species!
I was really excited to be chosen as one of the trainees for the Blackdown Hills Natural Futures programme. Having just graduated from University where I studied Animal Biology and Conservation I was thrilled to be given this opportunity; especially as I live locally and have always been passionate for Devon and Somerset wildlife.
Since we began the programme in May, my interest and love for ecology and conservation has continued to be strengthened and has given me confidence in my ambition to pursue a career within this sector. I cannot believe how much I have learnt already in such a short amount of time and I feel that my eyes have been opened to the unique habitats that exist right on our doorstep. Having already achieved my Great Crested Newt licence, I was eager to survey and explore the Blackdown newt population. The highlight of my first month was surveying Blackdown Common where we found an astounding population of Great Crested newts.
I am really looking forward to working with the team in the following months, where we will continue to survey the Blackdowns AONB.