unnamedThe more observant among you will have noticed that I haven’t been inundating your inboxes with missives over the last few months. No excuse really, it’s just that when things are so busy, then writing blogs always seems to drop to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. Must do better! Will do better!

It’s been another busy summer for all of us here at Biocensus, with a vast variety of jobs and contracts. Luckily Gavin (the new Operations Director) was quickly up to speed and we were therefore able to keep on top of some particularly sizeable and complex jobs which involved deploying large teams of surveyors in the field. This is fast becoming a specialism of Biocensus.

As a result we are shortly going to be trialling our new sub-contractor database which will simplify and streamline the process of sourcing, quality assuring and contracting free-lance ecologists. Long gone are the days when all this information resided in our heads, which served us well for a while but is frankly a precarious system (highly susceptible to the proverbial bus) that doesn't befit a growing consultancy.

As the company grows and deals with larger contracts and bigger clients so our quality assurance and health and safety processes have had to evolve too. One added advantage to the new subcontractor database will be that the correct checks and balances will be in place to ensure that the right people are being put on the right job together with appropriate risk assessments and method statements to cover the work. Underlying all this (and it is reiterated on a regular basis here in the office) is the acceptance that we can always do things better and that no system is perfect or has ever finished evolving. Feedback from our clients is therefore critical to this process. Although they are fundamentally important to our operations, health and safety and quality assurance are probably not the most exciting topics for a blog so let’s turn to some cool biology...

Priest Island Success
North ScotlandThe annual trip to Priest Island to ring storm petrels has now been and gone, with the main difference this year being the temperature. I regretted the optimistic decision to pack a mankini when the late June temperature plummeted to…..SINGLE FIGURES! Nevertheless, it was another successful trip with 920 birds caught in three nights. We are using ringing as a way of estimating the population size as counting birds that nest underground and fly in to the burrows in the dark precludes any counting method. Priest Island is an SPA and home to one of the largest storm petrel colonies in Scotland. This research has been summarised here

Of course while in Scotland it would have been rude to turn down the opportunity to ring a few other species I don’t normally get to catch. For example, I was instructed to fly up wearing my fieldwork clothes and within 30 mins of landing in Inverness (possibly less) I was at the top of a Scots Pine ringing four kestrel chicks (pictured at the top of this blog). We then also managed to squeeze in a trip to ring wood warblers.
Storm Petrel

Next year I will hopefully be fitting a number of geo locators to individual birds. This project will be funded by Biocensus and represents our ongoing commitment to support conservation research. Currently we know very little about where storm petrels go in the winter and in order to fully understand the pressures on these charismatic little birds and the reasons for their population decline it is essential that we have all the necessary information.

Marathon Running!
12045787_858533487578108_7729599617200188018_oFinally, myself and fellow Biocensus colleague Richard, are intending to run the inaugural Bristol to Bath marathon on 25 October (I blame Rich, and he blames margaritas!). We will be raising money for a hospice charity based in Devon. My Mum passed away in August of this year after fighting cancer for 25 years. Hospiscare are a wonderful charity that did a lot to help my Mum, my Dad and the whole family through a very tough time. I appreciate that we are constantly bombarded for donations these days so please don’t feel obliged but if you’d like to make a small donation you can do so here Take care and enjoy the autumn!


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