Assistant Ranger, Western Downs, South Downs National Park
8:00 - Surveying 1km squares as part of the South Downs Farmland Bird Initiative. These help to track the population trends of important farmland birds like yellowhammer and skylark and are best done before 9am. (see yellowhammer image)
9:30 - Practical conservation tasks involve cutting back Hawthorn and Blackthorn on chalk grassland and coppicing woodland to open up clearings for wildlife.
We lead volunteer tasks 3 days a week – we might be working on the South Downs Way improving accessibility, constructing Barn Owl boxes, planting cowslip plug plants (an important plant for the nationally declining Duke of Burgundy butterfly) or removing the invasive non-native Himalayan Balsam.
14:00 - Clearing nettles at a local chalk grassland site, so we’ll carry out a butterfly survey too. The results go to Butterfly Conservation, but any data also helps us and the landowner gauge the recovery of this threatened habitat.
15:30 - Back to the yard with our volunteers where we unload and carry out tool and vehicle maintenance.
16:30 - A good time to catch up on emails and start planning for tomorrow when we’re attending an event with the Country Trust. We’ll be engaging with school children of all ages, teaching them about the National Park and the ecology of barn owls and water voles.
17:00 - Time to check one of our South Downs geocaches on the way home – it’s been reported missing but after a short hunt we’ve found it nearby and hidden it again, ready for the next intrepid explorer to find!