The first week of the fieldtrip was spent exploring the different habitats, one per day, where we practices different data collection techniques and got familiar with different species and identification. Getting familiar with all the habitats and just spending the days outside and learning about nature and wildlife was so rewarding and interesting! In one way relaxing, and at the same time I got to practice and become confident at working in the field! Also, a lot more time to take photos as well!
Day 1 I spent the day in estuaries learning about the tides and bird life! Estuaries are an interesting habitat that is connected to both the sea, and with rivers and streams with freshwater flowing into it. It is a transition zone between river and maritime environments, and because of that the habitat is a mix of salinities, nutritions, tidal exposure and much more. This creates a wide range of different niches and opportunities for different animals and plants! Down on the eustrary we got to do a bit of digging in the mud to explore what kind of invertebrates and other living things were in there (and that function as a food source for the birds). The rest of the day was spent in a baking hot hide with Sam looking through our binoculars counting birds and documenting the movement and feeding patterns. My least favourite day and an unfortunate start to the whole week, I didn’t enjoy it as I felt like the leader wasn’t terribly approachable and helping, and the fact that I only really could confidently identify Curlew and Oyster catcher made the day feel frustrating and a bit pointless.
Day 2 was spent in the woods at Killarney National Park, and boy what a stunning day it was! The two PhD students showing us around were so nice and enthusiastic it put me in a much better mood than from the day before! I made around 6 pages of notes from that day, cause I just couldn’t stop letting myself write down all the interesting stuff they were telling us! We keyed a few species, learned about the hover flies and their mimicry of the bees and wasps for protection (and got to see several examples in the park), learned about the deer management issues the park was having in relation to their large numbers and overgrazing, saw badger signs several places, saw a non- photosynthesising parasitic plant, and did some data collection on light intensity and cover in two different woodland types – the oak and yew woodland. The Yew woodland in the Park is one of the largest in Europe and quite rare! There are all kinds of Irish tales and history connected to these kind of woods too, which were interesting to hear about!
Day 3 was spent on the Dunes! Another great day, we did a transect survey and noted percentage cover of all the plant species in different dune slacks to see if the biodiversity level varied between each, and also went looking for beetles! Luckily the habitat leader did the dirty work of scraping through cow pats for the search for dung beatles! A relaxing day (we got to sit down a lot for our transect work, yeyy) which ended with the group running down a steep dune! Back at the house we had a go at some calculations for our data collection, and also identifying beetles!
Day 4 was spent on the Moors! A really exhausting day, we climbed a mountain and looked on how the species composition of heather changed with the elevation. Realizing quickly that this climb was the revenge for the summer holiday laziness, I just had to keep going with the motivation that the views at the top would be worth it! Losing any trace of dignity when I arrived second last to the top and sounding like a heavy smoker with asthma, I could confirm. Worth it. Just wow. The view.
Day 5 I was on the shores looking at the marine life and examining limpet distribution from the sea towards the land. A nice relaxing day which went well after a day walking up a mountain, my feet still didn’t get a rest though! Having to step and walk carefully over slippery rocks with wellies on is hard! Also, I have come to realize I am terrified of picking up crabs!