Are you nature-ally smart? - Bridgwater & Taunton College

Once upon a time our connection with nature ran deep and was essential for survival. Sadly, this is no longer the case for many. As technology advanced, our dependence on numerous natural resources decreased, thus removing us from the environment to the point where many are ignorant of their own surroundings.

The summer months are an opportune time to explore natural wonders and discover the diversity of British wildlife. There are several locations across Somerset where you can see what the countryside has to offer even when the sun isn’t out! From the calm beauty of Ham Wall nature reserve to the dramatic 450ft cliffs of Cheddar Gorge.

As the deterioration of the environment becomes a bigger issue and public awareness increases, it is slowly becoming more common to see people outside with binoculars or cameras in a bid to try and capture snippets of nature for themselves. It is often the case that many do not venture outside because they do not know what is out there, however as we enter July and August all sorts of wildlife can be found that could be of interest to anyone.

Swans currently occupy the lakes and ponds raising their cygnets (baby swans) which look like fluffy silver balls with black beaks. If you venture to Shapwick you may see Hobbies. These small falcons are famous for their exquisite plumage and their fast speeds in flight. If you’re lucky you may see the hobbies hunt for dragonflies by sweeping low over the water and landing high in the trees to feed upon their prey.

If birds do not interest you and the sun happens to be out, venture onto the vast grasslands of the Somerset Levels for a glimpse of the Large Blue Butterfly, Red Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary and the Orange-tip butterfly. Electric blue coloured damsel flies can be seen dancing just above the tall grass to the song of grasshoppers and crickets. It is also possible to catch sight of one of the British snake or lizard species that may be basking in the summer sun.

The sun, however, does not need to be out in order to discover new and interesting wildlife. For the brave that dare to venture into the night, bats can be found flying though the woodlands or around wetlands, hunting for insects. These nocturnal animals are one of the most unique creatures in the world as they are the only mammals that can fly and, more impressively, navigate using echolocation.

The bats found in the UK are generally small. They are known as micro bats, being no bigger than a mouse with the common pipistrelle bat weighing, less than a pound coin, at only 4 grams! We are lucky in the south west to have 16 species of bat, 15 of which can be found in Somerset alone.

If any of these animals interest you, talk to a local wildlife group and get involved! Discover bats and grasshoppers in your area by investing in a heterodyne or frequency division meter and listen to them hunt and call. Connecting with nature is a hugely rewarding activity and the benefits are immeasurable, not only for the environment but for your own health and wellbeing.

For our apprentices at Bridgwater College discovering nature was not enough, they have continued to build knowledge and base their careers around researching wildlife and the conservation of habitats. One student has been working on the conservation of water voles, which have been considerably endangered after the mass release of the mink.

Others have been recording the calls of bats and analysing the differences between species and behaviours. With increasing amounts of employers looking to take on Apprenticeships there has never been a better time to explore a career in the environment conservation sector. Do not be put off by thinking Apprenticeships are for the younger generation for we have adults starting, eager to embrace a new career in environmental conservation.

If you would like to know more about studying an Apprenticeship in Environmental Conservation or Countryside and Environment, or in any of the other land-based industries, please contact our Information and Guidance team on 01278 441234.

Written by Jack Rawlings, Trainer Assessor for Land Management at Bridgwater College.

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