Baker Consultants

The Diary of an Ecology Apprentice: Matthew Embarks Upon His Bioacoustics Quest

From identifying birds, bats and reptiles to making a start on his bioacoustics project, our Ecology Apprentice, Matthew Keough, had one of his busiest months yet in May – despite three bank holidays and a week off. In his latest diary entry, Matthew reveals everything he’s been up to over the last month:

May marked the beginning of my bioacoustics data collection project as part of Carlos’ ecoacoustics team. The first stop was Loughborough, where I gathered soil sound data in a parcel of grazing land (with two curious horses wondering why a strange man in a Hi-Vis jacket was standing in their field and listening to the ground!). Next was Lincolnshire, where we initially went to carry out a reptile survey, but took the opportunity to collect more bioacoustics data whilst we were out on site. This time, I was listening to barley fields and, unfortunately, the soil hydrometer failed as it was trying to convince me that the parched soil had 90% humidity! So, it was time to try another brand of meter and make sure it was up to the task. We are currently recording the sounds in the earth and taking notes on the humidity and overall land-use and management on site, as collecting this data will help us improve our ever-expanding database about soil health. My mission is to collect as many three-minute sounds recordings as I can over the next 12 months so the data can also be used for my dissertation  – the exact title of which is now high up my to-do list!

Also in May, Dave Goddard, Invertebrate Specialist at Baker Consultants, and I travelled down to Poole in Dorset. This was quite a marathon of a trip, but sharing the driving helped to break up the journey at least. We were there to carry out some reptile, breeding bird and bat surveys. As well as being a specialist invertebrate ecologist, Dave is also a bird expert, so I gained lots of valuable experience and knowledge from walking around with him. I also saw my first Jay, Dartford Warbler and Chiff Chaff. On our way back, we completed a reptile survey on another site in Oxfordshire, which I carried out whilst Dave was completing his invertebrate assessment. On my walk around, I saw many birds that I had never seen before, such as Sand Martins and Yellow Hammers, which can be identified by their calls quite easily; once you know what to listen out for.

My birthday week off was spent visiting the Czech Republic. It is a beautiful country with amazing food and some fantastic beer. I stayed in Prague but, went for a day trip to a UNESCO world heritage city, Cesky Krumlov, which is a stunning small city bisected by the Vltava River and dominated by its 13th-century castle. We found a great vegetarian restaurant that had an exclusive location on the river and overlooking the castle, while Swallows darted over the river above people on kayaks. It made for a great break from the survey season – feeling a world away from standing in a field in Oxfordshire looking for reptiles.

 The Baker Consultants team is highly experienced and we are passionate about what we do. If you need advice related to ecology, surveys or conservation, then please get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on