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Bees, butterflies and bird’s foot trefoil; Flo’s first day on placement

Flo Taylor

Meet Flo Taylor, our new Dynamic Dunescapes placement student who is working with our North Devon team, and find out about her first day as part of the project.

I have been lucky enough to have secured a fantastic work placement opportunity with Dynamic Dunescapes in North Devon for a month this summer; after a strange and uncertain year, this feels like a huge win! My intention for the summer was to gain experience in the conservation sort of area and to work outside amongst nature. After some initial emails to the National Trust, Beverly Phillips (Dynamic Dunescapes engagement officer for North Devon) got back to me with this brilliant opportunity. It was absolutely perfect. This September, I will be heading to the University of Exeter to study Zoology, so I wanted something that could introduce me to potential career pathways, as well as something that would teach me lots of relevant information for my course. A head start, if you will.

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I am so excited to be simultaneously learning and working among nature, particularly in an area I grew up in. Marine Drive has always been our preferred family beach, so I am eager to learn about the surrounding wildlife and vegetation, as well as get more involved with the local community. Over the month, I will be working with Bev in all areas of Dynamic Dunescapes, but also with the North Devon National Trust team, assisting various practical tasks such as fencing.

However, I have been most looking forward to the bee and butterfly surveys. In fact, my first day was filled with bees! Bee surveys happen only once a month, so I was extremely lucky to be able to go out on two separate surveys on my first day. These involved walking through wildflower meadows and the dunes, searching for bees, and capturing them when we could. We then identified the species and caste, before letting them go again. It was such a simple, but exciting process. To tell the truth, I wasn’t aware of the many different bumblebee species we have on our doorstep, but by the end of the day, I was beginning to distinguish the White-tailed from the Buff-tailed as well as the different castes (with some help from a guide, of course).

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Queen Buff tailed bumblebee – Photo: Bev Phillips

In just one day, I was introduced to several new species of plants and bumblebees. For example, I saw my first Bee Orchid, a fascinating and stunning plant that mimics the female bee in order to attract more males and aid pollination. I also saw plenty of bumblebees feasting on Birds-foot-trefoil, a gorgeous little flower I had never seen before. It’s wonderful the things you notice when you slow down and pay attention!

Apart from the beautiful nature surrounding me on my first day, it was just a pleasure to be working with such a positive and passionate team. They were all as excited as I was to catch a bee, despite doing this every month, and they felt keen to impart their knowledge to me. In a way, this is why I’m here.

Unfortunately due to the current crisis we can’t get out to beaches to see these fabulous plants as they emerge and start to flower. However the decreased footfall on our beaches might mean fewer sea rocket plants are walked on this year - who knows, maybe they’ll have a particularly good year as a result! But we have something to look forward to when lockdown is lifted - when you can next get out and about at the beach, maybe visiting a Dynamic Dunescapes site, take some time to have a look for this fascinating dune plant.