Glorious sunshine spread like honey out of the weekend and into the second week of my work placement. Manchester Piccadilly had a bright and cheerful atmosphere as I caught my train to Buxton, looking forward to my first bat survey with Penny Anderson Associates.
I helped out sorting and IDing aquatic inverts in the lab in the morning and wandered into Buxton on my lunch. It was hot and everyone seemed tanned and happy. I ate my lunch on The Slopes while listening to a couple of guys play the accordion and the fiddle on a near by roof.
Back at work Helen gave me a crash course on using Analook sound analysis software. There was a short test at the end which I did well on making us both pleased with ourselves for our respective teaching and learning skills.At half 4 I climbed in the back of the car and set off to Liverpool with Helen, Kelly and Paul. The journey there painted a beautiful picture of the Peak District national park which Buxton is situated in. Our hotel was on Albert Dock which shone in the afternoon sun, surely the best skyline in the north west. I had fish and chips for tea. So far I was thoroughly enjoying being an ecologist.
We headed over to the site at 9pm. The sun was reflected off the city’s buildings. We needed to be there and set up before sunset and I felt like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man when he raced home to avoid The Family who came out at night.
Unlike Charlton our aim was to remain outside long after sunset, at our site, a beautiful red brick Victorian building. Once we were all in position, Anabat and Duet detectors crackling away in hand, I was all alone. It reminded me of a game I used to play as a teenager when walking home in the dark, imagining like Dr Neville I was the last man on earth, and feigning surprise to myself the first time I encountered another person.
The sky got darker. A whole society of gulls went about their noisy business, perched on the many walls and towers like sentinels looking out for only they know what. Soon the building turned chocolate brown under the orange street lights and all but a dedicated few gulls cried their way off towards the docks.
No bats. We headed back to the hotel and said our good nights. I set my alarm for 3am. I woke up convinced I’d slept through it but checking my phone in the dark it was only half past 2. I could hear someone snoring in another room. At 3 I got dressed and headed down to meet the others. Hotel night staff asked if I needed anything in the way retail staff are told to engage suspected shoplifters. There was upbeat funky music playing in reception. A couple wearing going out clothes came in holding kebabs as we set off out, back to the site.
The sky was still a kind of blue even is late. It mustn’t get completely dark this time of year. We took up our positions again, around a different building this time, and waited for bats and the dawn. Dawn arrived on time but still no bats. The gulls returned a few at a time. Maybe they’re the reason the bats stay away?
One gull in particular took up a position above where I was stood and mumbled anxiously at me for over an hour. Occasionally I’d hear bird poo splat on the floor near by. I stopped looking up at the gulls reasoning if I was going to get pooed on I’d rather they pooed on my head than my face.
We headed back to the hotel some time after 5am and went back to bed. It was a humid night and I didn’t sleep well but I’d enjoyed myself. This felt like the first proper work I’d done since starting my placement. Playing an active part in a survey for a client. And while there were no bats, the survey was still necessary regardless of the result. On top of that I got to know some the consultancy staff better and we had a laugh as we headed back to Buxton.Paul and I continued our invert work in the lab before heading home early. A Manchester train was pulling away as I entered the station so I sat on the platform and ate my lunch, before cracking on with this blog as a pigeon sat on the announcement board above me preened its self contentedly in the afternoon sun.