PARTRIDGE fieldwork - a reflection of the last 6 years

21 March 2023 - Published by Francis Buner
Last week marked my final partridge playback survey for the PARTRIDGE project. Starting as a fresh-faced research assistant in February 2017, I would not have believed how much one person would be able to do in 6 years. Here’s some rough estimates: • 84 hare surveys • 102 playback surveys • 145 bird surveys That’s a lot of surveys!

Doing fieldwork in Scotland can be tough sometimes.  For the first 2 years, I was on my own and relied heavily on the help of volunteers.  This was made even more challenging by the ever-changing Scottish weather, and so suitable windows became even smaller.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to run round on my own for long and we recruited my first placement students in 2019.  However, then the pandemic took hold which meant fieldwork was curtailed in 2020/21.  Great.


Fieldwork can be challenging at times but it’s important to make the most of it 😊. 
(photo by 
Liz Fitzpatrick)

Despite these challenges I have loved working on this project.  You get used to people looking at you strange when you tell them you’re getting up at 3am to do a bird survey.  You get even stranger looks when you tell them you love doing it.

The exception to these looks is my fellow project partners, many of whom gladly share messages with each other on our project WhatsApp group at 5am.  Knowing that you are part of a community, even if you are 100s of miles apart, is not only comforting but incredibly motivating.  Not only is everyone here for the same reason, but you know they’re putting in as much work as you are.  How many projects can say that?  It’s incredibly inspiring working with people like this and I will miss working with them when the project ends.

The only reason I have managed to complete most of the surveys I have is due to the people that have helped me and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them.  This involved giving up their evenings (and in some cases weekends) to help me do the work on the ground.  Since the project started in 2017, I have had the opportunity to meet many volunteers and been fortunate enough to have a number of colleagues come out and help me as well.

However, the bulk of the thanks must go to my various placement students over the years.  Without these guys I would not have been able to get half the number of hare and playback surveys done, but they also made it so much more enjoyable.  It’s incredibly rewarding seeing how they grow during their placement year with me and great to see how enthusiastic they are.


The Scottish placement students: Hannah, Markos and Molly (not pictured) (2019/20), Liz and Tamara (2020/21), Tanith and Holly (2021/22) and Rebecca and Rhiannon (2022/23)
(photo by Fiona Torrance, GWCT)

So fieldwork is finished, the data is entered and the equipment has been put away.  However, there is still a lot of work to do!  During the next 3 months, communication will be key to determine how successful our project will be.  Yes we might have created 10 demonstration sites, formed a group of like-minded individuals who support each other and even influenced agri-environment schemes in most partner countries, but we’re looking for more!  In order to achieve greater awareness, further influence of policy and essentially more farmland wildlife, we will be working hard to communicate what we have learned and reflect on our outcomes.  This will be achieved through increased outputs on social media, reports and with our project conference in Brussels at the end of May.

Written by Fiona Torrance, demonstration site manager for the PARTRIDGE project in Scotland.  Based on a tweet that can be viewed here.