Guest blog by Terry Goldsmith, RSPB NI Senior Fundraising Officer


I joined RSPB NI in July 2014 having had a 34-year career in banking. It may have seemed like quite a leap from there to the fundraising team based at Belvoir Park Forest in Belfast, but it was, in fact, a much more gradual, and perhaps even a pre-determined process.
I spent the first 10 years of my life growing up in an area of terraced housing with no green space. When my family moved to a new house in 1971 to what was then the outer limits of Belfast and on the foothills of Black Mountain, it seemed like worlds apart from what I was used to.
I spent my summers in the surrounding fields and exploring the Belfast Hills. I developed an unconscious love for the outdoors, landscapes and nature. In my teens I took up fishing and loved nothing better than getting out into the countryside to enjoy the calm of a lakeside or riverbank.
It was through contacts I made at that time that introduced me to birding. I was never a natural birdwatcher, but I moved in their circles.


Terry acting as ‘scribe’, capturing demographic details of storm petrels ringed on Inishmurray Island off the coast of County Sligo

We travelled to offshore islands where they birdwatched or set up ringing programmes. I helped out and enjoyed the wild surroundings. In 1989, I was asked to help with a campaign to save the Bog Meadows reserve in Belfast. At that time, it held the last calling corncrake on the east coast of Ireland and had flocks of wintering snipe, lapwings and teals.
In the summer it was alive with calling skylarks, meadow pipits and stonechats. It was quite an oasis for nature - sited in the heart of Belfast. I was hooked.


Terry (fourth from left) having a break while undertaking habitat work at Bog Meadows nature reserve

There had been talk of developing an industrial park on the site or a massive parking facility for commuters travelling into Belfast along the adjoining M1 Motorway. There were many highs and lows along the way but the campaign was successful and the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve is now a feature of the Belfast landscape.
Inevitably as the campaign progressed, I was introduced to other conservation campaigns - the Black Mountain Environmental Group, The Cavehill Conservation Campaign and others. A group of us organised the annual Belfast Hills Walk and formed The Belfast Hills Aspiration Group – a predecessor of today’s Belfast Hills Partnership.


Terry Goldsmith

Given this background and the fact that I had taken on an Open University course in Environmental Policy whilst still working in the bank, it probably was inevitable that I should look to develop a new career in nature conservation when faced with redundancy. For the last six years working for RSPB NI, I have been dealing with government grants, trusts, individual donors and corporate relationships; bringing in new machinery to carry out the delicate work of managing land for wildlife; supporting our reserves and education work and other projects besides. So I have found a vocation where I am able to help deliver my passions.
Saving nature is something I care passionately about and I am proud to have a role that allows me to make a significant contribution.
By far the most satisfaction I experience is when we have been able to raise funds to acquire new lands. Knowing that those areas on Rathlin Island (home to the only corncrakes in Northern Ireland), on Lower Lough Erne or at our reserve on Portmore Lough will be delivering conservation outcomes for wildlife long after I have retired, is immensely satisfying.


A calling corncrake on Rathlin Island. Photo credit: Ronald Surgenor

One thing I always love doing – and something I encourage others to do too – is the Big Garden Birdwatch, so I’m looking forward to taking part again in January. It brings two of my interests together – birdwatching and photography.
A couple of years ago doing the Birdwatch, I had a flock of beautiful goldfinches arrive.
That was a really wonderful moment for me. “Goldies” had been my grandmother’s favourite bird and I had never been able to attract them to my garden before. My persistence in providing a constant source of seeds had paid off.

In January, Northern Ireland companies and their staff can become involved with the Big Garden Birdwatch (January 29, 30 and 31). If you would like the company you work for to receive information on how to get involved with this massive citizen science project, email terry.goldsmith@rspb.org.uk

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