Do you know what? I've completely forgotten what it's like to be fifteen all over again! This week, we've been joined by Ellen and Dylan who are on work experience from school. They have certainly made me feel old! But, they have both been lovely and we have hopefully given them a flavour of what it's like working for a conservation organisation. They are definitely our conservationists of the future!

We asked them if they would write us a brief account on their time at RSPB so far and a trip out to our RSPB nature reserve, Strumpshaw Fen. Here are their accounts.

Ellen Kibble- aged 15

As a work experience student about to spend two weeks at the RSPB office in Norwich, I had a few misconceptions about the organisation’s work. I was also slightly apprehensive at the suggestion that I give up a Saturday -a whole Saturday!- to go and visit one of the RSPB reserves in Norfolk, Strumpshaw Fen.

I have a confession to make: I am not an avid “birder”. I can’t really identify even common birds or plants. But, as soon as I stepped out of the car door and across the railway tracks, into a reception hide, I was made to feel very welcome by the staff and other nature lovers.

I didn’t know what to expect of the meadow walk I had been scheduled to go on, but enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The warden gave us a lot of information about the plants we were surrounded by; some even I could recognise, but many species were rare. The most notable of these were the six species of orchid spattered around the meadow, which several people on the walk had come specifically to see. These included marsh, narrow-leaved, and common spotted. I could appreciate their beauty, even if I couldn’t tell them apart!

Spending the afternoon in the Reception Hide was not as thrilling, but again, I’d been expecting worse! We spent most of the afternoon bird watching, exclaiming over the majestic marsh harriers. As well as common and black-headed gulls and mallards in the pond, we saw a stubborn cormorant. It stood on a post for so long that when it dived off to fish, I nearly had a heart attack! There were also the occasional kingfisher sightings, and though I unfortunately missed it, there was also an otter spotted nearby.

What none of us were expecting, however, was the striking swallowtail butterfly that made an appearance, just as I had lost concentration and begun to doodle in my notebook. We all hung out of the hide windows to watch it disappear into the reeds. That was the highlight of my day, although the delicious hot chocolate in the hide came a close second!

If you are in the area, I would recommend visiting Strumpshaw fen. If you are a “Bird-nerd” or just an amateur enthusiast, there will be something for you to enjoy! If you plan on using the meadow route, like us, bring wellies, though. I am told it is wet there all year round, and not just because of the recent awful weather! (My walking boots were not as waterproof as I had hoped, and I spent the afternoon with slightly soggy socks.)

Dylan West - aged 15

I am just going introduce my self before I start, I am Dylan and I was 15 last Wednesday on the 11 of July.

 As you will hopefully tell, I have a interest in wildlife. So, when I was choosing my work experience, I wanted to choose something to do with helping nature. I chose Thornham Walks and the RSPB because I wanted to get different perspectives on helping wildlife both in the office and actually being outdoors.

My first day was not the typical ‘day in the office’ and I have to admit, initially I was not best pleased at getting up at about 8:00 AM on a Saturday morning!

I arrived a Strumpshaw fen or ‘Strumpy’ (a nickname used by the RSPB) and I was welcomed by Jane Delaney with an RSPB T-shirt and an oversized fleece, which thankfully spent most of the time stuffed in my bag. In the reception hide, I managed to catch a glimpse at some cormorants, marsh harriers and a black-headed gull while I waited for a middle aged man with a big beard named Alastair. Once we met him we started on our walk.

 We started walking through the woodland and managed to hear the call of a chiffchaff. After the woods, the path opened out into a huge marsh. We then walked straight off the path and into the thick of the meadow where Alastair talked about the history of the reserev. The meadows actually used to be a large valley, which was filled-in throughout the years of glaciations with layers of peat and clay.

Then we spent a while in the meadow looking at different species of plant life in the area. I was surprised by the amount of plant life here, including meadow thistle, flowered rush, common read, bottom grass, quaking grass, bent grass, bog bean... and this list goes on for another 30 variations of plant so I am not going to type all of them down! But that was not all we got to see, Alastair managed to capture some inverbrates, which we got nice close up views of like the common blue damsel fly, the large red damselfly, the blue-tailed damselfly. We also examined some frog bit and great water doc which are plants found in the pond. We crossed a bridge and continued up to a small hill on which  Alastair talked a bit more about the history of Strumpshaw Fen until we finally travelled back and sat in the Reception Hide for a few hours entertained by the different birds until we were allowed to go home.

So goodbye and i hope this has inspired you all to take a trip to Strumpshaw fen.