At the end of January we said goodbye and good luck to Assistant Warden Becky. Before she headed off to start a new adventure on Orkney, we asked her to write down a few of her favourite moments from the past 4 years. This is what she had to say.
Hi, my name is Becky Austin, I’ve been the assistant warden at RSPB Loch Lomond for 3 years 9months and 3 days. Sadly, and excitingly, today is my last day before I move to Orkney as assistant warden, making this my first and last blog. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my favourite stories and experiences of the FLART reserves. I hope you enjoy them and get to visit us and create some stories of your own.
This is a picture from one of my first spectacular experiences at RSPB Loch Lomond. I arrived here for the first time in April 2014, which coincided beautifully with the end of the osprey’s migration, from wintering grounds in Africa, to its breeding grounds in the UK. It’s a long journey and returning birds are usually keen to feed up before their focus switches to finding a mate and raising chicks. The bird in the photo was intent on catching a fish and I watched for twenty minutes as it patrolled the skies above the water, constantly looking down for signs of life below the surface. At one point it continued out beyond the edge of the water and hovered directly over me. It was fantastic to have such a great view of this wonderful and iconic bird. It continued its hunt above the water, regularly staring straight down in to the depths and hovering to focus in areas. It was so intent on catching a fish that it didn’t notice the line of trees which it promptly flew in to. I had never imagined that this powerful, breath-taking bird could be reduced to such a clumsy tangle of wings, but that is exactly what happened as it extracted itself from the finger like branches of the nearest tree. What a great start to my time at RSPB Loch Lomond.
My next story comes from further up the loch at our Inversnaid reserve. Myself, the warden Fraser, and the Inner Forth reserve assistant at the time, Alan Dorman, were all walking different transects as part of an annual survey. We were using radios to stay in contact, but they were intermittent, due to the nature of the reserve. Made up of rolling hills, craggy peaks and fantastic woodland Inversnaid is a gorgeous place to be and this will be a day I will never forget. I was walking a beautiful area of the reserve, to the west, were stunning view across the north of Loch Lomond and to the east was the imposing summit of Beinn a’ Choin. The weather was beautiful and as I skirted the bottom of a hillock my eyes were drawn upwards to two fantastic golden eagles, circling less than 40m up. They seemed completely unfazed by me, wheeling about and slowly rising up on a thermal. At this point the radio crackled to life and I heard Alan’s voice asking for my location. Without taking my eyes off the birds for a moment I spoke in to the radio asking Alan if he could see the eagles to the west of him. He replied very excitedly that he could, to which I replied, ‘that’s my location, underneath them’. I’ll probably never use a golden eagle to pin point my location again, but I don’t need to, because I know I’ll never forget doing it the first time.
Last but not least we move to the Inner Forth reserves, where I have assisted the warden Ally with a variety of tasks on several of the reserves she manages. It’s always a great day with tea and biscuits provided even in the most remote locations. It’s been wonderful to work within such a close team not just for me but for the volunteers as well. It means we get to work in different habitats, for different species and with a wider range of people. There are two days which have always stuck in my mind. One, where the volunteer’s enthusiasm was measurable in flames, a first for us all. The second one was while we were removing an area of birch woodland, next to a wetland site, to enhance the area for many breeding and roosting birds. On this particular day I was quite happily chainsawing away when the happiest bug I have ever seen landed on my arm. Other than being a little startled I fell in love with its ridiculous bobble head and lime green colour, a birch sawfly larvae as it turned out.
By far the best memory I will take to Orkney is my time working as part of this wonderful team. I have loved every moment and worked and volunteered with some of the most dedicated and enthusiastic people I’ll ever meet. Thank you to each and every one and keep up the hard work. I can’t wait to be back as a visitor and see all the fantastic things you’ve been up to.
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