Our new residential volunteer Diego tells us why he decided to come to spend 6 months volunteering with us at Loch Lomond and what his favourite few moments have been so far.
Hi! I’m Diego Fraile, one of the new long term volunteers for RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond. Before anything, I would like to point out this is the very first post I’ve done, as until a few months ago I’d never considered having anything really interesting to talk about. But now I feel with this experience I started just three weeks ago, I do.
When I considered a future career on a nature reserve, RSPB was the first organisation recommended to me. After getting information about the great job this organisation is doing all round the UK and abroad, I decided to have a try at one of its reserves in order to know first-hand what working for nature means, increase my wildlife knowledge and have fun with it all.My decision to apply for Loch Lomond was a bit more complicated. RSPB is everywhere, with lots of very interesting spots in terms of diversity of wildlife and habitats. I only knew I wanted to get into a completely different environment than I was used to (I come from Salamanca, Spain) and Loch Lomond with its wetlands, woodlands, meadows and water, was the winner.
Typical view of a “Dehesa”, traditional landscape surrounding my home town (Salamanca, Spain). For a more accurate view, try to imagine it with bulls all around! (Photo by J. Romero)
View of the loch from Net Bay, one of the RSPB Loch Lomond viewpoints.
So for my first few weeks, I have been involved in different tasks to improve my knowledge of the history of the reserve, its different habitats and their species, how to move around it (and how not to get lost!) and of course, meeting and learning from all the people that make this happen, both staff and volunteers.
Loch Lomond is one of the newest RSPB nature reserves (6 years), with some of its facilities only a few months old. But not everything is new here. There is a lot of heritage here both natural and cultural so I have a lot to learn. Luckily we are supported by a group of volunteers with a lot of experience, some of them had been volunteering in the area years and all of them show a great knowledge of the region, a huge interest in wildlife and nature conservation and passion like no other.
I started just three weeks ago and I already have quite a few moments I will remember forever and below are a couple of them:
One of my first days off, I felt like going for a long walk. I had heard from some volunteers about a popular hill near the reserve called Duncryne, but locally known as The Dumpling because of its shape. Without asking how to get there, I headed directly to the front side of the hill. After cutting across the countryside for a while, surrounded at every moment by cattle and mud I reached the bottom of the hill. It was not until this point I realised how steep it was. Without a path in sight, I tried to see the top from below. Suddenly the sun reappeared and lit the scene, some birds started to sing and I took one of my favourite pictures so far.
Ten minutes later I reached the top. The hill is not particularly high, but the views of the loch you get there are astonishing. And I got the best view of the whole RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond, where I will be for the next few months!
After a while at the top I decided to go back. Just a glimpse of my way up was enough to realise it was not going to be my way down. Then a local couple appeared to point me at a comfortable path going all the way down the back of the hill. With mud to my ankles and on my face they read the situation and laughed. After a nice chat I headed down the hill, with the song of some chaffinch and a willow warbler as a farewell.
Last weekend it was time to put some of what I had learned into action and share it with visitors on our Nature Fun Day, an event with a series of outdoor activities aimed at families with children. The idea is to get the young ones outside so they can experience nature, enjoy it and then, appreciate it. At the event they searched for earthworms, scanned the horizon looking for birds of prey at the viewpoint, identified aquatic wildlife at the pond dipping area, and the same for wildlife in the meadow.
I spent most of the time at the latter, meeting and greeting families, helping them with the bug hunting and making sure they could identify what they'd found and then carefully releasing them. The children loved finding spiders or a butterflies, but the frog was the overall favourite find of the day for many.
One family have stayed in my mind since last week. The children were afraid of the flying insects so after several attempts, I managed to find a frog and that sparked their interest. Now in a much more positive mood, they spotted a butterfly flying around. I encouraged them to try and catch it and they did, this time not just the girl but her brother also decided to join in, and with some effort they succeeded to get a beautiful green-veined white (Pieris napi). Along with the butterfly, some spiders also had fallen into the net. I noticed then they had lost part of their fear of the insects as they were getting much closer to them, even the boy who was keeping as far away as possible from any insect at the beginning, was now helping me to identify the spiders.
A child releasing a caterpillar
The event was about to finish when I found the boy again. He told me that between all the activities, he expected mine to be the worst, but it turned out to be his favourite. It was simply amazing and I'm looking forward to my next few months here to have more experiences like this one.
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