Seasonal Ranger Louise Milne tells us about her summer season here at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond
Hi, my name is Louise and this summer season I was employed with thanks to funding from Naturescot via the Better Places Green Recovery Fund as the Seasonal Ranger at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond and RSPB Scotland Inversnaid. My role was created in response to a potential influx of visitors to the reserves. And who could blame them. It’s been a strange and often trying 18 months for people so getting out and about and exploring the great outdoors has never been so keenly pursued.
Part of my role involved conducting walking patrols around the most used paths on the two reserves. On these walks I engaged with visitors and had many interesting chats about the reserves and what we do. Most of the folk I met where locals or who walk our paths as part of a daily routine, often set up during lock down times. One couple, have been walking the Shore Path at RSPB Loch Lomond every Saturday for the past 10 years! Depending on where I met them on the path, I could gage if I was late in starting my patrol.
On my walks, I was also on the lookout for any antisocial or damaging behaviour- most notably littering, fire sites and breaches of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Both reserves are special places for wildlife so promoting Respect, Protect, Enjoy came easily when surrounded by such a variety of Scottish wildlife and landscapes. Most of the people I met where respectful to their surroundings and were enjoying the freedom of being able to get outdoors and into nature again.
All in all, it’s been a great season with the majority of visitors and locals welcoming my presence and feeling comforted by the fact that people like me are out and about educating people on how best to enjoy their time in the outdoors.
When not on patrols, the rest of my time was spent at RSPB Loch Lomond based at the ‘Nature Hub’ where, along with volunteers, I extended a hale and hearty welcome to all. I’d relay any top tips on recent sightings - such as listening out for osprey soaring overhead, usually by way of mimicking its call - which often amused, rather than educated! One day, I was lucky enough to be joined by 3 red squirrels, who stuck around to show off their acrobatics to visitors as they walked the Airey Woodland trail. I also led our Big Wild Summer activities such as pond dipping, bug hunting and offering out activity packs. Seeing the joy in kids’ faces upon finding a water scorpion or pride after I’d signed their activity pack certificate was very rewarding. The adults learned as did the kids, and often remarked how it brought back happy memories of carefree childhood days.
Most of our visitors had never been to the reserve before so it was great being able to tell them all about our endeavours over the past 9 years-from the trails created to site management to wildlife surveys to future plans and events. I even managed to sign up some new volunteers to our volunteer team! An event I particularly enjoyed was back marking a ‘Wildflower Wander’. One of our volunteers, Lesley, who has a keen interest and knowledge of wildflowers, led the walk. As I tagged along, I soaked up her knowledge like a sponge and found her stories about traditional uses fascinating. We found 84 different species of wildflowers within our 2-hour walk. Oh, and some Fireweed fizz and Meadowsweet shortbread rounded off a successful event nicely.
So, cheers to that and cheers to a very happy, pro-active and educational season gone by.
Photos by Emma Martinelli and Louise Milne
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