Dolphinwatch Volunteer Rebecca tells us about her reasons for volunteering with the Dolphinwatch team in the summer season of 2019 and shares how she is enjoying nature at home and without dolphins!

What I miss and what I've found

I was lucky enough to be brought up in the North East of Scotland, and from a very young age I remember having a connection with nature. I remember playing in overgrown fields, running 10 minutes down my road and immersing myself in the amazing outdoor spaces that Aberdeenshire has to offer. It was these childhood experiences that led me to study natural sciences in greater detail at the University of Aberdeen. During my degree, I got to visit some incredible places - such as Florida, Tanzania and South Africa. As a visiting student, my eyes were opened to the wide array of species that these places boasted and why for locals, these areas were important to protectOn returning home, I would compare what I had seen to what was around me. While some may think that our woodlands or coastlines could not rival the biodiversity of the African plains, I still find that I get as excited at spotting a bottlenose dolphin as I did spotting an elephant in the bush!  

dolphin swims next to ship

Bottlenose dolphin bow-riding in front of a ship at Torry Battery (summer season 2019). 

Since then, I have developed a passion to promote and protect our local biodiversity, and RPSB Scotland volunteering schemes gave me the opportunity to do so. I had been made aware of RSPB Dolphinwatch from social media posts, and forever regretted not being around one summer’s day, amongst the excitement, when a Humpback whale had been spotted from the Torry Battery! So last year I joined the team and tried to spend as much time as I could on site. I got to participate in monthly beach cleans, rock pool activities and family fun day events such as “Marine Mammal Day”. I had the opportunity to chat to both locals and visitors. Engaging with others about nature was extremely rewarding as I learned about their experiences with wildlife, while watching out for what animals were around us. Not only did we have near enough 100% success in our sightings for bottlenose dolphins, but we also spotted seals, porpoise, gannets, cormorants, razorbills and otters... the list was endless 

When not on lockdown, I usually love going for hikes or trail runs around Aberdeenshire and would currently be participating in Dolphinwatch. I also live close to both Balmedie and Newburgh beaches which are havens for practising my photography. Despite not getting my dolphin fix at the moment, I have been trying to enjoy wildlife a bit closer to home. I’ve been joining the RSPB’s daily #BreakfastBirdwatch, trying to catch glimpses of any new birds that are attracted to my garden and brush up on my ID skills. My visitors include; house sparrows, blue tits, a pair of really noisy starlings, and an inquisitive buzzard. I’ve been challenging myself to try to get good pictures of the birds that visit me and I’m slowly getting better! 

left blue tit right common buzzard

A blue tit and a common buzzard in the garden

Another way I’ve found to scratch my nature itch is by dusting off my old camera trap and setting it up in my local woodlands. I’ve tried my best to pick a spot where I think there might’ve been a fox den or badger sett. I’ve occasionally been going to view it during my outdoor exercise and have been so surprised by the incredible encounters I’ve captured. My favourite video so far would be a badger trying to tackle the camera… so all in all an entertaining and relatively non-invasive way to bio-blitz my local patch! 

badger, fox, deer

Some trail cam images