Hello Everyone! With the lockdown continuing Baron's Haugh is still closed, so we thought we would invite our volunteers to write a few blogs so you could get to know them a bit better. The Baron's Haugh volunteer team are absolutely vital in enabling us to do our work on the reserve, and we cannot thank them enough for everything they do.

First up is one of our newest, Elke Langenbucher. Elke has just started with us and we asked her a few questions about why she got involved in volunteering, and some of her best experiences in nature, enjoy!

Please introduce yourself and tell us how you heard about the RSPB?

My name is Elke, I’m German and Swedish and I moved to Scotland for my studies in translation and nature conservation.

I heard about the RSPB two weeks after moving to Scotland: I was starting my first Master’s of Science degree in Edinburgh and the RSPB had a stand at the welcome fair. The staff were really nice and I stayed for chats and got a little fly agaric pin. Over the years, when researching about conservation in Scotland as part of my study assignments, I got to appreciate the wide reach and dedication of RSPB for protecting nature and thought: ‘Why not volunteer with them sometime?’

Why did you start volunteering with us?

My studies (two Master degrees at the same time, what a strange idea…) were quite a busy time, with most of my holidays being dedicated to writing my dissertations or getting some (well-deserved) rest. Now, I work as a translator and performer. In the last few years I wanted to start volunteering in the conservation sector, but volunteering with the RSPB in the long-term seemed difficult to fit into my schedule. After looking at volunteering opportunities in bit more in depth, I found that at Baron’s Haugh there is a weekly Thursday party and a monthly weekend party. Such a flexible pattern is perfect for me, it means that I can do my best to attend on weekends and sometimes come during the week too, if my schedule allows me to do so!

Furthermore, another problem commonly raised by people keen to work in conservation is the remoteness of some sites. Many sites, especially in Scotland, can only be accessed with a car. But you will be surprised that there are quite a few RSPB sites very close to Glasgow and Edinburgh, such as the reserves of Baron’s Haugh, Lochwinnoch and Loch Lomond. They are easily accessible by train or by bus and provide a nice green break from the city.

When reading up on Baron’s Haugh online, I loved the fact that it had a diverse mosaic of forests and riverside habitats. It is quite a big reserve (107ha) and there are always lots of different things to do! This means that you get to walk around and discover quite a fair bit of the reserve and you don’t do the same task every time.

What’s your favourite wildlife experience?

Oh, that’s a tough one, there are so many… I went to Kazakhstan, Georgia and Armenia in the summer and autumn months 2018. It was a spectacular journey. One of the most amazing moments was probably the morning of the second day of trekking on the Georgian-Russian border. We had set the tent just at the foot of the mountains, near a river. In the morning, we woke up to a scratchy, heavy breath just near the tent. When we opened the tent we saw four wild horses, with their fur glistening in the morning sun. It was a blissful, beautiful vision, had one of them not started munching on the bread loaf and was trying to roll a jam jar around!

Wild horses in Georgia (credit: Elke Lagenbucher)

What’s your favourite species found on the reserve/in the area and why?

Due to the COVID-19, I haven’t been able to volunteer at the reserve that often yet, so it would be hard to pick my favourite species, but on my very first time there I saw two owls perched on the trees near the tool sheds, sitting there close to each other as if they were having some kind of afternoon tea. That was an exciting first encounter!

Any future ideas or plans you’d like to pursue in conservation?

I would like to keep volunteering with the RSPB and similar organisations, to gain some experience in this sector, improve my knowledge of wildlife and enjoy little breaks outdoors while meeting other like-minded people. Since I specialised in the impact of dark skies on ecosystems when studying, I would love to contribute to this cause by working in a Dark Sky Reserve or to create my own Dark Skies initiative – maybe something to protect animals and people in urban spaces from our over present lighting, to rediscover our starry (and sometimes cloudy) night skies?