Hello everyone!

Hope you are all staying safe. Today, we are going to continue our series of blogs introducing some of the volunteers of Baron's Haugh. This time, we are introducing Rachael Hall, who started at the reserve towards the end of last year and has already proved herself a great asset to the team (I have never seen so much rhododendron cleared in such a short period of time!). Hello to Rachael!...

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

My name is Rachael, and I am a graduate working towards a career in conservation. Being born and raised in Glasgow, I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a great deal of time outdoors in Scotland from a young age and have always had a huge appreciation for nature. I first heard about RSPB as a kid when visiting reserves with my parents where I enjoyed sneakily spotting wildlife while walking through the beautiful scenery. As an adult I have learnt far more about the conservation work done by the RSPB and decided to get involved.

Why did you start volunteering with us?

After graduating I started searching for jobs in the conservation field, while also looking for volunteering opportunities. Volunteering tends to play a big part in early career conservation work, and is important not only to gain experience, but also to get a taste of the different types of job out there. I hoped to do some long-term residential volunteering through the RSPB and other conservation charities, but first I needed to save up some money. While working in Glasgow I found out about the weekly work parties at Barons Haugh and thought they would be an excellent way to help do something good alongside saving money. I could get there easily by public transport and could just come along on the days my work shift pattern allowed, which was ideal. The combination of spending time outdoors with likeminded people, the feeling of contributing towards something good, and physical work make volunteering at reserves like Barons Haugh an enjoyable and refreshing experience.

What’s your favourite wildlife experience?

For my undergraduate dissertation I went to Northern Honduras with the conservation research organisation Operation Wallacea, where I collected biomass data in the Mangrove forests. Climbing through the mangroves day after day was already an amazing experience, but one of the most memorable moments of this trip came when we were getting a lift around an island to a remote bay. The driver spotted something in the water and the two more experienced researchers with me started rushing to get their goggles on and jumped into the water. Without really knowing what was going on I followed them and found myself next to a whale shark. Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the sea, and can grow up to 10m long, they are also increasingly rare. To see one so close, and so out of the blue was awe inspiring, and the experience of feeling so calm while floating in the ocean next to this beautiful giant has really stuck with me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the whale shark, but here is our research group having fun in the mangroves! (Photo Credit: Rachael Hall)

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

Unfortunately, I have not spent a great deal of time on the reserve yet as I went away to volunteer up in the North of Scotland and we went into lockdown not long after I returned. One of the species I really hope to see once we can return to the reserve is the lapwing, which flock in at the end of the Summer and early Autumn. These waders have a beautiful green sheen to their back, and a particularly distinctive call which always reminds me of R2-D2.

Photo credit: RSPB Images (Geltsdale Reserve, Cumbria).

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

At some point I would love to work on rewilding projects, which is a form of conservation I think will play a vital role in tackling the huge declines in biodiversity we are seeing throughout the UK, and the World.

In the meantime I am working to improve my bird identification skills so I can help with projects such as the Garden Birdwatch and the Wetland Bird Survey, while looking forward to getting back to nature again and hopefully returning to help out at Barons Haugh!