On 14 April 1995, after years of initial development, RSPB Conwy nature reserve opened it's gates to the public. Throughout April, we want to commemorate this milestone, and celebrate our 25th anniversary with you! As part of this celebration, we will be sharing what RSPB Conwy means to the people at the heart of the reserve - our fantastic staff (both past and present), and our amazing volunteers. Each blog has been written by various members of our team, as they share with us what RSPB Conwy means to them. We hope that you will enjoy these unique insights, and join us in celebrating 25 years of giving nature a home!
Paul Martin - Volunteer
In August 2008 I was welcomed to RSPB Conwy as a volunteer guide in the hide, just in time to see the last reed warblers before their migration to Africa and all the ducks in rather confusing eclipse plumage. I began volunteering to gain work experience in the environmental sector whilst studying a BSc, as the foundation to a career change brought about by the diagnosis of a life-changing neurological condition. I have always been interested in and connected with wildlife, so I decided on volunteering at RSPB Conwy as I had been there many times birdwatching with my father. The warden at the time was Mike and a new fresh-faced site manager called Julian Hughes had taken the helm.
My early years were spent as a guide in Benarth hide on a Sunday and also, through the summer, at the Glaslyn Osprey project near Porthmadog, one day a week, whilst also working full-time in the aircraft industry and studying a degree, I don’t know how I fitted it all in! However, I recall thinking at the time ‘I wish I had done this years ago, it is fantastic!’ Over the years, the wildlife ‘moments’ have just been superb, from seeing a Water Rail from six feet away, playful stoats on the trails, grass banks covered in striking six-spot burnet moths, a stooping peregrine, a cuckoo sat on a wire fence, a merlin hunting starlings as they come in to roost, a beautiful demoiselle shimmering in the sunlight as it dances above the dipping pond, the list is endless.
My roles have changed over the years, from guiding in the hides, writing a monthly e-newsletter, data recording on Merlin GIS, editing the events video screen for visitors to see, and all until recently, under the knowledgeable guidance of Julian, and former warden Sarah. Now, where old friends have moved on, and some sadly passed on, I have new friends and colleagues at Conwy such as site manager Helen, people engagement manager Jonni, and site warden Tim, to name a few of the many. However, there are also many friends still around from my first days at the reserve, Jon in the coffee shop, Chris, Claire and Nicky in retail, and volunteers Phil, Bill, Glyn, Alan and Audrey. So, I guess what Conwy means to me, in equal measure, is the fantastic wildlife and the people, from the ever enthusiastic and knowledgeable RSPB staff and fellow volunteers, to the ever eager to learn and passionate visitors. I can watch wildlife anytime, but volunteering gives me an opportunity to pass on my knowledge and passion for wildlife to others, and that is why, 12 years on, I am still doing it and I am as passionate about nature now as I was as a child. So, I’ll end with what I consider my best experience at Conwy, which was receiving a note from a young chap thanking me for helping him to use his bird book in the hide, his name was Hayden Smith, I still have the note and it is a moment I will forever treasure. Teaching others about nature and seeing their amazement as you show them something new is just priceless.
Thank you, RSPB Conwy. Happy 25th Birthday!
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