Written by Matthew Scarborough, Burton Mere Wetlands residential volunteer

One of the best things about living on a nature reserve is that you’re always a few steps away from seeing amazing things. As a birder it has been such a pleasure to be able to just step out outside and be surrounded by birds and wildlife, some of which are quite scarce in the UK.
The most reliable spectacle that I see get to see every day is the egret roost. As it gets to around half four every afternoon, little egrets and great white egrets fly onto the sheltered side of a group of trees that sit on an island in the middle of the meres. The sheltered side of these trees just so happen to face right towards the back of the volunteer accommodation with well under 100 metres distance between them. Sitting inside the living room afterwork I can watch the egrets to my hearts content as they squawk and squabble with each other for prime branch spaces. As the weather got better through January I decided I had to try and record some of their strange squabbling’s. So, on the next clear night I put out my microphone and captured their loud, coarse croaks which might be a once in a lifetime recording.

Poor quality phone image of roost but gives an idea of how close it is!

Above: Microphone setup for recording little egrets.
Below: Compressed MP3 sample of little egrets squabbling as the come in to roost.

On the reserve side of my volunteering over the winter I have been involved with a huge variety of reserve tasks from repairing reserve infrastructure to digging out ditches to leading reserve work parties. One of the most enjoyable and in itself very varied tasks I’ve been able to help out with is using machinery such as brushcutters and strimmers to clear vegetation from all over the reserve. We have recently trimmed the vegetation back from the nearly three kilometres of electric predator fencing which if allowed to grow would start to reduce the effectiveness of the fence. We have also been clearing vegetation from the islands on the reserve so that there is plenty of free and open space for breeding birds such as avocets and black-headed gulls. It is jobs like these that let you get out to parts of the reserve where very few people ever get to go and can give you a unique birds eye perspective.

Some pictures of the places brushcutting has taken me around the reserve.

On the visitor experience side of my volunteering I have some very memorable days. Ones that stick in my mind are those days where we get to run events at Parkgate, a small village on the edge of the vast saltmarsh not too far from Burton Mere. Here the RSPB run birdwatching events for watching raptors or events that coincide with huge high tides where there’s the chance of seeing all sorts of birds and mammals that get pushed up the estuary towards the edges of the saltmarsh. At these events I get have a lot of often lovely conversations with people about the RSPB and about birding and help to spot things that pop up in the saltmarsh. One particular raptor watch gave us mind blowing view of so many birds including male and female hen harriers, marsh harriers, peregrines, merlin, buzzards, sparrowhawks, kestrels and to finish the day off the most amazing flyby view of a bittern!

Above: Amazing raptor watch event looking out to the saltmarsh from Parkgate
Below: Male hen harrier by Paul Jubb

Thank you very much for reading, we'll see you in a bit. 
Matthew Scarborough