Well, I’ve been here for just over four months now and I’m still loving it!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. It feels like just yesterday I was starting my first day, but as I was looking back over my time here in preparation for this blog I’ve realised just how much I’ve learned and achieved in such a short amount of time. 

So, where to begin? On the warden side of the placement I’ve been kept very busy. At the start of February I went on a trip up to Southport to attend a brushcutter training course at RSPB Marshside. The training lasted two days and not having a car I had to go by rail, so I decided to stop overnight at Southport. It was fun to get out and experience a new reserve as well as meet the staff and volunteers. The days seemed to fly by and I finished with a new skill under my belt; brushcutter is one of the most frequently used tools in the land management at the Dee so I’ve had plenty of practice since qualifying, using it to mow grass around the anti-predator fence and chopping down willow saplings around the scrape to name just two.

I’ve also been kept busy with many maintenance jobs around the reserve. With the high winds in March the screen that follows the boardwalk between Marsh Covert hide and Bridge screen was in constant need of patching-up and for a time was the bane of my existence, but that only strengthened my skills with a hammer. Other jobs have included replacing the wooden space-markers and edging boards in the carpark, boards on the bridge, coppicing trees at the back of the wet grassland and garden and one of the most rewarding jobs so far has been revamping the Wild Play area in Gorse Covert woodland. From clearing out the leaf litter to rebuilding the den foundations it has been an ongoing job.

 Avocet family (Roy Lowry)

With the breeding season starting I’ve had the opportunity to take part in breeding bird surveys. The first survey I took part in was plotting out lapwing nests, I shadowed the reserves former site manager, Colin during this survey and it was a fantastic chance to learn from him and expand my knowledge of both the process and the birds. I’ve also been tasked with surveying the avocet nests on the scrape and so far, there are 23 nests on the go. During the surveys it’s fascinating to watch the courting and nesting behaviours of these birds. Over time you start to recognise the individual nests and personalities of the birds and it can be difficult not to grow attached!  

Over on the visitor side I’ve been focusing on improving skills I gained during my time at Saltholme last year, but I’ve also been able to work on some new experiences including taking part in off- site engagement events, the best ones being the Parkgate High Tide Watches as the chance to see short-eared owls and hen harriers in the wild is a delight. However these events are a perfect chance to talk to people who aren’t necessarily birdwatchers, about the RSPB and the important work we do for wildlife and inspire them to help nature as well.

Another event I attended was at Reaseheath College, where the event revolved around their lambing season, which attracted lots of families. So, we decided to put on a craft activity for the kids; this involved making paper caterpillars and almost every family that came through made one. I think there were that many, I can make them in my sleep! The event went well, and we made several new members, and was a fun experience overall.

Social media has been another skill I’ve been trying to hone. So far, I’ve been helping with the daily tweets and Facebook posts as well as working on a social media calendar for the reserve team to follow. Blogs have also been a big part of my experience whether it be the weekly round-ups or my own personal blogs, I’ve always had something on the go.

As I have said before I don’t know where the time’s gone and even though I’ve still got a few weeks left I’m sure they’ll fly by too. One thing for certain is that I’ll have a blast, with plenty more experiences to come, and you’ll hear from me at least once more before I finish my placement here.