It only seems like yesterday that I posted Emma's first blog but this is her last week of her short stint as a residential volunteer here at the Dee Estuary reserve. Here's her farewell blog, rounding up her experiences and highlights from her time here.

I have spent just over two months here at Burton Mere Wetlands, half of that for dissertation research, and already my time as a residential volunteer is coming to a close. Working on both the reserve and visitor side has been a treat and very informative experience, especially since I wasn’t 100% sure which area I wanted to work in beforehand. Although I still don’t know exactly what I want my future career to be, at least I have some idea in which direction to go now.

While my time here has been short, I feel that I have learnt a lot from talking to other volunteers and the reserve staff. Whether that be identification skills or future job advise, both have been very useful. Even visitors have played a role in expanding my skills! Whilst I have always been interested in birds, moths and butterflies have slowly crept their way into my life simply through the enthusiasm of others.

 Small skipper butterfly (Emma Drainey)

Working as part of a team is something that is always stressed at university and this placement has definitely given me experience of that; of course, it makes it so much easier when the team is so friendly and welcoming. Reserve work has been fulfilling whether that be maintaining an electric anti-predator fence to protect our nesting waders and terns, or simply clearing paths so that visitors can access the reserve without getting covered in thistles.

 Yellow wagtail (Emma Drainey)

Visitor centre work has been equally as helpful in building my confidence, as talking to the public isn’t something that I have had much practice in before. Being given responsibilities no matter how small, such as doing site safety checks or occasionally opening up the visitor centre on my own, was a massive deal as the trust placed in me was important.

By far the highlight of my time here was the ringing of the little terns over at Point of Ayr. Watching the development of the site from simply extending the fenced area to the arrival of the first pairs and then the chicks was a very special experience for me, marking a first in both seeing the second rarest coastal bird in the UK and being involved in a project to protect a particular threatened species.

 Little tern chick (Emma Drainey)

I am still looking forward to helping out with the Big Wild Sleepout, which will be the last thing that I do with the other members of the team which work so hard to make this such an amazing place. The August Badgerwatch events are something I'm hopeful to return with my family to experience but now as a visitor rather than a volunteer.

Though I still have much to work on, I feel that the time I have spent here at Burton Mere Wetlands has shown me that I definitely want to work in conservation and has given me more confidence as I head into my final year at university. Thank you to all the staff members and volunteers that have made my time here so enjoyable, keep up the good work!

Goodbye Burton Mere, I hope we meet again.

With Emma leaving and Jake heading into his last month, we're on the lookout for our next two residential volunteers to help the reserve team deliver its ambitious goals. Details on the role and how to apply can be found here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering-fundraising/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/opportunities/8572/

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