This last month I have continued to support the visitor operations here at Burton Mere Wetlands. It’s been great welcoming guests to the reserve and being able to talk about this wonderful place I’ve got to know over the past eight months.

In November, I accompanied Liz the assistant warden along with a group of our volunteers over at the Point of Ayr. We went to support the land management team from the landowners ENI with the important natterjack toad conservation work that they do. The project to reintroduce the natterjack toads has been very successful. It all began in the 1990’s with the population growing ever since and it is now regarded as a self-sustaining population.

The day was spent cutting back and clearing areas around the designated pools to keep the perfect conditions for the natterjacks to thrive in.  It was an enjoyable day getting involved in important conservation work and getting to learn some interesting amphibian facts. One of the highlights has to be seeing both male and female smooth newts!

I can’t believe my time here is coming to an end and this is my last blog as a residential volunteer here. I have been lucky enough to spend 8 months fully immersed in the reserve and got to work on both the practical warden team as well as the visitor operations. It’s been great getting an all round experience and very beneficial for me to get a taste of different aspects of working on a nature reserve.   

I feel I have learnt a great deal since starting back in April. I’ve gained some qualifications such as brushcutter licence and wet grassland management training. I’ve been able to gain some practical skills putting up fencing and various repair work out on the reserve. My bird ID has greatly improved from plenty of practice pointing birds out to visitors and from being out with staff carrying out surveys. It’s been great to see how the visitor centre operates and being able to take the lead in the running of this with the help from some wonderful volunteers. Also attending off-site events engaging with the public and being able to promote the work of the charity which I now feel I know and understand more about.

I have had lots of highlights whilst working here. From the moment I arrived been thrown into doing the avocet count of each individual and then having to count nests which wasn’t the easiest task as they tended to move around a lot. Then getting to see the chicks appear with the whole scrape full of life!

I have really enjoyed taking part in the surveys onsite such as the butterfly transect giving me the opportunity to ID the various beautiful butterflies. During my time I’ve been able to do various moth traps getting to see some amazing moths and learning to ID them for the first time with an expert in this field. Another highlight was getting to go out onto the marsh giving me my first experience of waders which don’t keep you dry if you decide to get stuck in the mud and fall into the various water-filled ditches. I did the redshank survey out there and then being involved in the sheep round-ups getting them off during a high tide. A stand out day was when I was able to accompany the warden out on the marsh for the WEBS count. I started off counting the shelduck and then a big group of cormorants all bunched together. I was able to test myself to see whether I got close to the wardens count. It was full of activity with lots of different birds being seen!

I have to mention the badger watch events we ran throughout August which I attended, learning from members of staff and then being able to lead my own which I loved! It was great learning about these special creatures and then passing this onto members of the public with each walk getting great views of the badgers feeding underneath the feeders. I felt I got to know the badgers on site attending the walks and then spending some time in the badger hide on site where you are able to get up close and personal with the badgers seeing them in detail was amazing! Of course getting to see so much wildlife some for the first time such as the marsh and hen harriers! Having green woodpeckers in the garden one of my personal favourites, some rarer birds such as spoonbills, curlew sandpiper and a ring-necked duck.

I could go on forever about all my highlights as there are so many! I will be taking away lots of new skills and knowledge for me to apply in future jobs not only this but many happy memories and some great friends.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the amazing staff who dedicate themselves to making the reserve a fantastic place for wildlife and people and for all their support during my placement. Also to all the awesome volunteers who help out on both visitor and reserve side. It’s been a pleasure getting to know everybody and being made to feel so welcome. They have all added to me having a special experience here!

Well that’s all for now I am looking forward to what the future holds. I will continue to pursue a career in conservation and am open to getting involved in another placement as well as applying for paid conservation work. As long as I’m working for something I’m passionate about and I feel I’m making a difference, that’s what counts. I’m sure I will see you all soon helping out around the reserve when I can and coming down as a visitor.