Hello! Let me start by introducing myself; I’m Liz and I’ve been working at the Dee Estuary reserve for five months now, and it’s been brilliant.

So where have I come from?

I’ve always known I wanted to have a career of some form in conservation. However it wasn’t until I joined the Aberystwyth conservation volunteers at university, that I realised my true passion was practical conservation and protecting British wildlife.

(Top:) The Aberystwyth conservation volunteers 2015-16; making brash bundles for path maintenance (Bottom). Photo credit: Edward Laxton

Ever since, I have taken every volunteering opportunity I could get my hands on. Not long after finishing university I started an internship with the RSPB in Kent, at RSPB Dungeness and Northward Hill reserves

(Top:) Cutting blackthorn bushes at RSPB Dungeness with the volunteers (credit unknown). (Bottom) Rainbow by Liz Boone

Helping black winged stilts to breed at RSPB Northward Hill, where they decided to nest just outside the predator exclusion fence, so we had to move the water to give them some encouragement! Seven chicks fledged that year, and were celebrated by all involved. Photo Credit- Ruby Merriman 

I loved every minute of my internship; I learnt so much that year, and with the support and encouragement I received I secured my first paid job in conservation, working for Natural England at Dersingham Bog National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Sandringham.

My favourite bunch of ladies; I Helped look after 11 Black Galloway cows at Dersingham bog – Liz Boone

The heather at Dersingham bog in full bloom late July; I loved the Nightjars at Dersingham bog, such amazing birds - Liz Boone

Cutting pine and silver birch with clearing saws to stop the bog and heathland from turning into woodland – Liz Boone

However my true passion is and probably always will be wet grassland, so I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity, and applied for the job straight away.  I was ecstatic to start when I was offered the job of assistant warden here at the Dee estuary. On my first day I became even more excited, upon seeing for the first time the extent of the estuary from the top of Burton Point. I truly felt and still feel a sense of belonging in this place, and a strong drive to make sure it continues to be one of the best wetlands in the country.

View of the saltmarsh on my first month Photo Credit –Liz Boone

To put a big cherry on the top, I was then introduced to the Point of Ayr, the farthest tip of the Welsh side of this reserve; another stunning site with some special wildlife. I remember thinking to myself, “could this get any better?”

Talacre beach, with the Point of Ayr Around the corner in the distance, taken on my first visit – Photo Credit Liz Boone

I have carried out a great array of different tasks this past five months, many of which I completed with the help of our amazing volunteers. They turn up and give their all come rain or shine, and are a real joy to work with. Together at the RSPB Burton mere we have replaced aging wooden boards on the visitor ramps, reorganised our workshop and equipment store, and cleared vegetation-choked dragonfly ponds, painted the toilets, opened up some willow coppice, created new wildflower areas along with many more tasks.

 We also cleared reeds encroaching on wet grassland around the main scrape. The cutting and burning of reeds around the scrape is very important to increase the variety and numbers of breeding birds, especially lapwing and redshank, along with other non-avian species, including harvest mice, of which we have a higher than average density on the reserve

 

We are now starting to re-design our den building area, so keep your eyes peeled. Photo credit – Jake Frost

At Point of Ayr we brought in the electric anti-predator fence after the breeding season and repaired the winter roost-protection fence, along with two litter picks. We helped Natural Resources Wales, Flintshire Countryside Service and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust to clear natterjack toad ponds, to help continue their great breeding numbers in the area.

I’ve been introduced to Woolston Eyes where we carried out reed cutting to support their reed bed management.

(Out on the marsh for the sheep round up; they are taken in during high tide periods each month for their safety. Sheep grazing is virtually the only land management we carry out on the marsh.

Because of the epic scale of the Dee Estuary reserve, monthly WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) counts are also done on a scale, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. It’s been a great opportunity for me to really build on my bird-counting skills. My favourite experience was when approximately 7000 pink-footed geese flew overhead one evening, and then back again the next morning, between their night-time roost on the saltmarsh, and their day-time feeding grounds on local farmland - absolutely stunning.

 

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