When asked what your ideal job would be, what would your answer be? I would imagine mine would go something like: “well, spending all day outside in beautiful surroundings, participating in work I felt was truly positive for the environment, whilst being able to engage with other likeminded folk and maybe inspire others to engage with nature”. The last three weeks have provided just this!

Saw quite the spectacle a couple of nights back when out on my routine bike ride: a heron performing an act rivalled only, in my experience, by pelicans. When in the past I’ve watched herons catching and eating fish, they’ve been small fry or minnow sized, quickly dispatched by a whack and gulped back. This however was another story. The heron was clearly slightly taken aback when it found that, on the end of its beak, was what looked like a couple of pounds worth of tench – although I am no expert on fresh water fish, and it could well have been carp or trout. After a lengthy scrap in the shallows, with fish making a few unsuccessful get away attempts – which the heron speedily ended with a well places poke – the poor fish was eventually thrown down the hatch still flapping, leading to a fish shaped bulge slowly making its way down the herons neck. I can only imagine this flapping persisted for some time in the stomach!

We are carefully monitoring our lapwing population at the moment. Lapwing are one of our key species here on the Exe, with the land being managed to provide them their preferred habitat. These characterful little waders have taken a hit in recent years, due primarily to habitat destruction and changing land use practices, with large amounts of marginal wetland being drained. This makes the marshy scrapes on our Exe reserves all the more important. Listen out for their calls, which sound like a peculiar mixture of squeaky dog toy, crossed with the old dial up tone computers used to make before wireless. They perform aerial acrobatics which are something to behold, and this spectacle can still be observed at Exminster and Powederham marshes.

Last night we set a moth trap (don’t worry, it’s not a true trap, only a bright light, and no moths were harmed in the process), so this morning was an early rise to identify and release. We were lucky enough to have a large number of moths, some of which were really exciting species. Moths are truly some of the most beautiful critters, with the elephant hawk moth being a particular beauty – it’s the big pink one in the pictures, the other being a white ermine.

White Ermine

Elephant Hawk Moth

At university, I was taught that conservation is all too often too far removed from communities and other land users. So it has been really great to learn just how involved the rspb is with local farmers and communities! So far, it has been our long term work party volunteers telling me how to do my job, rather than the other way around! My first experience of hanging a gate, was to say the least, a rather lengthy process of trial and error. Then, come work party day, when we have a farmer of 35 years and a group of volunteers that really know what they’re doing… bish, bash, bosh and we have a gate in a number of minutes! A valuable lesson learnt so far, is that experience certainly counts and there’s a great deal to learn!

 

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