After having just finished my first week of being a residential volunteer with the rspb, I can safely say it’s one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things I’ve done to date. Having grown up in south Devon, the Ex Estuary is a special place to me; it certainly played a substantial role in shaping my love for wildlife. I can distinctly remember the first time I heard oyster catchers, saw the outline of a lapwing in flight, pond dipped for the weird and wonderful critters which inhabit our waterways, and, in order to keep the whole family happy when growing up, each family member took in turns to choose a weekend activity. So, although this meant I may have had to suffer the odd walk around a – to my childhood self – boring garden centre, when my turn came around, it was inevitably a bird watching trip to THE EXE! Myself aged 9: “Mum, dad, please can we go to Bowling Green Marsh to see the spoonbill, quick, before it’s too late!”
Surely there is no place more beautiful than south Devon in the summer, and in part we owe the joy of being able to make such statements to conservation organisations such as the rspb. We need these green wild spaces, and with the ever present threat of urban expansion and the erosion of green belts, reserves such as ours on the Exe provide just this. And of course, it is not only us humans that benefit from their wildness, but the wildlife too! After having hung two gates, bashed in some fencing, set camera traps (to check for predators entering the protected nesting area), undertaken water level surveys, put up a number of signs, litter picked, carried out path maintenance, setting up hides and retrieving trailers (and that’s all in just a four day week!) I can safely say it can be easy to overlook just how much work is put into maintaining such places. I have also learnt just a few more reasons to be proud to work for the rspb. Although we pride ourselves on protecting bird habitats, and our reserves are primarily managed with birds in mind, the rspb as a whole is branching out, with the aim of protecting all of nature. This is nicely captured in the new slogan, ‘let’s give nature a home’.
As a large charity, the rspb accepts it will have impacts on the environment, but it was really brilliant to hear the charity is run entirely on electricity generated from renewable resources! I’m sure people are aware of the return of the wonderful swallows, but we have had a few more exciting arrivals over the last couple of weeks. Listen out for the screams of swifts as they soar high above. Resembling a swallow, yet larger and dark brown/black, these amazing birds never land, except to nest and raise their young! The hobby is another recent arrival; this slender bird of prey returns to the marshes to feast on its favourite food, dragonflies, which will soon out in abundance. Another nice sign that we must surely be in the midst of summer, whilst cycling through the marsh, a lizard ran across the road in front of me. Add this to the collection of young grass snakes we have living under some rusty old corrugated iron on Exminster Marsh, and we have all the signs that our reptiles are in full swing. Although the experience as a whole has been incredible, what has made it all the more so, has been getting out and meeting all the people enjoying the reserves and the nature within them. I could not have ask to have been placed in a better team, full of passionate and enthusiastic individuals. We are, however, always looking for volunteers to lend a helping hand. So if this sounds like your kind of thing, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Becky our assistant warden: Rebecca.Longden@rspb.org.uk.
That’s all for now, from a satisfyingly tired volunteer, hope you have a great week, and hopefully see you out on one of the reserves!
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