Written by Andrew Clanfield

Happy New Year! Whatever your view on the many events of 2016 there is no denying it was a year of change. Here at the RSPB Exe Estuary it’s been no different, with CHANGE the keyword for us as well.

If you’ve been keeping up with goings on at our reserves you’ll know we have created a new look Wildlife Garden at Bowling Green Marsh and updated part of the hide. We’ve worked hard to enhance habitat provision across our reserves, notably for Cirl Buntings and Lapwings. Managing water levels on our Exminster Marshes have also been incredibly popular with visiting birds this winter with record numbers of Wigeon recorded.

The RSPB team has a new look with Aaron, Eleanor and Sim joining us as Assistant Warden, Visitor Experience Manager and Administration Assistant respectively. We’ve also had a good turnover of residential volunteers, currently Saul who joined us in October, all the way from Spain (via Scotland).

So what will be the keyword for 2017? How about VOLUNTEER?

Volunteers have played a major role in all the work I mentioned in the second paragraph of this blog. At the RSPB we cannot stress enough the importance of volunteers in helping us achieve our mission.  As a part time volunteer myself, I know that giving up your time for free is quite a commitment.  I started volunteering because I’m a firm believer that nature makes our lives better; it gives us hope, peace and perspective.  I also believe that we have a wonderful diversity of wildlife in the UK and we should fight to protect it.  When I see how volunteers can make a difference for nature I’m inspired to keep on volunteering.

Volunteers can make a difference to habitats and homes for nature. For example, it was our Thursday work party and residential volunteers whose practical efforts created an improved habitat for the wonderful Cirl Bunting at Labrador Bay.  Volunteers can bring innovation and ideas; it was volunteers who designed and built the bug hotel at Bowling Green Marsh garden.  Volunteers can enhance the public experience at reserves and inspire people to care about nature.  It is volunteers who man the Bowling Green hide, and it was volunteers who planned and led visitor activities during last October half term.

Here’s a glorious shot of the team out on Powderham Marsh carrying out work ahead of Lapwing breeding season:

Volunteering at the RSPB has given me the opportunity to learn, to socialise with likeminded people and to make new friends. There is always good humour and a positive attitude whatever the task or weather conditions.

There are many more plans for the Exe Estuary this year and there are lots of opportunities for people to get involved. You don’t have to be a nature expert to volunteer with us, all that we ask is that you are prepared to be a team player and get stuck in.  If you’d like to help us out why not get in touch and we can discuss what you are interested in and what we have to offer.  Maybe you’d like to try different roles or rotate between them?  We will endeavour to find you a role that will give you an enjoyable and rewarding volunteering experience.

Contact us:

For visitor experience, events, helping at Bowling Green Marsh Hide:

Eleanor Gifford (Visitor Experience Manager) – eleanor.gifford@rspb.org.uk

For practical conservation work, helping on the reserve and general volunteering questions:

Aaron Boughtflower (Assistant Warden) – aaron.boughtflower@rspb.org.uk