My name is Stephane Jenaer. I am not a young man, I’m 66! I’m a Belgian who has been living in Cardiff for 22 years, where I teach French. I am not a builder, conservationist or scientist; I just enjoy watching birds and hope to contribute to preserve the natural environment.

I am approaching the end of the 2nd week of a 4 week residential volunteership on the RSPB reserve on the island of Coll.

I came to Coll for a short holiday in March with my wife and fell in love with the island and its wildlife. I then found out about the RSPB residential volunteer scheme (I didn’t even know it existed) and, with the encouragement of my wife (should I read anything into this?), applied and, to my surprise, was accepted.

So, on a calm Monday morning, I was met at the ferry by David, one of the wardens, and that was the start of a wonderful experience.

The tasks are varied, and not two days are the same. We have done some survey work and some maintenance work (clearing ditches, cleaning exhibition panels, fencing,…)

As the winter is approaching, we have done quite a bit of clearing out; I seem to have met the council worker at the dump quite a lot.

All I can say is that time has flown incredibly fast. It has been a real pleasure to work in the company of the two wardens, Ben and David, who are very kind, knowledgeable and patient –they have to be. The accommodation for the volunteers is very comfortable and pleasant and the views…well, you’ll have to come and see for yourself.

The birding has also been great: I wasn't expecting to see a Corncrake at this time of year, but a juvenile obligingly decided to show itself for quite a long time just in front of the accommodation, add to that a Golden Eagle, Hen Harriers, the beginning of the arrival of waders,... and you can imagine I am a happy man.

I don’t think I have saved the world –but, maybe, I have done a little bit of useful work; and I certainly thoroughly enjoy myself.

I hesitate to recommend you to come here as a volunteer, as I hope very much to do it again and I hate competition. But I shouldn’t be selfish and must tell you that this is a great experience and that I would whole-heartedly encourage you to do it.


September 13, 2018