New Beginning

I could have started this blog with a note about people leaving Vyrnwy, but that sounds a bit sad, so instead I want to mention a new beginning.

Sue joined the Vyrnwy team as a long-term volunteer intern. Below you can read how Sue spent her time with us. I did ask her a while back why she joined as an intern, her response was to gain experience hopefully leading to a job in conservation – a career change for Sue. I love a happy ending and as well as being a lively member of the Conservation Team ay Vyrnwy Sue’s new beginning is on contract with the RSPB based in Bangor.

So now…….

A word or two from the Intern…

Sue trying to fly!

I can’t believe that 8 months have passed since John first asked me to write something for the Volunteers’ blog. How time flies! All of a sudden I have spent my last week at Lake Vyrnwy, said my fond farewells and moved to pastures new. And then I realised that I still hadn’t written the blog…..

Male hen harrier (top) & colour-ringed willow tit (bottom)

Cast your minds back to March. I arrived when the snow was deep and the season was right for tracking willow tit. I met Mike, a regular specialist volunteer at Vyrnwy and was instructed in the ways of the bird and then handed the tracking device. “Well that can’t be hard,” I thought. Wrong! It takes a day or two to really get to grips with using the equipment (as I can vouch, having tramped snowy fields for hours, waving what looks like an old TV aerial around randomly). However the sound of success is very sweet, and the regular sound of the tracking devices beeping made for good listening.

I’d just mastered that, when I was swiftly off tracking hen harriers. This is an art not only in recognising the bird, but also in managing to sit with a scope for 4 hour stints, whilst maintaining a pulse in sometimes near-freezing conditions. The wait was made worthwhile, when I had the joy of seeing male harriers sky dancing, and later watching the male pass food to the female mid-flight. The ultimate privilege was to be issued with a licence which enabled me to accompany full-time staff to nest sites and to see chicks close up. That memory will stay with me forever!

Vyrnwy scenery

By mid-April, I’d been instructed in the ways of 4x4 Off Roading, Forestry First Aid and Mountain Navigation….(surely this was leading me to a career in the SAS??...or the new Jane Bond maybe?). Hen harrier and merlin monitoring was in full swing, and then we started red and black grouse monitoring. This entails getting up at 2am to be on the moors and walking set routes before dawn breaks, in order to have a chance of hearing the males lekking. Suddenly all my training made sense! I was very proud of my ability to navigate the moors in the dark, and rate that as one of my achievements.

May and June were a heady cocktail of early starts and days up on the moors. I monitored for golden plover and curlew, and carried out meadow monitoring (for plants present). There was always on-going maintenance on the accommodation, which by the time I left, had been repainted, boasted brand new central heating, solar panels, new laminate flooring, new bathrooms and new TVs! I’d like to take the credit for all that…but I can only really vouch for the painting!

July and August brought with it festival season, and I was able to support the team at the Royal Welsh and Shrewsbury Flower Show. I became adept at constructing the RSPB marquees and running pond dipping sessions in searing heat. I also took my own Bog Moss roadshow to “Picnic in the Park” at Countess of Chester Country Park, where I flew the flag for the work that RSPB are doing for moorland ecology. Throughout the school holidays I ran or assisted in the “Wild Wednesdays” children’s wildlife activity days, where we covered subjects such as bats, pond creatures and hedgehogs. It was great to enthuse the children, and equally to be enthused by them!

Sue on the chainsaw

By September, the lake was looking very low, before we had our first rain. Co-incidentally, I helped out on the water station at the Vyrnwy half marathon…I have never done such high speed pouring! I did my Brushcutter refresher training….just in time to tidy up the farm, ahead of the lamb sale. October came, and with it the tree surgery season. I attended my chainsaw training at Ynys Hir, and am now waiting to take my test. Can’t wait to get felling. (Although felling a pine in Vyrnwy on a steep incline is a world away from felling birches on flat, even ground, as I found out for myself!) A great lesson in carefully thinking through every move that you make! The reserve moved into “land management” phase as we moved into November working as a team to remove sitka spruce from moorland, chip trees ahead of replanting hedgerows and restore the play area on the reserve.

Llanwddyn bonfire event

I have lived in Minafon and quickly felt a part of my local community, sharing in the fun of the sports club, the bonfire night, getting to know my neighbours and sharing in their joys and sorrows. The last 8 months have been so full and such fun, and I have absolutely loved every minute! So THANK YOU RSPB Vyrnwy staff and THANK YOU friends and neighbours in the village….I have been so lucky to have had this opportunity to live and work with you all. I am now off to Bangor to work for the next 4 months as a Conservation Officer with the RSPB….who knows ….maybe I’ll be back one day!

Sue and John
Vyrnwy Volunteers

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