I first came to the Abernethy forest and the Osprey Centre as a child. I remember the trip well, walking up to the centre through the towering scots pine trees and the anticipation as I entered the dark, cool hide, hoping to glimpse the famous osprey pair. Although we had come to view this wonderful bird of prey, the scene imprinted in my mind was the spectacular forest. Gnarled scots pines, hanging lichens and dappled sunlight on the blaeberry and heather.

Since then, I have studied to be a biologist at the University of Aberdeen and gained experience working in conservation. I volunteered with the Scottish Wildlife Trust monitoring red squirrel numbers in Aberdeen and I undertook a student placement in the Camargue, south of France, as a field researcher studying wetland bird populations (spoonbills, glossy ibis, and herons). Although I consider myself an eagle-eyed bird spotter, I cannot claim to have anything but a basic knowledge of the birds around the Abernethy reserve.

Accepting the offer to return to work as a residential volunteer at the Loch Garten Nature Centre was an easy decision. Memories of my time here as a child returned vividly as I pictured myself spending the summer working here for the RSPB. Although my arrival was met with snow and gale-force winds, I still managed to get out and along the trails of the forest and alongside the lochs. During my walks, I enjoyed seeing a drowsy tawny owl tucked into the trunk of a tall pine, a flock of plucky crossbills high on the crowns of the canopy, and a pair of jays bouncing up the branches of a birch tree. In the lengthening evenings, the wonderfully wild sounds of curlew, snipe and lapwing carry across the fields towards my accommodation.

During my time working at the centre and patrolling the trails of Loch Garten I am looking forward to meeting the local people living in the surrounding area and the holidaying visitors to the reserve. I hope to become familiar and knowledgeable with many of the species living in the different habitats on the reserve, from the shores of Loch Garten to the mountain plateau. By the end of the season, I am optimistic that I can be another positive link in a long line of volunteers. Maintaining the great reputation of the Loch Garten Nature Centre and continue to protect and cherish the ancient Caledonian pine forest long into the future.