Words by Rachel Reid
Photos by Robert Conn

I have been volunteering with the RSPB Scotland Lochwinnoch reserve for almost two years now. I am a master’s student specialising in conservation biology with a specific interest in Scottish wildlife particularly birds and was keen to gain some experience in the field. There began one of the best chapters in my life which I am still enjoying to this very day and hopefully for many more days to come. 

I mostly work in the visitor centre where I welcome visitors and tell them about the reserve, what wildlife is around, inform families what activities we have for younger children and chat to the public about how they can help support RSPB Scotland’s conservation work. I am always keen to try new things and get involved in whatever way I can and my volunteering in the visitor centre has opened the door to other opportunities. Where appropriate, RSPB Scotland have always been more than happy to oblige. This means I have gotten to take part in bird surveys and butterfly transects around the reserve. I even got to take part in a seabird survey trip to Ailsa Craig accompanied by a BBC camera crew.  It’s always such a great feeling when you end up seeing something you haven’t seen before. Even when you don’t see something out of the ordinary just seeing a robin singing furiously nearby or a pair of blue tits flying past is enough to make me smile and feel joyful. I am very grateful for all the opportunities RSPB Scotland have provided me with and my time volunteering with them has assured me that I am definitely on the right career path. 

 The people I work with every week are the most like-minded dedicated people I have met. Everyone has great passion and love for what they do which makes volunteering so much more enjoyable. I am constantly learning new things from employees and volunteers about everything from how to tell male and female mute swans apart, the best places to go bird watching and what the latest bird sightings have been around the UK. I soak up all this knowledge like a sponge and there is always something new to learn. I also love meeting the wide variety of people that come into the reserve which includes visitors with the most incredible bird photos and dedicated birders with amazing stories of where they have been and what they have saw. I enjoy engaging the families in our latest explorer challenges and watching them come back muddy and excited from their time exploring the reserve. Overall volunteering with RSPB Scotland is a rewarding and satisfying experience.