Since last July I’ve been a voluntary Warden Intern at RSPB Otmoor. The position was advertised as a way to get all the training I’d need to be a nature reserve warden. It’s certainly delivered on that but there’s so much more that’s come with it.

I’ve been trained in the use of various machines such as tractors and chainsaws; which basically means I’ve had the chance to play with lots of big loud toys and had fun while doing it. There is a satisfying feeling that comes with mowing wide swathes of grass with the topper and hacking down stands of thorn all in the name of maintaining habitats and providing a diverse and varied home for wildlife.


The “I don’t know what all these controls do” face

Otmoor has been responsible for compounding my already firm fondness birds. My first hobby, turtle dove, and grasshopper warbler were all seen on the reserve. Many sights and sounds that would have only been occasional for me have become regular wildlife encounters but no less special. Be it hearing water rails squealing in the reeds or seeing grass snakes slither into the undergrowth I’ve hand countless little moments that have inspired my passion for working for and amongst wildlife. I feel as if I’ve become a better birdwatcher by getting more familiar with regular species and getting to see the odd rarity notably the great grey shrike last October, also my first ever.

I’ve had the chance to develop my artistic skills too. I’ve been very pleased with how my golden plover and snipe drawings have come out despite only having a few chalk pens to work with.


Fergus’ response: “that’s a nice woodcock!”

I very much enjoyed having the opportunity to share the reserve with people by helping out with and leading guided walks around the reserve (special thanks to the south bucks walking group for the big tin of biscuits!). All those hours spent atop a tractor or wrestling with blackthorn seems worth it when we hear how much visitors have enjoyed seeing the reserve and the wildlife that inhabits it.

Spring has been busy but rewarding. With signs of nesting all over the reserve we were out traipsing the fields looking for the next generation of lapwings. First we found scrapes lined with vegetation, the precursors to nests. Then a few weeks later actual nests with actual eggs! After chopping and mowing and burning since I’d started it was nice to see new life appearing on the reserve after all our hard winter work.  After checking nests (that numbered well over 100) the first chicks started appearing and, whilst checking the nests on Malt Pit, it felt very special to come across a nest empty of all but the smallest fragments of egg shell and see 4 fluffy mounds within a few metres. On closer inspection these turned out to be lapwing chicks and based on their proximity to the nest they couldn’t have been long hatched.

I’ve learnt and grown immeasurably from my internship due in no small part to the staff and volunteers that have guided me and allowed me to improve my skills in a myriad of tasks and settings. Being an intern for the RSPB is rewarding, challenging, and enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone who and wants to encounter wildlife in a unique way while developing important skills in conservation and reserve management. It’s also a great excuse just to be outdoors!

As I fledge from the nest that is Otmoor I only hope I get the chance to migrate back every now and then to lend a willing hand again.

Matt Purkis, RSPB Otmoor Warden intern

We are currently recruiting for Volunteer Warden Interns at RSPB Otmoor and the closing date for our next intake is 24th June, at 9 a.m. So if you or someone you know are interested have a look at our website for more details, here!