I have always been a regular of nature reserves, many of those RSPB managed. However, it was not until the start of my 3rd year at Oxford Brookes that I heard about Otmoor. A reserve just a stone’s-throw from the side of Oxford I’d been living on for two years already. My University course title was Animal Biology and Conservation and among my course-mates I’d already established a reputation of being the bird watcher (Surprising that I was the only one on a course centred on wildlife and conservation). After several visits on my own, and persuading some of my less ornithologically orientated friends to join me, I started to feel like Otmoor was becoming my new “patch”.

 Reedbed at Otmoor. (Photo: Matthew Purkis)

My degree provided me with experience and allowed my passion for wildlife to develop so that I was suitable for the internship with the RSPB; so I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to work on a reserve I was already very fond of. I was initiated in my first week with plenty of ragwort pulling but this was made much more enjoyable by the fact that we were surrounded by marbled white butterflies and many dragonflies.

Working on the reserve means I’ve become well acquainted with many of the tools (or toys) at our disposal. A land rover, a tractor, and quadbikes have all entered my vehicular repertoire which previously only consisted of a ford fiesta. After completing the relevant training course I was let loose with the tractor and topper on Ashgrave field. I’ve since had several satisfying hours mowing swathes of grass on the reserve. With spending so much time out on the reserve I have enjoyed regularly seeing birds that would otherwise be only occasional such as marsh harriers, hobbies, water rails and turtle doves. The latter of which is a species I hadn’t seen before starting at Otmoor.

Getting your hands dirty be it with diesel or essence de ragwort makes for a welcome change from the lecture hall; in one month I already feel like I’ve gained knowledge and experience that a degree couldn’t have provided. I’ve enjoyed being in an atmosphere of like-minded staff and volunteers who are committed to managing a reserve for the benefit of wildlife and the visitors that come to enjoy it.