My general interest in nature and how we as humans interact with it is what initially spurred me to seek out work experience in the environmental sector. A career in conservation has always been on the list of possibilities for me so work experience seemed like an excellent way to gather an understanding of what a career in conservation might entail. I discovered the work experience placement at Rutland Water whilst browsing online and the location as well as the range of different tasks that it offered ticked the box perfectly. Additionally, having already visited the Osprey visitor Centre at Lyndon once before, I had some insight into the Osprey project and was eager to learn more.
I spent my first day helping out at the Anglian Water bird watching Centre with a girls and boys brigade who came in to carry out activities including pond dipping, butterfly catching and bird watching. After being a bit nervous to begin with I was soon made feel welcome and at home by Luke, the activity leader. I helped set up at the pond and in the Centre for the three activities and on the arrival of the group we took them down to the pond to begin pond dipping. There was an unusually large age range within the group and I benefited from encouraging and sharing my previously acquired knowledge with the younger members whilst discussing a common interest in nature with the older members. During the butterfly catching I learnt to identify a number of species that were new to me such as the speckled wood and the gatekeeper butterfly. Moreover I learnt a great deal about the nature reserve as a whole throughout that first day. For example I acquired knowledge about the youth conservation group, wild skills which interests me highly.
On Tuesday I was based at the Osprey Centre at Lyndon. I spent a significant part of the day monitoring the activities of the Ospreys with two very kind volunteers called Amy and Libby. As well as sighting my first ever Osprey I was educated about their spectacular migration down to West Africa come the winter months. Furthermore I learnt how to distinguish between the male and the female bird. Amy pointed out and helped me identify some of the other birds in the lagoon, as a result my birding knowledge was hugely increased. At one point four single male Ospreys began to circle the nest, intruding on the pair that was originally on the nest, I was delighted to have been lucky enough to see six Ospreys all at once. In the afternoon I talked to some of the visitors back at the Centre who harbored an enthusiasm for birds which I greatly admired. Paul from the visitor Centre also helped me identify some of the garden birds on the bird feeder outside the window, further increasing my identification skills.
On Wednesday I met the habitats team which consisted of two trainees, two leaders and a group of committed volunteers. I was put with three volunteers who I assisted in moving a large amount of trellis in preparation for bird fair. Despite the hot weather we managed to move over three hundred pieces and the free ice cream at the end made it worth it. Talking to the volunteers informed me about Birdfair which is an annual event that is held at the reserve celebrating and encouraging conservation efforts. I also realised the sheer scale of Birdfair as an event in which notable conservationists such as Chris Packham are involved.
Thursday encompassed working in the visitor Centre restocking shelves and manning the till where visitors buy permits to enter the nature reserve. Once again the commitment of the volunteers that help out in the shop impressed me greatly. The shop was busy due to a recent sighting of the elusive purple heron. I learnt from conversing with a volunteer that the purple heron is rarely found this far north, mostly frequenting countries in Southern Europe and Africa it is only owing to the remarkably hot weather that it has been seen here. Besides this I helped Dale Martin, education and events ranger with some office work which I think benefited me immensely as it ensured that my work experience was representative of both sides of conservation: the office work as well as the outdoor work.
Finally Friday has been spent loading butterfly sightings onto nature spot, and online facility where anyone can upload sightings and one example of the role that citizen science plays in conservation. I then joined some volunteers on a guided nature walk which was rather warm but nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable. I caught up with Libby again who I met on Tuesday and she was exceedingly helpful in supporting me when identifying birds and butterflies. We also viewed incredible footage of the purple heron from a birder who had seen it once again this morning. Next I will upload our sightings onto nature spot in the hope that they will aid scientists in gauging the populations of the different species in the area.
Looking back on my week now I realise that my placement at Rutland Water has been invaluable. I feel as if my knowledge on wildlife has massively increased, particularly regarding birds and butterflies. The variety of different roles that I have been involved in have really given me an insight into what it is like to work here and I would encourage anyone who is interested in a career in conservation to take part in something similar. As well as educating me my placement has refreshed my interest in nature and inspired me to possibly do some more voluntary work in conservation in the near future. Finally the feeling of making even a small difference to the wildlife here at Rutland has been hugely satisfying.