Tuesday, 9 July 2013

5th July - A special post from our placement student this week

We were very happy to have Molly, a student attending High School in Alnwick, help us out on the Reserve as part of her work experience last week.

Molly writes:

"Hi! I'm Molly, a student in sixth form at Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick and I'm just coming to the end of a week's work experience placement with Natural England at the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. So I'm doing a one-time-only blog entry to let you know all about everything I've experienced and learnt whilst I've been here...

Day 1 - MONDAY: I arrived in the morning and, after having a volunteer induction, was given my schedule from the week. It looked great with something new to look forward to every day! I already knew I was not going to have a bored moment here.
In the afternoon after settling into the office at Beal, it was straight out onto site with Reserve Warden Laura for a butterfly survey around the Snook on the Island. As we walked, Laura explained to me that she does the survey once a week so that the results she collects each time can be collated and then analysed for trends etc. I also learned that there is so much that can affect whether these butterflies will be spotted flying around including amount of sunlight and wind speed and direction.
The rain held off but because it was quite windy, Laura didn't expect we would see too many species fluttering by - however there were actually more than I expected. We even spotted a common blue - the first time Laura had seen one this year! 
After this we got back to the office and Jo, Lead Advisor for the NNR North team, explained to me about an event on the Island next week where 75 first school students will be arriving on the Island for the official opening of the new Window on Wild Lindisfarne building so I began helping to prepare for that creating some activity sheets for the children.
All in all, a full day and a great start to the week!

Dark Green Fritillary - many of these were seen on the butterfly transect this week

Day 2 - TUESDAY: I was barely in the office half an hour before I was off out with Laura again. This time we went to the Cheswick part of the nature reserve (until this week, I didn't realise that the island only makes up quite a small portion of the Reserve) to show me how to carry out a Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) and to look at the different species of birds we could see along the coast. This is something that is done once a month and basically, you look for all the different species of wetland birds you see and record them.
On this occasion, we mainly saw herring gulls. In fact, there was a large group of about 193 of them - I have no idea how Laura didn't lose count; imagine what it must be like in the winter when the Reserve plays home to several thousand waterfowl, including thousands of light-bellied Brent geese, at one time on Lindisfarne!
We came back for lunch but it was straight out again; this time with Jo.She took me to the island and showed me round the two new buildings. The newest building (Window on Wild Lindisfarne) on the way to the castle is a true architectural triumph with each tiny environmental detail considered. From the turf roof to the way the grouting is set way back (allowing cover for bees) and gaps within the walls that have been specifically left for birds to nest, everything has been covered. It is a place which will surely become a birdwatcher's paradise in the winter months when the thousands of geese come to rest on the field directly behind it. Next, to the Lookout tower. Again, I thought this was a great building providing spectacular views of the entire Island. I particularly liked looking out to see the many heads of seals bobbing up and down in the water!
Finally, to finish off the day, we went down to the beach for a spot of rock-pooling, carefully looking around to make sure there would be something there for the children to find when they're here next week. We weren't disappointed with shore crabs, a few shrimp and plenty of common periwinkles. But I hope you find some starfish next week too guys!

On Lindisfarne NNR, looking North towards Berwick-Upon-Tweed

Day 3 - WEDENESDAY: In the morning, I had barely finished off the activity sheets before it was back onto the Reserve straight away with Jo again. On the Island, we met up with Julie from Newcastle University who is part of the Northumbrian exchange project. She told me how she is currently conducting a project which focuses on presenting Holy Island from the perspective of the Islanders themselves. She really wants the community to take part and is using a variety of workshops from photography and art to dance and sounds which everyone can get involved in.
It was really interesting for me to get an insight into this side of Natural England; before this placement I only considered the science side of things but this has given me the opportunity to see the connections with the arts it also has. It seems lovely that so many different organisations (including the Holy Island Partnership too) on Lindisfarne seem to have the same end goal: maintaining it as the beautiful place it is.

The stunning view from the Lookout on Wild Lindisfarne

Day 4 - THURSDAY: In the morning, Laura and I went straight out onto site once more to collect in the Little Tern decoys. Laura told me that unfortunately, they do not seem to have encouraged Little Terns to nest in this trialled decoy area yet but it is something that has worked in the past in other areas so... hopefully next year! It was ideal to get a little bit of an insight into this in the morning because after a quick litter-pick on the way back to the car, it was back to the office but then in the afternoon we went with Andrew, Senior Reserve Manager, to Long Nanny to visit the Little Terns and Arctic Terns at this National Trust site. The Tern colony there was a wonder to see and that is no surprise being that it is the biggest mainland Arctic Tern colony in the UK. I really hope one day we will see that kind of sight on Lindisfarne.

Day 5 - FRIDAY: Today is my last day with Natural England, back to school next week. Already this morning we have gone out to the Reserve again. This time, it was to see a Lindisfarne Helleborine which was great as Andrew explained to me that this orchid is only found on Lindisfarne and nowhere else in the world. Then this afternoon we are planning to go out again and pull up as much as possible of the invasive species, the Pirri-pirri bur. I have been warned this is not always an easy task as sometimes their root systems can be extensive! But whatever difference we can make will be a good one. 
So that's me. I have had a great time this week and I feel like I have learnt so much; it has given me such a better understanding of what goes into the management of an NNR. This week has really opened my eyes to not only how much work goes into keeping something as nature intended but also how rewarding a career type this would be. After just a week I feel like I have become quite invested in the site and want to help in the conservation of the many species its dynamic habitats play home to.

I think I definitely want to come back here and do some more volunteering if I can!

Thank you Natural England with particular thanks to Jo, Laura and Andrew for this brilliant opportunity and experience."

Reserve staff are very grateful to Molly for all her hard work last week, we really hope she enjoyed it and keeps in touch! We all wish you the very best of luck in pursuing your future studies and career in conservation. Special thanks to Duchess's Community High School for the opportunity to provide a placement for Molly.

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