Well, what a year it’s been! I can’t deny it has been slightly unfortunate that my time at Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust coincided with the pandemic, but I was certain I wasn’t going to let COVID define it.
I think my last Trainee Reserves Officer update was written towards the end of 2020, as we only returned to work in March. Since being back, it’s been great to have things return to some kind of normality and we’ve certainly been busy!
Trainee Reserves Officer Diaries Part Four (Final Instalment)
Some of the jobs have included wildlife recording, surveying, and of course, lots of maintenance and a few repairs.
I missed the first fencing season last year, so naturally, I was keen to get started, but with little experience, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. It turns out that I had nothing to fear - as the last few months have been very useful to watch, learn and assist with the different styles of fencing.
I was also very pleased to finally complete my chainsaw training, it was a pretty intense week with lots to cover, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. With lockdown disrupting the training that would have usually been completed in November, it was a relief to get it done... And I’m happy to say it went smoothly and we all passed!
I also helped a couple of our Conservation Officers with the first part of the Cloud Wood flora survey, this involved surveying a number of quadrats across the site and recording the ground flora, understory, and canopy species - this was an interesting day and very useful as it improved my plant identification skills.
By far one of the best parts of the traineeship has been getting to work with the amazing volunteers. Some will probably remember I was fortunate enough to volunteer with the Wednesday and Thursday teams prior to starting the traineeship, so I knew it was going to be an enjoyable year and it’s been great getting to know everyone.
Working on our brilliant reserves every week has definitely been a highlight of my traineeship. It would be difficult to say which reserve is my favourite, as they are all so unique! But if I had to pick one it would have to be Cossington Meadows (not just because it was a lifesaver to me during the lockdowns), but because of the diversity of habitats on the one reserve. It has also given me the opportunity to see some amazing birds, including two redstarts, short-eared owl and green-winged teal.
Ulverscroft Nature Reserve will also be a special place for me as it was the first LRWT reserve I ever visited, long before a traineeship was on my mind. I also have a keen interest in botany; so visiting Bloody Oaks Nature Reserve and Merry’s Meadows is always fun! Bloody Oaks also introduced me to my first dark green fritillary, and dingy and grizzled skipper butterflies.
Looking back to last year, I had a very productive and enjoyable couple of days at Wymeswold Meadows, building steps with one of our Conservation Officers Chris.
I also had a great time making the barn owl box, now in place at Mountsorrel and Rothley Marshes – with the success of this year’s seven chicks in the Soar Valley; hopefully, it will be put to good use in the future.
Other highlights have included seeing adders, my first green hairstreak butterfly at Charnwood Lodge, and most recently, seeing a purple emperor at Coalville Meadows has got to be up there on my list of best wildlife encounters!
In the last couple of months, I’ve assisted the Wider Countryside team with a few surveys – a fun afternoon was spent at Bardon Quarry carrying out a reptile survey, sadly we didn’t see any slow worms, but it was enjoyable nevertheless. I’ve also been helping with the grassland surveys at Charnwood Lodge and Lea Meadows, as part of the Charnwood Forest Regional Park grassland project. This has certainly helped improve my botany skills and I also got to undertake scything training … there’s quite a knack to it!
I have really enjoyed working with all the Conservation Officers and other LRWT staff, even if the ‘working from home’ meant I sadly only met some of them briefly. Last but not least I want to thank Reserves Officer Andy for all the time and knowledge given to me, his passion for birds and butterflies has definitely rubbed off on me!