Trainee Reserves Officer Diaries Part Two

Helena Bolingbroke

Trainee Reserves Officer Helena gives us an update on what she has been up to over the last few months.

Hello All,

Well, what a start it has been to my traineeship! Since writing the first blog, I worked for two weeks alongside the volunteers and then like a lot of the country, I’ve been working from home. An important part of this role throughout lockdown has been keeping in contact with our volunteers. We have managed this by producing a weekly ‘Lockdown Lowdown’ newsletter - complete with articles, weekly wildlife sightings and quizzes. The occasional day on site, when emergency fence repairs needed to be carried out, always provided a welcome break from working at home.

Without a doubt, lockdown has certainly had its challenges, but it has also provided a great opportunity to explore the local wildlife hotspots, get out in our gardens and connect with nature. It has actually coincided quite nicely with the 30 Days Wild campaign, which has been running throughout June. I’ve certainly seen lots of interesting and cool wildlife in the last few months.

Some of the highlights have included listening to the songs of the warblers that have returned to our two counties, particularly at Cossington Meadows. I was able to add the Grasshopper Warbler and Nightingale to my lockdown bird list which was great, although I didn’t get to see them, they could definitely be heard. Other highlights have involved a trip to Cloud Wood on an ‘orchid hunt’, where we saw Common Spotted, Butterfly and Bee Orchid, among other things and visited the rare Lizard Orchid.

lizard orchid

Lizard orchid - Helena Bolingbroke

It has also been an exciting couple of months for butterflies - with an abundance of Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks at Cossington Meadows, to Meadow Browns and Ringlets at Wymeswold Meadows. The high point has to be at Rutland Water, where I saw my first Purple Emperor, an unexpected, but very nice surprise. Later that same day, a trip to Bloody Oaks Quarry did not disappoint – I’ve never seen so many butterflies, mainly Marbled Whites and Dark Green Fritillaries, another first sighting for me.  

Dark Green Fritillary

Dark Green Fritillary  - Helena Bolingbroke

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, I couldn’t wait to get back on site. I was able to join the Conservation Officers at Cossington Meadows, where we were checking and recording the barn owl boxes. No owlets were found, although we did get a couple of adults, who will hopefully breed. I also helped put up a new barn owl box at Wanlip Meadows and a tawny owl box at Cossington Meadows, these were built by Nick Thomas, a volunteer from The Green Place, Sileby – fingers crossed it won’t be too long until they are housing some cute, fluffy owlets. 

Barn owl box

Barn owl box - Helena Bolingbroke

 

A very productive and enjoyable couple of days were also spent at Wymeswold Meadows, where I helped one of our Conservation Officers build steps up a muddy slope. This will improve visitor access and safety and stop the ground from being churned up … we were also accompanied by our bovine friends.

Based predominantly at the office in Leicester, it’s not often we get to work at Rutland Water … so when a task day came up, we jumped at the chance. The job in question involved protecting the sheep against flystrike; this was a successful day and brought me back to my farming days.

cows

Helena Bolingbroke

Outside of LRWT, during my ‘furlough’ or ‘period of postponement’, I continued to engage with 30 Days Wild, particularly improving the garden for wildlife. Planting native wildflower seeds, as well as encouraging natural regeneration was a priority. Installing a new bird feeder and building a bee box for solitary bees was also a fun, but important project. Hopefully it won’t be long until the local wildlife reap the benefits.

Solitary bee hotel

Solitary bee hotel - Helena Bolingbroke