I’m halfway through a six-week stint as an RSPB residential volunteer (February 2017). The accommodation is a very short walk from the reserve – Frampton Marsh, on the edge of the Wash estuary in Lincolnshire. It’s a fantastic site, with thousands of wildfowl and wading birds filling the wet grassland and scrapes.
Plenty of raptors and farmland species too. I was taken aback by the sheer number of birds when I arrived! Living on site is a great experience in itself. A Waxwing from the office on my first day, Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers in the garden, and both Bewick’s and Whooper Swans roosting overnight and just some of the highlights so far.
With it being winter, much of the work has been fencing and maintaining paths – building ditches and trying to stop the paths flooding, and replacing old, rotten fence posts. Other tasks have included taking the weekly meter readings, cleaning hides, and a few surveys mostly on the area of managed realignment and also the stable fields. The surveys have been interesting, especially to see how it compares (or rather differs) to my local patch.
There have been many discussions and debates on AFON about volunteering and unpaid internships, and rightly so, but I’ll not get into that here. Residential volunteering is a great opportunity if you can take the chance, and there are plenty of short term positions which I feel are good and affordable. It’s a great way to gain more experience too – more involvement behind the scenes, like helping to plan the week ahead, that I didn’t see as much when attending work parties. The staff are lovely too and able to give helpful advice on applications, and where possible tailor your stay to allow you to develop key skills. It’s also a nice way to explore a new area.