Coming up - every weekend in April, lambing on the RSPB's organic farm at Lake Vyrnwy.
This is our most popular and best attended series of events every year. Everybody loves visiting the sheep! Maybe it's the chance to get a real insight into the normally invisible work of the shepherds, or maybe there's something about the baby lambs - or possibly it's just Jan. Whatever, lots of people turn up for lambing, and lots of people go away with big contented smiles afterwards.
Give us a ring, book your place(s) - 01691 870278
Have you read Derek Niemann's riveting account of how Peter Conder, George Waterston, John Buxton and John Barrett spent their years as PoWs systematically surveying birds from within German prison camps? It's not too much to claim that their work laid much of the foundations of the modern conservation movement. The book is called "Birds in a Cage", published by Short Books in association with the RSPB.
That's one kind of internment. Another is the scheme that the RSPB runs to introduce bright young naturalists to the world of fieldwork and reserve management. Lake Vyrnwy has profited from the talents of several interns over the past couple of years and here is an account written by one of the current batch, James Walker:
My name is James Walker, and I'm one of four intrepid individuals who are takingpart in a year's volunteer internship with the RSPB in Wales this year. As Iwrite this we are in the middle of our third week, my colleague says therehasn't been enough to blog about yet, but I disagree! In short the internshipentails working for six months each at two nature reserves, Lake Vyrnwy andYnys hir. In return for volunteering for a year, the RSPB provides a trainingprogramme and allows the opportunity to gain skills crucial in employment, suchas managing volunteers. Another plus point is the interview process, whichpersonally gave me my first proper interview in conservation, an important ifslightly nerve-wracking experience. Two of us, including myself, are startingat Lake Vyrnwy as you may have guessed. The weeks before the internship were amixture of excitement and chaos with the feeling of a new era beginning. Itcertainly felt like a big step since graduating from University in June. Myenthusiasm wasn't even slightly dampened when I was informed that for theinitial period we would be living in a static caravan. I could write a wholeblog on this alone, lets just say having ice on the inside of windows and gasand water freezing at various points was a good toughening up experience!Thankfully we are now in the excellent volunteer accommodation. The first twoweeks have been a combination of training, ex-situ visits and learning aboutand working on the reserve. With the sheer scale of Lake Vyrnwy, there'scertainly plenty to learn! The variety of species is certainly exciting, and Ihope to catch a glimpse of as many as possible during survey season whichbegins in April. In terms of work on the reserve, we've mainly been working thesculpture park area at the bottom of the dam, soon to become the focal point ofeducation on the reserve, where we have put in gravel and wooden tables. Wehave completed two courses so far, first up was one on quad bikes, where we hadgreat fun flying through a stream and varying terrain, whilst learning thecorrect techniques as well as technical elements. Next up was upland skills,quite hard to get excited about when its -3 °C (plus wind chill) before you setoff to go up a mountain! Thankfully, the instructor was great and managed todrag us from the depths of the café andteach us all about navigation, judging distances through pacing and the basicuse of GPS. A canvas shelter was also welcome when battling through the ice,snow and wind. Later this week, we have a 4 x 4 course which will conclude thefirst part of initial training. A day trip to the RSPB's South Stack and Conwyreserves last week provided some good sightings and a chance to meet and get toknow a few more of Vyrnwy's staff and volunteers. Our target species of Choughproved elusive at South Stack, with a classic 'you should have been hereyesterday' scenario! Going to the other end of Wales, a visit to NewportWetlands and the Cardiff headquarters was provided to give us a differentperspective on the work of RSPB Wales. The Cardiff office itself was a mirrorimage of the one in the sitcom 'The Office' , but fortunatley for everyonepresent, I resisted the temptation to do any David Brent style dancing! It wasgreat, and being spoken to about the work of RSPB Wales by several people,including the director, was truly inspirational and a real incentive to reachfor the stars within the sector. I came away with a feeling that I had eatentoo many of their biscuits and also, much more importantly, that conservation,whilst being subject to immense challenges, is in great hands! All in all itsbeen a fantastic start, and hopefully I'll be letting you know how its going inthe not too distant future.
Just back from a most interesting tree walk led by Dave and Gen, our long-term volunteers who are about to return to the totally treeless Skerries for the summer!
You really learn a lot when you go out with someone who knows what they are talking about - it's the best way. At this time of year, before the leaves have come out, you have to use other characteristics to identify the trees - shape or habit, bark, buds, the way the twigs form, colour, even smell! We spent the morning sorting out hazel from rowan from birch from alder, taking in a few deceptive conifers - so much information. By the end, I couldn't identify anything any more! But the main thing, as always, was learning to use the eyes, and getting out of the habit of walking around blindly, as we all do.
Really good stuff - thank you, Dave, thank you, Gen.
Sunday's walk is going to be themed around trees.
It's not all Sitka spruce at Lake Vyrnwy - did you know the "Sculpture Park", currently sadly lacking sculptures, was planted originally as an arboretum and contains interesting specimen trees now in their maturity?
11:30 am Sunday, starting as usual at the RSPB shop.
Next Wednesday, 13th March, power lines are being upgraded in the vicinity of the RSPB shop. This means no power all day, and so, sadly, the shop will be closed.
Back to normal on Thursday.