Well looks like I can’t avoid it for anymore, as a regular residential volunteer here at Mersehead (on my fourth stint now) I have so far managed to avoid writing a blog but it seems I can’t avoid it for ever :)
Trying to think what to write I find myself reflecting over previous visits as well as my present placement, reminiscing of the good times had and the fantastic people I have met, the things I have learnt and the skills I have developed. One of the obvious things that has developed through spending time living and working on the reserve is my bird ID skills, having previously not being able to tell my Asio from my Erithacus I am now competent with most woodland and wetland birds.
However the biggest positive I can take from my time as a volunteer here at Mersehead is the memories of times spent with other volunteers, from sitting for the first time watching badgers emerge from their setts to toasting marshmallows on an open fire on the beach as the sun sets on the Solway, from conquering Criffel (the largest of the local hills) followed by a descent into New Abbey and sampling some of the local real ales (along with many others J) and meeting people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures including French, Spanish and even Welsh! One of the other positive aspects of living on the reserve is the opportunity to get close to nature, and if volunteering long term, witness the changes over time. One of the most spectacular moments being late last September when streams of barnacle geese filled the evening sky and the air was filled with an ever increasing chorus of honking announcing their long awaited arrival. Within hours the reserve became home to thousands of birds, exhausted after their epic migration from Svalbard, transforming the reserve into a vibrant avian metropolis.
Although this present visit is again as a residential volunteer, carrying out day to day tasks, helping with the practical management of the reserve and assisting with people engagement events, the main purpose for returning to Mersehead is to carry out research for my dissertation project, the main aim of which is a comparative study of different invertebrate groups in various field types, and with the support of the reserve staff and fellow volunteers it is so far going well. As for negative aspects, well all good things must come to an end and once again I will have to pack my bags and say goodbye to Mersehead, but as with all volunteers that freely donate their time here, whether for two weeks, six months or on a regular basis, I like to think that the wildlife of Mersehead and the reserve itself is just that little bit more secure thanks to the time and effort I have donated.
So to finish, to all past and present volunteers I have worked with I would just like to say a big thank you for helping enrich my life and to anyone considering volunteering in the future I cannot recommend it enough J