Rob Macklin, former warden, making a bird census. North Warren RSPB reserve

Nature Reserve Warden

If you love working outdoors, find out more about the role of a Nature Reserve Warden.

Q&A with Ben Mitchell

Job title: Reserve Warden 
Company: RSPB 
Location: Mersehead nature reserve (Scotland)  
Typical hours: Depends on the seasons. Usually 8am until dusk, Monday to Friday

What are your main duties and responsibilities?

I manage the residential volunteer programme. I also conduct a lot of biological monitoring and carry out wildlife surveys on bugs, bats, toads, etc. As well as this, I'm the land operations co-ordinator. I do a lot of land management, as well as helping to get the crops in and manage the livestock. 

There's also maintaining the buildings, and the general infrastructure around the reserve. Also, I support the Visitor and Community Liaison Officer. This can involve working at on and off-site events, for example guided walks.

Can you describe a typical day in (or out) of the office?

There isn't one really, it's all dependent on the type of day and the season. In spring it's the breeding season so I'll be monitoring lapwings first thing, then on the tractor for most of the day, except if any new nests are discovered, in which case I'll be fitting cameras. In summer my routine is largely centred on maintenance with our volunteers, and winter revolves around the harvest.

Do you ever wish that you had a desk job?

Never ever. There's always a new experience to be had, even outside in the worst weather. It's very nourishing being outdoors. It feels good, and is very addictive. It's all about the fresh air for me. Being outside is what it's all about – being immersed in nature is why I do it.

Which qualifications are useful or necessary for this field of work?

I have a Zoology Honours Degree from the University of Glasgow, and the skills I learnt there help me with the monitoring aspect of this job. But apart from that, most of the skills involved in being a warden are vocational and I've gained them from experience during volunteering.

Which personal qualities do you feel make you suited to this job?

You have to have quite a pragmatic mind, and be very adaptable. Plans can change at the drop of a hat.

For you, what makes it worth coming into work each day?

The wildlife makes it all worthwhile, and the RSPB is a great organisation to work for. Even in the pouring rain, there are always animals that need care. There is always something new to do, and all of the work has a positive effect on conservation.

Are there any downsides? 

The work can be physically demanding at times, and I'm out in all sorts of weather. Often there aren't enough hours in the day, and our budget is quite tight too, which can be quite restrictive and stressful. Also, the problem with nature can sometimes be that no matter how hard you work on something, it can fail. What they say about nature being a cruel mistress is true. There can be a lot of disappointment to deal with.