Step into the world of an RSPB warden

Jasmine Granton

Friday 12 January 2018

Warden of The Lodge throwing birch onto the fire as part of a heathland restoration programme.

Lizzie Bruce has been the warden at The Lodge reserve, Bedfordshire since July 2015. She works to ensure the 240ha of heath, woodland, farmland and quarry restoration delivers its conservation goals whilst also providing a great day out.

My typical day starts at...

I usually leave the house around 8am to arrive early and have a walk around the reserve to see what’s about. Generally I start work at 9am, this can vary as during the breeding season we need to be ready to go at dawn, but for nightjar surveys we are on site after dark in the summer due to their nocturnal habits.  

It’s impossible for me to have a set routine in my role as things can happen out of the blue to change my schedule but I roughly spend about half the time outside and half the time at my desk. Outside work can range from habitat to estate maintenance to conducting monthly H&S checks and wildlife surveys. My office work involves planning and creating recordings on Merlin, our mapping system, responding to emails, maintaining spreadsheets, attending meetings, planning projects or managing our wonderful team of volunteers. 

I’m responsible for...

As warden my job is really varied but ultimately I am responsible for the day to day running of The Lodge reserve which is about 240ha of woodland and heathland. With help from contractors and volunteers I implement the habitat management plan on the reserve to ensure the habitats are suitable for the wildlife that depend on them. I also ensure the estate infrastructure such as paths, fences, hides etc. are safe and well maintained. 

During the spring I carry out breeding bird surveys and monitor our natterjack toad population. In winter I carry out winter farmland bird counts on an area of land we manage on behalf of Tarmac. There’s never a dull month. 

How I got my job...

I spent 4 amazing years at the University of St Andrews where I studied Ecology and Conservation. Unsure as to what I wanted to do I went to Edinburgh Napier to gain an MSc Wildlife Biology focusing on ecotourism and human-wildlife conflicts. 

After graduating I did some short-term volunteering with a number of conservation organisations, which helped me become a Conservation Intern for the RSPB at Minsmere and Old Hall Marshes reserves. After a few short term contracts I secured a permanent job with Norfolk Wildlife Trust as Assistant Warden. 

I wanted to work for an organisation that delivers conservation on the ground day in day out. Without many of our reserves and the advocacy work other teams do, our wildlife would be in a much worse state. As an organisation the RSPB is great to work for, showing support and commitment to its staff and volunteers. We have the opportunity to attend a range of training courses to develop personally and professionally. 

My most memorable work moment...

I have so many memories; from literally being stuck in the mud at Havergate Island and having to crawl to get out (leaving my waders behind), to watching little tern chicks fly for the first time having spent the summer protecting their colony.

The most challenging part of my job...

Time, money and resources are the biggest challenges: managing our reserves can’t be done with a magic wand. We have to ensure our limited budgets can cover all the work we want to do to ensure our reserves provide the right conditions for their respective species. 

The best part of my job...

I love being out on our reserves delivering conservation on the ground but also inspiring our visitors about the wonderful natural world we live in. To be a warden you need to have a passion for conservation, be innovative and adaptable and have the desire to work outside in all weathers.

What I'd like to achieve at the RSPB...

For me, I want to ensure – no matter which reserve I am working at - that the habitats are well managed, using innovation and good science to ensure they provide the things for the wildlife that lives there. 

After work...

I can often be found birding on the east coast at weekends. I love baking cakes and have recently started to make bread. To justify the cake eating that comes with the baking I dabble in some running and have done a few Half Marathons and 10ks. You can’t beat a decent Gin and Tonic, I appear to have over 15 different types of Gin!

Last Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2019

Step into Lizzie's world

Come along to your nearest RSPB reserve and see what species you find!

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: About the RSPB Topic: People Topic: Reserves