My day started early today. I need to be at Lackford Lakes for just after dawn to carry out the first breeding bird survey of spring.
My journey to work is short, living in Bury it’s a quick drive through Fornham All Saints, along the A1101 and through Hengrave. The Lark Valley looks moody today. The sun is trying to force the mist to disperse but the low cloud hugs the river banks and spills out over the reserve. Driving down the entrance track I spot the Highland cattle wading through a shallow pond – they are oblivious to my truck, only interested in the new flush of growth from the sedge.
I think everyone likes this time of year, but I am very fortunate to work for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, so spend most of my working life outside helping to manage some of West Suffolk’s beautiful countryside for wildlife.
The first job is to meet up with Will, the site manager. We walk the reserve listening for the dawn chorus. Today it’s pretty loud as the birds are keen to set up territory. We try to identify the song of each bird; this is recorded and used to build up important survey data.
I need to be back at the workshop for 8.30am. We run work parties twice a week so I need to meet up with the team of dedicated and hard working volunteers – Suffolk Wildlife Trust relies on the support of over 1,500 volunteers to help deliver education and conservation work. Today’s team is split onto four groups – Alan is spearheading firewood processing, James is starting construction on a new hide, Mower Mike is keeping the site looking tidy and I am working at Micklemere. We load the truck with all the kit needed to build a swift nesting tower.
The volunteers work hard all day. We dig in a telegraph pole and build a large nest box on the top, we then add a solar panel which powers a small speaker playing the nesting calls of swifts. This is a great project because swift numbers have declined due to modernisation of buildings causing lack of nesting sites. I always enjoy the work party days – we get lots done and generally have a great laugh. I really am very lucky to have such a great team who can lend their hand to any task.
On the way back to Lackford we spot two buzzards flying low over a small plot of woodland possibly looking for a nest site. We also get good views of a red kite, which is encouraging due to the fact they were a globally threatened species only 30 years ago.
We arrive back and help tidy up all the sawdust from log processing, clean the tools and have the last tea of the day. Then we kick back and reflect on the work done and talk about future jobs. We have some exciting projects planned for 2014 so please come and visit the reserve and see what you can spot.
For more, visit www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org