Laura’s blog

Laura Feinberg recently started as an All Round Intern at Old Moor RSPB reserve in South Yorkshire. The opportunity offers experience in every aspect of life and work on the reserve there, giving an all round perspective of modern conservation. Here she writes about her experiences.

All Round Intern Blog 1

1 – Meeting the RSPB – an introduction to Saving Nature – April 2017

Take your dream organisation to work for, add a job description of choice, throw in friendly and helpful colleagues as well as free accommodation in a spacious old farmhouse on a reserve brimming with the peace and serenity, and you have….one happy All Round Intern.

In all fairness I am not the first, as conversations with my predecessors have attested.  Neither would my current housemate disagree.  As easy as it can be to feel despondent and down with ‘the state of the world’, just taking time out in and of itself to ‘do your bit, do what you can’ in a positive way, starting by connecting with nature, seems to provide what one visitor describes as ‘an injection of a dose of happiness’.  Other visitors seem to feel it too.  Even if no conversations were to be had on a visit, by stepping on to the reserve it is as if ‘time slows down’.  There is peace to be found in the midst of natures’ cacophony.

That’s not to say that in my first month here I haven’t been aware of some of the hardships and difficulties involved in working for a conservation organisation such as the RSPB. More that, on a much deeper level, everyone that I have come across knows why they do what they do.  By the nature of taking the step to volunteer or work here themselves, thereby connecting to at least a million fellow supporters nationwide, they and I feel that we have stepped out of helplessness.  We know we are doing what we can.

That could be the reason I have been sleeping so deeply since I got here.  Or perhaps that goes hand in hand with the information overload which comes in starting any new position –   that or all the hard work and fresh air.  Being All Round Interns means that we get to work in all the departments of the reserve including (so far) helping to build a predator fence to protect nesting birds, spending time with membership services, retail, marketing and recruitment and so on. One thing I love about the role is the sheer variety of tasks.

As time goes on I am starting to see the connections between departments and how the reserve functions as a whole.  Certainly I have found the culture to be supportive of creativity and growth here.  Although I am still at the beginning of my experience at Old Moor I am hoping that this growing knowledge and experience will provide me with insight enough to leave a positive and sustainable legacy.

In my view, volunteering is a great way to find out more about possible future roles, feel connected (both with others and nature), feel good both physically and mentally…and it’s fun.

All Round Intern Blog 2

2 – End of April 2017

Almost May and now I can say I have been here for nearly two months. The evidence of time passing is everywhere I look. All hands have been on deck in the Wardens team building an electric predator fence at Adwick to protect the eggs and chicks of nesting visitors.  Views over the Washlands (once a pit of sludge, mud and water, likened to ‘The Somme’), now have a dusting of green in their pallet as the young shoots take root around the man made pools.  Nature and time have their way of creating beauty from apparent chaos, and as we are told, if you build the habitat the birds will come.  The Adwick project is already proving to be a success with the presence of nesting wheat ears, lapwings, yellow hammers and so on.  If conversations had with passersby are to be believed, on the whole these efforts are appreciated locally.

Aside from working in the warden team I’ve also been fortunate enough to spend time with other departments such as Retail, Membership, and Visitor Experience. The overall picture of my remaining four months, once a blank canvas, is gradually becoming populated not only with the specific tasks I have to achieve, but also with the additional overlay of the RSPB as an organisation , how it is run, how it works, and, more importantly to me, how it feels to work here.  Although I may be a volunteer,  I’m feeling increasingly wealthy.

All Round Intern Blog 3

 3 – May 2017 – Halfway…

The end of May, marked by the foliage in full bloom and young chicks trailing parents on the water also marks the mid-point of this internship – and that feels about right. I’ve travelled far enough that I no longer feel as though I am being swept along on my raft of opportunities, new faces, training, tasks and creative thought, far enough to have an overall perspective and grasp on what my time here ‘looks like’ and involves, but not far enough yet for me to feel fully knowledgeable and confident in all the new tasks skills and projects which are coming my way. This is just how I like to learn.

Warden team

Learning the ropes

The ‘lions share’ of the job so far has been working with the Warden team. I mentioned the fence construction at Adwick in a previous blog and this is nearly complete now. Some tasks are more challenging for me than others. For example, having moved from an office where my organisational skills meant that deadlines were met and nothing was forgotten, I am now grappling with attaining the same level of competency – with no computer!!! Just how do you remember everything you are asked to do, all the bits of tool kit required before a day ‘in the field’, and how to complete new tasks to good effect all at the same time, in the Great Outdoors?!? I’ll come back to that when I have worked it out…

Breeding Bird Survey

Another example of working with the Wardens, one which ‘blew my mind’, was the Breeding Bird Survey. Three of us set off before 5am to locate and map where the breeding birds are on our satellite sites. It was great to be out so early, listening to the birds tweeting in the trees and skies around us……only then I was hit with a sledgehammer of awareness that what I thought I was listening to and what my colleagues were hearing were not one and the same thing. Karen the assistant warden was looking around her like a character in Scooby Doo hearing a noise in a deserted house where she shouldn’t have been. But what she was hearing, identifying and locating were the many and varied bird calls in the area. ‘Lapwing to the left’ and ‘reed warbler ahead’ were the clues leading to the creation of a map plotted in rough on the day and later refined into a valuable document for Old Moors records. What was an early morning walk on a Spring day to me turned into a realisation of a whole new world – my ears have been opened.

Poetry workshop

Many courses also run from Old Moor. I have been lucky enough to attend two poetry workshops, jewels in the crown of Old Moors repertoire in my book. A small group ranging from dedicated poets to those who are ‘just interested’ gather on a weekend to explore the setting, make notes about what they see and incorporate this into their work. Amazing prose has been created, even within the one of the eight minute writing slots given to attendees. We write about the birds…and then end up expressing what we have to say within an avian context – and it works.

Half term

Arts and crafts

Half term is different again. Together with my fellow All Round Intern, Jess, we created and produced self led crafts for little ones visiting with their caretakers over the week. This involves coming up with ideas, creating an ‘end product’, carefully breaking this down to create a guide sheet showing participants each stage of product production….and clearing down the crepe paper bombshell at the end of the day, closing the doors after any direction and instruction has left on the wind.

Wild Wednesdays

Wild Wednesdays are all about pond dipping, catching bugs in nets, and transporting them to trays of water for identification. I certainly never knew there was so much life in the water and if you hear the stories about what goes on beneath the ripples at Old Moor perhaps you will never think of ‘water bugs’ in the same way either. It’s all done with the aim of connecting young children with nature. It’s lovely to witness and is what the RSPB is all about.

Photographic campaign

But what about the adults? Do they not, too, want to connect with and enjoy nature? Old Moor may be a Bird Reserve but there is so much more to it. To highlight this fact one of my projects has been to launch a Facebook campaign asking for local people to show us how they are at home and connect with nature in the Dearne Valley. It’s a photographic celebration. Selected photographs may be chosen to be displayed in the hides at Old Moor.

If anyone reading wishes to contribute, please send all photographs to Poetry and quotes are also welcome, and the deadline is 31st July 2017.