Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A placement most fowl

by Sarah Lippett, BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology

Helping with the flamingo catch.
Photo: Sarah Lippett.
Where else can you help with a flamingo catch, paddle about on canoes, learn loads about plants, get brilliant bird I.D skills, do some pond dipping with some school children, hold some ducks and other wildfowl and get to see small song birds up really close? During my placement year I was very lucky to work with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at their centre in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire. 

I mainly worked with the horticulture team and our job was to look after all plants and trees around the main grounds, this included pruning, mowing, coppicing, strimming, driving tractors, pollarding and many other tasks. I had a brilliant time working with this team and they were very quick to welcome me. I developed my public speaking and public interaction skills quite a lot as well as we are out everyday seeing people, chatting to them and answering any questions.

Tractor training!
Photo: Sarah Lippett.
Carpets of Wild Garlic.
Photo: Sarah Lippett.
The tropical house.
Photo: Sarah Lippett.
Our very bright Caribbean flamingo flock. Photo: Sarah Lippett.
Being a part of the horticulture team opened up other opportunities for me with the aviculture team. One example of this was helping with big bird catches that were going on such as the Caribbean flamingo catch where we had to catch all the birds, put rings on their legs or microchip them, and take DNA samples. Each bird was also given had a condition score and foot score. Most importantly, we knew exactly how many birds we had as it had been over 10 years since the last catch! I was able to help to feed the birds, hold birds for vaccinations, and catch birds for removal from their pen.

As well as all of this I was able to work one day a week with the education department. This was great fun as the jobs I was given included:  helping with pond dipping, being in charge of amphibian handling sessions, coming up with craft ideas and making examples, helping with other taught sessions such as bird adaptations, bird feeding mechanisms and a mammal comparison between a beaver and  an otter. I also helped with a freshwater survey, pitfall trap lessons and wild flora ID for A level students as part of the Field Studies Council programme. 
Redshank chick. Photo: Sarah Lippett.
As I was staying on site in the volunteer accommodation I was very immersed in all that was going on around me such as going on toad patrols in the evening, hearing oystercatchers calling early in the morning,  helping out with bird ringing at 5 am and bat surveying up to 11 pm and I even got to ring a black headed gull chick with the reserve team! 

This placement was truly fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to work with birds or wetlands in general, I made some great friends and contacts for the future and developed my biological ID/survey skills and people skills no end. 

Pond dipping area. Photo: Sarah Lippett.
Ready for a mammal lesson.
Photo: Sarah Lippett.

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