I was warned at the beginning of this placement that I would be dreaming of yellow flowers by the end of it, and now I can understand why as ragwort pulling has definitely been a significant feature of this week! Luckily I didn’t have to undergo whole days of this task as they wouldn’t be that cruel (incidentally the team here are lovely) so it was broken up with different tasks. There were many standard volunteer tasks amongst these, such as clearing out an old building, collecting debris from fields, cutting back brambles etc. However, there were also some seemingly unusual tasks such as getting dropped off in a field to count sheep. The reason for this task was to check that the graziers that rent the land off the RSPB were abiding to the agreed numbers of livestock grazing. The proposed number of livestock on these fields has been calculated to ensure that these fields are not overgrazed or, conversely, under grazed as if there are not enough livestock then they will concentrate on small areas where there is the most palatable vegetation. This will result in other areas becoming overgrown which will have a negative impact on certain species, such as lapwings that require short grass in which to breed.
Another unusual task took place at Loch Insh which is partly owned by the RSPB but the rest is owned by a water sports centre. There is an obvious conflict here between water sports and wildlife so the RSPB have tried to minimise this by asking staff at the centre to instruct customers to refrain from disturbance. One of the most vulnerable species to disturbance is a pair of ospreys that nest on an island in the middle of the loch. This island is off limits to the general public during the bird’s breeding season, and it is particularly important not to disturb them when they are incubating eggs or trying to feed young chicks as the negative impacts of the public scaring the adults away will be more severe at these critical stages. Therefore, our task involved monitoring the activity of the loch such as what activities were going on, where, for how long and did anyone approach the island (which thankfully nobody did whilst we were there). Not exactly a strenuous afternoon although it did feel slightly odd to be using my binoculars to follow people in boats!