Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Tom's round up on being a Wildlife Ranger on the Lizard

Just another day in the office
Originally coming from the Black Country, being based on the Cornish coastline is a little bit different from what I’m used to. I’d been volunteering for a while back home to try and get a career in conservation but was struggling to find a full time position due to lack of experience. Luckily I came across the opportunity to be a residential volunteer on the Lizard to finally put my skills to the test and get some practice in the field. Of course I wasn’t until after I applied that I released just how far away the Lizard actually is, but getting to work at such an awesome and otherworldly location has been one well worth the 'butt-numbing' car journey.

Sunrise at Housel Bay during a dawn watch
As a wildlife ranger I’ve got to spend half my time monitoring 'George' and 'Nora', the local pair of Cornish Choughs. At
Two of this year’s chicks getting their coloured rings so they can be tracked in the future
first I was a bit sceptical about how I would find nest watching duty, surely it must get a bit boring after a while? But one of the brilliant things about the choughs is their unpredictability. They’d have a habit of flying out from one direction, only to sneakily return when you weren’t looking from the other side. Then at other times you have them fly so close overhead you could almost touch them as they soared past with a “cheeaow!” It was a bit challenging at first to try and keep up with them and tell them apart from their
Jackdaw and Crow neighbours, but after a while I was soon picking out their calls and getting used to their favourite spots. It was great sharing their antics with the other nest watch volunteers and visitors. There's other great stuff to watch too, I’ll never forget seeing my very first basking shark. It was a dawn watch when I saw these two fins get closer and closer until finally I could see its massive silhouette under the water’s surface. Naturally some shifts weren’t quite as glorious as this and instead I’d have to battle a fierce easterly winds and monsoon-like rain. But getting to tag along with the BTO bird ringer and see this year’s brood of five chicks (Yoko, Willow, Whoopi, Yeats, and Bill) made it completely worthwhile!

Through the scope at the watchpoint – you could have picked a bigger rock mate!
I’ve spent the other half of my time down at the wildlife watchpoint at Lizard Point. 'The Point' always
seems to attract something different whether it’s a grey seal trying to haul out on a rock that its way too big for, having gannets dive just metres away for fish, or dolphins leaping across the horizon; you’re constantly seeing something new.  I was pretty daunted by the challenge of ID-ing all the marine species and seabirds I’d never seen before in the Midlands (do Herring Gulls count?). But after a few shifts with the other volunteers I was soon learning how to spot the regular species and where to look for them. With the help of the Cornwall Seal Group I‘m now able to recognise some of the seals by their fur patterns. It’s really rewarding getting to put your skills into practice and help visitors spot species they haven’t seen before, as well as trading tips and anecdotes of the wildlife around the Lizard. 

Lankidden Cove is well worth the scramble down
Working on the Lizard has been a truly unforgettable experience that’s given me so many new skills for the future. It's been privilege to work alongside such a friendly and dedicated team of rangers and volunteers who soon made the Lizard feel like home. Though I'm gutted the season is drawing to an end, I’m psyched to see what the future will bring and I know I’ll be back to visit in no time! 

- Tom
A garden visitor to the volunteer house at Poltesco

To learn more about what's it like being a Volunteer Wildlife Ranger  on the Lizard,watch this video:

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