My volunteering diary 22 April 2021

Fence repairs at Slievenacloy Nature Reserve

Being a volunteer with Ulster Wildlife is a big adventure: you never know what’s going to happen, and you have to be ready for everything. Join the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) volunteers' weekly adventures, narrated by an ESC from the Natures Reserve team.

Nature Reserves

The grass is getting higher on our nature reserves. The grass cutting season is here and it's strimming time! These last weeks, we have been clearing the picnic area at Balloo Wetland Nature Reserve, as well as the paths around our reserves. 

Grazing and mowing is essential to the maintenance of the balance and diversity in meadows and grasslands. Recently we started preparing the land for the cattle to return to Bog Meadows. This year, we are changing the water troughs in the fields for the cows – that come back in May – and part of our work was preparing the area, to move those heavy drinkers to their places.  

From time to time, we have to maintain the fences on our nature reserves. There's a lot of fences to replace and work to do at Slievenacloy

Sometimes the weather allows us to do something a little more relaxed, like painting some of the fences at Bog Meadows

Pond dipping

Last week, I did a freshwater invertebrate identification in the ponds and streams at Bog Meadows for the first time.  

Ponds and streams are home to a huge variety of invertebrates, and, if you take a bit of water from there, and you pay a bit of attention, you will see a lot of life and a lot of movement. I never thought that there was that amount of wildlife in freshwater. 

Pond dipping

invertebrate identification

The more I search on the internet about invertebrates,  the more I am interested in them. Some invertebrates like clean water while others prefer dirty water. Some of them eat plants and algae and others are carnivores. The other day we had the opportunity to see a beetle larva eating another invertebrate! 

We saw lesser water boatman, freshwater shrimp, freshwater hoglouse and water spiders

See how much movement there is just in a bit of water! 

Noticing Wildlife

Over the last two weeks, I've seen a lot of wildlife on our nature reserves!  

I learned about the first butterfly I spotted at Balloo Woodland Nature Reserve  – the small tortoiseshell – a common species which is easy to see.  I also took a good shot of a bumblebee. 

I've borrowed some binoculars from Ulster Wildlife to keep improving my bird identification skills. One day at Slievenacloy, I saw for a pair of chaffinch and wrens nesting around the picnic area.  

There’s always a family of rabbits close to the Bog Meadows building, and Eduardo (another ESC volunteer) spotted the first metamorphic common frog! 

Do you know how many species of crows you can spot at the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve? Crows are one of my favourite type of birds and last week I saw Jackdaws, Hooded Crows, Carrion Crows, Magpies, Rooks nesting in the top of some trees and I also spotted a Raven.  

About the programme

The European Solidarity Corps (ESC) scheme offers young volunteers from European countries the opportunity to work with Ulster Wildlife for 12 months, with placements within our Nature Reserves, Living Landscapes and Fundraising and Communications teams.