My volunteering diary 26 August 2021

My volunteering diary 26 August 2021

Isle of Muck (c) John McLaughlin

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.

I can’t believe our placement has come to an end. How can a year have gone so fast, it seems like it was yesterday that we started volunteering for Ulster Wildlife! This will be a longer blog - it is very difficult to summarize an entire year with few words. 

What I loved about my placement

It’s literally impossible for me to choose what I enjoyed the most. I loved discovering nature, working outdoors, the country and its people. This year has made me see the world in a different way. I’m more aware of everything that surrounds me.  

What I enjoyed the least

To be honest there’s only one thing I’m not going to miss, and I’m sure everyone already knows what it is: the beautiful weather. I still don’t get how it works! In a single day you have the four seasons of the year, and rain... lots of rain! 

But even under the rain we worked and we had a good time. 

The lockdown was also challenging for us, it has been difficult to meet people. Now that we are leaving it's when we are meeting more people and taking part on face-to-face events. It has not been easy but we already know the therapeutic power of nature. We were really lucky to have a daily dose of nature! 

Monica, ESC volunteer

Monica, ESC volunteer

The skills that I have gained

I’ve learnt about scrub control, removal of invasive species, pond clearance, hedgerow management, tree planting, access maintenance, cutting grass along paths, litter picking, fencing, use of tools and machinery, botanical and monitoring and much more. 

I have learnt a lot about the different habitats and their management - grasslands, woodlands and wetlands.  

But there are two things that I am specially proud of:  my improvement with the language -at first I was not able to understand people and now I feel very confident talking- and the discovery of my passion for birds and my bird ID skills.  

Isle of Muck (c) Monica Abaurrea

Isle of Muck (c) Monica Abaurrea

Highlights of the year

Believe me when I say that it’s been very difficult to choose only three moments from the Nature Reserves because every single day was a crazy and awesome adventure. But here we go: 

1. Work at the Isle of Muck 

The Isle of Muck is a restricted access nature reserve where only the Nature Reserves Team has access to it by boat. Very few people have the opportunity to work in a place as spectacular as this one. I also remember that the day we worked there I saw a seal in the wild for the first time! 

Nature Reserves Team at Isle of Muck

Nature Reserves Team at Isle of Muck

                                                        2. Discovering bogs 

I had never been in a bog before coming to Northern Ireland. The first time I walked over one I thought 'What kind of habitat is this!' You don’t know the amount of funny moments that I have lived working in the bogs and the number of times that I have fallen walking through them.  

                              3. The funny moments in the nature reserves 

I’m not going to lie, this is not just one funny moment, I can't only choose one! Memories come to my mind as I'm writing this and I can’t stop laughing.

Crazy litter picking, Luisa throwing trash across the stream, the adventure cleaning Bog Meadows by boat, a snowball fight, Ronald’s jump straight into the water... 

What a year and what a dream team! 

Luisa, ESC volunteer & Ricky, Nature Skills Trainee

Luisa, ESC volunteer & Ricky, Nature Skills Trainee

Thanks to Ulster Wildlife for this year

I would like to thank the entire Ulster Wildlife team for making this year an amazing adventure. 

Thanks Ronald, Deborah, Ryan and John for every moment that we have lived in the reserves and for teaching me everything I know about nature and conservation. Thanks to Sheila, for her great job at organizing our work days. Thanks to Katy for teaching us about bumblebees, dragonflies and hedgehogs. Thanks to the Living Seas Team - Gala and her team are amazing and I loved learning about the marine wildlife in Northern Ireland. Thanks Erin for showing us a bit more about sharks and egg cases. Thanks to the Peatlands project team- Simon and Trish: it has been brilliant to work on your project. Thanks to Alexey for showing me a bit more about the woodwork. Many thanks to the Communications team - Vickie, Kelly and Laura-  for making this blog possible. 

ESC Volunteers

ESC Volunteers

Thanks to all the trainees and volunteers with whom I have been working and also all those who I haven't had the chance to meet -without your help none of this would be possible. Thanks to each of the people who has stopped us at the nature reserves thanking us for the work we are doing.  

And I can’t finish the blog without thanking the awesome group of ESC volunteers that I have been a part of, you will always be part of my family.  

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.