A week in the life of a Corncrake Assistant – Friday

8am. I collect the truck and head to the northern aviaries. I prepare two pens with dishes of food, water, and thrown dispersed worms.
8.30am. I meet Kat from Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, on the drove. We pop the two boxes containing eight corncrake chicks in to the truck and drive back across the field to the ready aviaries.
Kat emptied one box of chicks in to an aviary and I did the other. One of the chicks jumped right out of the box. No wonder they have such enormous feet, they have springs in them!
9am. I relocate to the southern aviaries and feed and water that bunch. Its raining.
9.20am. I head back to base, to get dry… And then I change my mind and drive straight to the decoy male aviaries. I may as well get wet just the once.
10am. Driving back to base I meet Charlie, the RSPB Nene Washes Reserve Site Manager, cycling over to move some cattle. He pops his bike in the back of the truck and I help him shepherd the herd of cows and calves from one field into the next.

10.30am. Office admin catchup.

1pm. I prepare the big tubs full of food to nourish the mealworms that arrived today.

1.30pm. I join Charlie (Site Manager) and Lizzie (Assistant Stocksman/Warden) shepherding some cattle, and get to see a part of the reserve I haven’t been to before. I must get back there on a sunny day. With camera.

3pm. Pop to Whittlesey centre to buy some weetabix and readybrek (or their cheaper replicas) to make waxmoth caterpillar food.

4pm. Off to feed the chicks again. Its STILL raining. This time I’m prepared. Head to toe in waterproofs.
On leaving one of the fields I spook a hare (by mistake). It then hops along all the way up the drove ahead of me.

5.30pm. I deal with a live cricket delivery. More corncrake food.

11pm. Rhys and Hannah meet me here at the office. We’re on a mission. To catch a male corncrake who’s been calling on the bank in field 11. Rhys loads all his corncrake catching equipment into the back of the truck and off we go.
He is calling when we get there. Rhys has previously attempted luring him in to a mist net by playing recordings of another male corncrake. It didn’t work. Tonight we will try different tactics.
Rhys gave Hannah and I very precise instructions, regularly. It did feel like we were on a military exercise.
We set up a V-shaped mist net. Hannah and I crept along the bank and positioned ourselves behind the calling crake. And Rhys played his lure tape.
It took a long time. This crake was a suspicious crake.
Eventually though, curiosity must have got the better of him and he flew in to the net.
Alas, he was one we caught a while back. Not a new bird after all!

2am. Back to base. I crawl in to bed.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange


About Olivia N Masi

From art college drop-out, to office space-planner, to back-packer, to air stewardess, to brolly babe, to model agent, to wildlife conservationist. How? I've always believed in jumping at every opportunity that comes my way. This has taken me along some bizarre career paths. None of which I regret. I have been to amazing places and met fascinating people. And having worked in the motor sport industry I've sadly experienced too many beloved friends take one adrenalin step too many. I think of them always. I've hung out with pop-stars, sports personalities, and millionaires. I reached a point when nothing but VIP would do. And then something happened. My pops passed away and I felt the need to reconnect with my Italian side. Whilst in Italy, I learnt to be resourceful, to recycle everything, to listen to the valley, to grow my own veg, to catch and tame feral cats, and to follow my heart. My heart led me to a desire to save this beautiful Earth, and all the wonderful life upon it. And so I read, and then I studied with the Open University. I suddenly found myself accepted on a BSc in Wildlife Conservation, having left school with pitiful qualifications. So here I am. A qualified Wildlife Conservationist. A scientist I suppose. I love nothing more than to listen to birdsong, and watch, learn and photograph wildlife. So here is to me getting the perfect job where I can contribute to saving one of Earth's beautiful species. Do I miss the glamour of the old life? The VIP lifestyle? The petrol-head adrenalin? The buzz of being a successful business owner? Only occasionally. Though it seems more like the distant dreams of a previous life.
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