Aliens in the woods

I started a new job last week. Still with the RSPB, but at HQ. The Lodge. My job title is now Assistant Species Recovery Officer. Sounds impressive huh. Sadly I will be indoors at a computer for the next five months. The plus is I’ll hopefully be gaining incredible amounts of knowledge on how to facilitate wildlife conservation projects.

Until the clocks are annoyingly turned back, and therefore cast darkness on our afternoons, I walk to work, and back, through the reserve. It takes me roughly forty minutes. Some of it I power march. Some of it I dawdle. Stopping to look at fungi. Or aiming my binoculars at every corvid with the secret hope that its a raven. On my first morning I had a close encounter with a jay. I’ve never seen one so close before. Its colours were utterly gorgeous. And it checked me out as much as I did it, before it flew away. Jays were common when I was a kid. I believe that’s the first Jay I’ve seen in over five years. It could be that other corvids, such as magpies have moved with the times, adapted to changing environments, and out-competed jays. Or it could be a multitude of other reasons such as lack of its preferred habitat, lack of its prey. At the Lodge there are many mature oak trees. A very important feature in the jay’s life, and vice-versa. That first morning I also saw a hobby sky dancing over the woodland.

On another morning I nearly stumbled in to muntjac deer. Startled, it stared at me for a second or two, before bouncing away. Muntjac are an alien species, not native to the UK. The wild ones in this part of England are descendants of escapees from Woburn Abbey. Not far from here. Unfortunately this cute animal is on the UK’s most wanted Non-native species list.

Not far from the offices, there is a hide. By the hide are some straggly tree saplings, smothered in bird feeders. One morning as I was passing, I noticed quite a commotion. I crept closer, as statue-like as possible. And watched. Three female pheasant were jumping on and off the tree saplings, up and down. As they did so, they managed to knock lots of feed from the feeders, and on the ground. So providing themselves with a well-deserved free treat. I take back a life-time of saying that pheasant are not very bright. These three ladies certainly were.

There seem to be droves of green woodpeckers, along with all the usual suspects – robins, blackbirds, wrens, great-tits, crows, jackdaws, and magpies. I have a wish list for the Lodge reserve. Raven, nuthatch, tree creeper, and Dartford warbler.

And last of my news today. A dead, but BTO ringed, corncrake was found in southern France in September. The BTO ring, with its internationally unique code, enabled the finder to report the finding. And slowly the report made its way to the RSPB. And to me. He was one of mine. He was male. He was from Whipsnade Zoo’s very first clutch of 2013. Death unknown. I feel heartbroken. He got so far. What went wrong? Unfortunately we’ll never know. As the finder would not have known to send the bird to us for postmortem. Hmph. But to end on a positive note. It is good to know that they are doing what they should be doing. Migrating. And in the right direction.
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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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