Ginormous whirligigs and camera trapping – a year at Caerlaverock NNR

Our graduate placement at Caerlaverock NNR, Ellie Oakley, reflects over the year and looks back on the highlights and achievements.

Ellie Oakley.

Last year, I had to make a decision to either carry on with my study of Countryside and Environmental Management or take up a student placement with SNH.  It’s hard to believe this was a whole year ago. Now my year at Caerlaverock NNR is already up andit has been a pure joy and pleasure. I have been reflecting over the year and looking back on highlights and achievements. There have been so many!  I loved the diversity of tasks I had, including surveying wetland birds for our Breeding Birds Survey (BBS),  finding amphibians, meeting new people, getting stuck into practical work, going out on the merse enjoying the morning and evening flights of the geese.  Every day was different which I absolutely loved.

Ellie Oakley.But I think my proudest achievement was the education. Outdoor education is a passion of mine and in my opinion is so important, so this year I tried to get involved with any education projects as I could.  For example, on 1 May 1 the sun was shining and it was a perfect day for a Brownie visit. Adam, Reserve Officer, and I were pretty excited to take them out on the Reserve after spending one evening with them talking about animal tracks and signs.

Ellie and the Brownies.We walked down Hollands Loaning to try and spot the bird boxes that the brownies had decorated for us, as earlier in the week Adam and I had noticed a pair of tree sparrows popping in and out of the bird boxes painted by the Gnomes group.  Walking around the board walk the Brownies where on point and spotted frogs, butterflies and flowers. We enjoyed a picnic in the sun and closed our eyes to concentrate on how many different things we could hear; reeds swaying in the wind, sedge warbler, reed bunting, and skylark singing, and giggling Brownies. When lunch was all eaten up we spent the rest of the time pond dipping to find interesting creatures lurking around at the bottom of the pond. One of the surprises was a ginormous whirligig beetle the size of your palm, which we were able to scoop up to put in a tray for closer inspection.

The other major project I have been a part of was the SNH Schools Camera Trapping Competition.  I worked with the local primary school Caerlaverock, and fantastically they won first prize across the whole of Scotland in the innovation category. For the competition, SNH loaned camera traps to 20 primary schools throughout Scotland to record wildlife. Pupils gathered footage over a number of months and the schools submitted a compilation video of their favourite scenes and pictures. Camera trap prizes were awarded to those judged to have made the most innovative use of the equipment in the context of their school’s location.  P4, 5, 6 and 7 children from Caerlaverock primary school used their camera trap to capture pictures and video footage of a wide range of species right on their doorstep, and then edited the footage themselves to make a short film. This was a brilliant project and I enjoyed every moment, planning, working inside the school to show them fast track nature detective skills, and bringing the whole school out on the reserve to put out a camera trap.

It has been a brilliant year with lot of fond memories. I’ll be sure to come back for a visit to this special part of the world.

This year Caerlaverock NNR celebrates its 60th anniversary. Come along to the celebrations on Saturday 15 July where there will be something to excite and inspire everyone. Find out more here.

And for more information about the Reserve go to the web page.


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