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Work experience with Bird Aware

Bird Aware recently hosted their very first work placement student, Mads, an apprentice ranger from the South Downs National Park Authority. Here she speaks about her time with Ranger Karima out on the Solent coast. 


Day 1 - a day full of learning! I didn't know anything... 

We met at Hayling Island bright and early. I was warned it would be cold but my goodness, the wind was strong. After layering up and getting moving, the cold feeling disappeared. We walked and talked and I learnt about the history of Bird Aware and what their aim is. As we walked along the beach, we distanced ourselves from the shoreline to allow the birds to feed and remain undisturbed. It was a quiet day for birds, the wind and high tide meant they were hiding. We went to check a fenced roosting area (a place where the birds use to rest) to see what we could find but unfortunately it was empty. Karima was sure there would be birds resting nearby so we set our telescopes up and searched for the flock. We moved along the beach slowly with our telescopes taking care not to startle any well camouflaged birds. After a careful search, we finally Ringed plover roost through scope Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser windowfound them! Although it was a comparatively small flock of dunlin and ringed plover compared to what is usually seen in this area, for me, it was great to see them and learn about them. Thankfully there weren't any significant disturbances while we were there, I think the wind put people off of coming out.  

Day 2 - A morning at Cobnor, Chichester Harbour 

The sun was shining and this time I put too many layers on! It was the Great Solent Bird Watch this week so we were out doing our own count across the harbour. It was fairly busy with walkers, runners and bird watchers, a fair few people with dogs but they were all on the path with their owners, not causing any disturbance. This time I got the chance to see and learn about a whole host of different bird species, there were just so many! We saw oystercatchers, redshank, greenshank, turnstones, egrets, brent geese, curlews, cormorants, teal, lapwing, sanderling and dunlin. We surveyed the birds from 3 different points on the footpath and had to count how many of each species we could see. There was so much to see, my excitement levels were high, I was learning so much and taking it all in.  

In the afternoon we went to Priddy's Hard in Gosport and I was pleasantly surprised at what was on the shoreline considering the urban area. The tide was far out and from first glance, it didn't look like much out there. I opened up the telescope and was shocked to see so many birds near the waters' edge! It was a great feeling to be able to identify the species myself this time, it showed how much I had learnt during a short space of time. The area was very quiet and with the tide being out, it was great for the birds to feed and fatten up for the winter. 

Day 3 - Back to Hayling Island  

We headed back to beach I visited on my first day to see if the flock of ringed plover and dunlin were around. We walked back to the same areaRinged plover Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window and as we approached we noticed a large flock of birds fly up and disappear into Langstone Harbour, we realised they had been startled by a dog approaching too close. I set up my telescope to see if any birds still remained. 'WOW' was the only word for it... there was a mixed flock of around 600 dunlin and ringed plover settled down on the stones resting. They are really hard to spot as they look just like stones when they are all hunkered down hiding and staying warm. It was great to see so many birds at once. After counting the birds, we quietly packed up our things and walked back to the top of the beach where we watched the roost to see if they were disturbed at all by people walking past. The birds remained settled until we were only a few hundred metres away from the car, the flock soared past us and headed up into Langstone Harbour. Unfortunately, we didn't see the cause of the disturbance and only hoped the birds would settle soon. I had seen the impact of bird disturbance and why it is so important that rangers are out on the coast educating visitors about the impact. 

Around midday the sun shone through and we headed off to the Oysterbeds to complete a bird disturbance survey as part of Bird Aware's monitoring program. The tide was going out and there were so many birds to see. We did two bird counts, one at the start of the survey and one at the end. Between the two surveys, we monitored the birds to see what disturbance events were occuring. The nature reserve was busy with people so there was a mix of disturbances from dogs running along the shoreline, people walking near to where to birds were settled and even a drone flying over the reserve. We spoke to visitors as we surveyed and told them all about the birds we were seeing with our scopes. People were interested in what we had seen and what they could do to prevent the disturbance of the birds.  

Overall, my time working with Karima and Bird Aware Solent was excellent! I learnt so much and it has been great to go out and do my own 'mini' birds surveys when along the coast. A big thank you to the team for organising the placement for me.  



It was a pleasure working with Mads for a few days and I am thrilled that she has since landed herself a permanent job with Hampshire's Countryside Service managing wildlife sites around southern Hampshire. Having some company during our long cold patrols on the coast is worth its weight in gold; and with so many birds to count I definitely needed all the help I could get completing my surveys! If you are interested in a work placement with Bird Aware Solent please get in touch through our "contact us" page.   

Lead Ranger, Karima.