At the start of the summer holidays, I went to Knepp for an amazing week volunteering as a research assistant. We saw and learnt about so many different species that live on the Estate throughout the week. I had originally decided to go to Knepp to help me decide on university courses, and if I wanted ecology to be part of it. The week showed me how worthwhile it is.
Each day we had one or two surveys led by someone who had experience in that area, from calculating carbon sequestration to mammal surveys. And most evenings we had a talk from someone working in the ecology or rewilding field, including a bat walk which was fantastic. Although it was all great, one of my favourites was the birds. I had nearly no experience at identifying birds before this week but on our first night we had a presentation on how to identify birds from their calls, songs, and appearance. This was helpful as each night after that we did a bird log where we shared which birds we had seen or heard – there was an impressive amount!
On the day of our bird survey, we got up bright and early to go mist netting. We watched the leaders go through the process of ringing the birds and then were able to hold them to let them go, which was very exciting! During the survey we saw lots of different birds up close like warblers and chiffchaffs and I even got to let a nightingale go.
After mist netting we went on to do a few types of BTO survey around the estate. This was not only a good way to see more of the estate but also really useful to help us identify different birds and focus on what they were. From taking part in surveys like this it felt like we were contributing to the research and data based being used which was a great feeling.
Of course, learning about the wildlife and systems of rewilding was so interesting but before the week I was very nervous about camping with a group of strangers for a week. However, I didn’t need to worry because the people were so lovely. On the first night we pushed all the tables together as we got to know one another. From that point onwards, each evening we spent our free time either playing cards, catch or just talking. Since that week I have been camping again with 2 of the people who I met at Knepp, and we went on a couple of nature walks together.
It was such a good experience and I would thoroughly recommend it.
Photos by Rosie Duckhouse & Fran Anderson