Surveying birds and restoring wetland habitat

Megan Shersby and Ann Chadwick meet Joe Fryer who volunteers at the nature reserve where he spent his childhood birdwatching with his grandad.

Joe Fryer sits next to a vibrant pond taking notes on a clipboard.

16-year-old student Joe is learning about wildlife both in college, where he studies Animal Management and Wildlife, and during his weekly volunteer days at Nosterfield Nature Reserve near Ripon in North Yorkshire. He talks to us about his experiences and achievements as a volunteer.

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What does your volunteering involve?

I don’t work on any one particular project, but help out on whatever is planned for that day. This has included planting wetland plants and creating new habitats for the reserve, and restoring old habitats that were once in the Nosterland area.

I’ve helped out with bird ringing, the breeding bird census and the breeding wader survey. I’ve also done sound recording overnight to find out which species of bird that we can’t see are flying over the reserve.

A water pipit being ringed. © Mike Powles/Getty Images
A water pipit being ringed. © Mike Powles/Getty Images

Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer so I can give back to the reserve, as it has given me so much over the years. I began volunteering here in September 2020, but first started birdwatching when I was three with my grandad, and then visiting Nosterfield when I was nine.

My grandad works in a food factory, but it has always been his pastime to go out and watch birds. It’s really bonded us. I still go out most weekends with him. It started from looking at birds on the bird table, pointing them out, and it’s evolved into wanting a career in conservation.

A boy in his mid to late teens crouches in front of a lake, hold a camera up to his eye to take photos
Joe Fryer taking photographs of wildlife at Nosterfield Quarry. © Frank Dwyer

I find the volunteering improves mental wellbeing a lot, because you’re getting out of the house and experiencing different things. It’s nice to be with all of the other volunteers and to chat to them. There’s a bit of a generation gap and I’m youngest. It would be nice if other young people were able to get involved too.

What have you achieved while volunteering at Nosterfield?

I have gained a lot more knowledge and identification skills about the natural world, as well as practical experience. My proudest moment was erecting the osprey platform. I’m happy that the habitats we’ve created have allowed species such as reed and sedge warblers to breed in these new areas. Bitterns, water rails and marsh harriers have also returned to the reserve. It’s nice to see things change – and to know you helped.

A Eurasian bittern emerging from a reed bed in Suffolk, England, UK. © Kevin Sawford/ImageBROKER/Getty Images
A Eurasian bittern emerging from a reed bed in Suffolk, England, UK. © Kevin Sawford/ImageBROKER/Getty Images

Main image: Joe Fryer assists with a variety of tasks at Nosterfield, including bird surveys. © Frank Dwyer

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This article originally appeared in BBC Wildlife. Take a look inside the current issue and find out how to subscribe. If you’d like to nominate a wildlife or conservation volunteer to be interviewed, e-mail Megan Shersby with your suggestion.