From Volunteer to Ranger: Anna Field
Ranger and Ecologist, Sherborne Park Estate
For Anna, working outdoors is second nature. She is passionate about the wide variety of habitats on the Sherborne Park Estate, and the wildlife her and the team are working tirelessly to conserve.
When did you start volunteering/working with the National Trust?
I started volunteering with the ranger team doing surveys, habitat management and estate work in 2014. Three years later a Ranger/Ecologist position came up at Sherborne which I was lucky enough to get. The main reason I enjoy my work is because I am able to influence the management of a large estate to improve the environment for wildlife.
How did you get started in ecology?
I've always been interested in wildlife and studied ecology as part of my undergraduate degree but in recent years I've become increasingly concerned with the state of our environment and so wanted to find a way to use my time to help change this.
I studied for a masters in Conservation Ecology, during which I got involved with surveying and ringing birds for the British Trust for Ornithology and started volunteering for the National Trust - it's been hard work but I have loved every minute of it.
What does a typical day for an Ecologist Ranger look like?
Spring time is always busy, and this year even more so. I'm currently working on farmland breeding bird surveys, which we do annually on all our farms to monitor species such as Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Yellow Wagtail. With Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch being filmed at Sherborne Park this year I have been working with the BBC camera crew scouting the best locations and potential filming sites to see our wildlife up close.
I also regulary check all our Barn Owl boxes with one of our volunteers. This year we have five breeding pairs on the estate. We are also doing some mammal surveying at the moment and another job is to check a series of stoat and weasel tracking tunnels to help identify areas where they are present. My day normally ends back at the office catching up with colleagues and emails before heading off to collect my children.
You’re involved in a project monitoring Barn Owls, what does that entail and how does it help us look after their habitat?
Over the last couple of years we've been putting up barn owl boxes all over the estate as part of a project with the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Each year we monitor the boxes to get information about occupancy and breeding success. We also ring the new chicks. Ringing the young allows us to look at survival rates, longevity and dispersal.
We submit this data to the British Trust for Ornithology's national nest record and ringing schemes, and also to the Gloucestershire Barn Owl Monitoring Programme. Monitoring breeding can help us identify areas on the estate which would benefit from additional nest boxes and where foraging habitats might be improved.
Tell us more about Barn Owls, what makes them so special to you?
Catching a glimpse of one never fails to lift your spirits - even on the coldest and darkest of winter days. As well as being beautiful, they are great indicators of a healthy farmland environment and a conservation success story. With research and habitat management it is possible to reverse the fortunes of struggling species.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue their passion for the outdoors?
Spend as much time outside as possible. It's easier to learn and remember things by seeing them for yourself. Learn how to ID as many birds, mammals, trees, plants, and insects as you can. I would also try getting involved as a volunteer or surveyor with organisations like the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts or the British Trust for Ornithology, and make your sightings count.
How would you encourage people to discover nature in their own gardens?
Less is definitely more. Less mowing, less tidying, less chemicals. The bees and butterflies love it and it means less work for you! If you have got a bit more space and energy, why not dig a pond? We had a pair of mallards move onto ours within days and although I am a little sad about the disappearance of all my carefully planted pond plants, my children love the ducks and that's definitely more important. Putting bird feeders close to a window or a nest box with a camera is another great way to engage children with the wildlife around them.