A summer internship in Ayrshire

Throughout my internship I’ve gradually settled into the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s routine, even though we tend to do different things every week.

Planting wildflowers at Barmill © Daniel McLaughlin

I have a new found appreciation on the amount of preparation and work behind the scenes that is necessary to set up each volunteering activity. From reading through action plans to see what needs done, compiling risk assessments and getting equipment looked out in advance, a lot of work gets put in before an activity is even started. This insight has been very rewarding as I am aiming for a job in the conservation sector, so this is vital for me to learn for future projects I will hopefully run myself.

Working at the Barmill Community Garden near Beith was a fantastic joint effort between a number of volunteer groups. We worked together to strip back encroaching vegetation and then planted the area up with moisture loving plants such as the vibrant yellow flag Iris. The volunteers enjoyed learning how to plant the wetland plant species and how they will improve the site’s biodiversity. We had a fantastic volunteer day with great hospitality and an interesting blend of conservation and aesthetics.

Volunteer photographing common blue butterfly © Daniel McLaughlin

The ‘Big Butterfly Count’ event at Gailes Marsh took place a glorious summer day. Families came along to take part in the event and record numbers of different species. This was a satisfying teaching experience to help motivate the families to learn about Ayrshire’s butterflies. Seeing the butterflies in their natural environment in such diverse numbers helped interest the public more than any guidebook or slideshow could have managed. The children, and I suspect the adults too, had a great deal of fun catching the specimens and learning how to tell them apart.

Reserves Manager Gill Smart took our group of volunteers on a Wildflower Workshop at Shewalton Wood Wildlife Reserve in Irvine. The workshop improved my plant ID skills and the question and answer session was very informative. It was a very enjoyable day out, as the interactive experience taught me not just what the plants were but also in which habitats to find them.

Summer cycle event © Daniel McLaughlin

I assisted at the ‘Summer Cycle’ event at Shewalton Wood, taking our group on an informative circuit of the wildlife reserve focusing on both the historical and natural features. This also encouraged healthy exercise in the outdoors. I hope that those new to the reserve will come back in their own time and encourage others to do the same.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is involved with the Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership and some of their projects. We began work on the project to create meanders on the Dundonald Burn within Shewalton Wood by removing old fences ahead of heavy machinery entering the site. The volunteer group also collected wildflower seeds to be sown over the area that is disturbed by the machinery.

And after our ‘starring’ role on BBC Scotland’s Landward programme, we built another bee hotel at the Fullarton Parish Church of Scotland in Irvine. Some of the already built bee hotels on our wildlife reserves are already showing signs of use, with holes sealed up by the female solitary bees that have used them to lay their eggs. We will be monitoring these nesting structures to see if any solitary bees hatch out as adults next spring or early summer.

Teaching volunteers about plants © Daniel McLaughlin

Finally we attended the Eco Ayrshire event held in Troon. Our stall had the theme of pollinators and how good they are for the environment. Running a stall was a valuable experience as I learned how to engage with and educate the public. It was also great fun to meet other stall holders and learn from them, as well as purchasing a few Eco essentials for myself!

Daniel McLaughlin, Community Engagement Assistant, Connecting Communities to Nature project

Daniel’s internship in Ayrshire is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Learn more about the latest volunteering and internship opportunities with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. 

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Throughout my internship I’ve gradually settled into the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s routine, even though we tend to do different things every week. I have a new found appreciation on the …

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