After eight months in south-east Asia I had just one thing on my mind; Cornwall. In all honesty it was a pint of ale in a traditional pub with a measure of cold weather that was the focus of my daydreaming. Cornwall was merely the location. As my return date loomed nearer and nearer my mind started to wander back to this scene with increasing frequency. Little did I know that the place that had appeared so many times in my visions was a place that I had never set foot; The Roseland Peninsula. Having spent a number of years living in Falmouth I would often admire the view of a beautiful headland decorated with an iconic lighthouse, across the Carrick Roads. This had subconsciously become the backdrop for my long awaited beer.
It shames me to admit that in three years of living so close to the Roseland, I never once visited. I never even contemplated it. I soon discovered that this was my loss. Having returned to this country to seek work, I found myself back with my folks in Devon with few jobs on offer. Conservation had always been my interest, and I had studied cirl buntings as part of my degree, so I contacted the RSPB to see whether I could be of service. As it turned out, the reintroduction project was looking for additional eyes and ears to spend some time monitoring the birds on the Roseland. Within a fortnight I was winding my way back to the southern Cornish coast, this time with binoculars in hand.
During my first week on the project I was given the full tour. Much of the work involves covering farmland to locate the cirl buntings, and I found this one of the most enjoyable aspects of the daily routine. Each site we visited had its own unique charm, and every time I topped a new hill or rounded the next bend I was greeted with yet another stunning vista. The mix of habitats – rolling farmland, tidal creek, rocky shore and sandy beach – provides a bountiful supply of birds and beasts for any natural history enthusiast. And despite the myriad attractions on offer, the area retains a sense of isolation, peace and tranquillity (that I suspect would be less evident during the summer months!).
The reason that I looked into becoming a residential volunteer was that I wanted to gain some first hand practical experience within a conservation project, whilst also contributing towards the project’s targets. The day to day work was very enjoyable and I gained invaluable knowledge from working alongside the experts, especially the other volunteers. Monitoring the cirls became almost addictive and there was great satisfaction when I managed to get my ears tuned into contact calls and song, and started observing well hidden birds or birds that I had not seen in a while. There was also an effort made to broaden my experience by helping out with other aspects of the project, and other areas of the work conducted by the RSPB. This included attending meetings with landowners and a day trip down to Marazion Marsh to get stuck into some habitat management work, which was a good opportunity to have a bit of fun working with all members of the cirl team, and other volunteers in the county.
Although my motivations will not be shared by all the volunteers, they will have their own reasons for participating in such a unique piece of work. I suspect that some of them also use it as an opportunity to develop their own skills and character, whilst others use their years of experience to contribute towards the ultimate goals of reintroducing the species to Cornwall. Perhaps others simply want to keep active! But for everyone it is a great chance to discover a quiet, undisturbed corner of the county.
Sadly, I am on my way again and in complete contrast to the Roseland Cirl Bunting population, I find myself relocating to Devon. Hopefully I will be able to establish myself there as easily as I have on the Roseland. I have promised myself it will not be long before I am visiting the area again… and perhaps sampling some more of the local ales!