BBC Wildlife Magazine
“We’re working with farmers to help curlews”
Protecting curlew nests and chairing meetings is all in a day’s work for ecologist Mike Pollard
Mike spent 30 years working for the RSPB in nature reserve management, and now juggles volunteering with paid work as a freelance ecologist. He currently volunteers as the chair of the Gay Birders Club (GBC), a trustee for Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), and a conservation offficer for the Banbury Ornithological Society (BOS), where his main focus is curlew conservation.
Why do you choose to volunteer?
I’m motivated to help nature and I enjoy working with other people to make a difference locally. I think in the current crisis facing nature, everyone who enjoys wildlife should help support nature conservation in whatever way they can. I find it very rewarding to be able to use my skills and experience to help, but it can be tough going as well when you see bird populations declining and there is often little you can do to help.
What does your volunteering involve? My role as the chair of GBC includes chairing our committee meetings and AGM, as well as supporting committee members with their work, especially when decisions need to be made. There’s rarely a day when I’m not volunteering in some shape or form – responding to emails, reading and critiquing board papers for quarterly BBOWT meetings, giving presentations, organising meetings, keeping up to date with curlew research and management techniques, as well as planning and undertaking the all-important curlew fieldwork from March to July.
What project are you working on now? At the moment my main project is curlew recovery, which I lead on for BOS. We have about 50 pairs of curlews breeding in the Upper Thames catchment and like most populations of lowland curlews in England, they’ve declined in recent decades. We’re working with farmers to help curlews by protecting their nests with electric fencing during incubation. This has been shown to be an effective way of increasing breeding success and our initial work shows promise. It’s demanding work for volunteers as the nests are hard to locate and the electric fencing has to be put up in about half an hour – this requires a lot of practice!