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Bird Aware ranger Natalie sat by river

Hi! My name is Natalie and I’m the Lead Ranger for Bird Aware Solent. Through October to March all the Ranger team spend as much time on the coast as possible, raising awareness of our winter friends, the birds. We cover 254kms of the Solent coast and its diversity and ever-changing weather means that no two days are the same.

Typically, Rangers visit two sites a day and we plan these around the tides. Some sites are best at high tide for resting birds, while others are great feeding spots at low tide. Here’s how one of my days went last week…

I started the morning at one of my favorite spots in Emsworth, near Langstone Mill. I love this site as it has plenty of mud at low tide, so there is lots of food available for the birds. I set my telescope up with a good view of the feeding birds and was able to show visitors the birds in action. Curlew were using their long downcurved beaks to probe deep in the mud for tasty worms and brent geese and wigeon were spotted closer to the water’s edge eating their favorite food, eel grass. Showing visitors the birds up close always make me smile as people are often amazed at just how many different birds are out on the shore. To the naked eye it’s easy to overlook them as they are well camouflaged against their muddy environment, but through the telescope you are able to see all the different sizes, colours and behaviours of the birds. When a visitor has had a good look at the birds, it makes it much easier for me to explain why they need to be given space so they can feed and rest.

On my way back the car I always stop at the pond by the mill to see if one of my favourite birds is there. On this day I wasn’t disappointed as up in a tree there were 5 little egrets enjoying a rest. I love to see these ghostly figures with their bright yellow toes up in the trees and they are always a good conversation starter.

After a well deserved lunch I went to East Head to meet another Bird Aware Ranger, Emily, and a Ranger from the National Trust. Luckily, it was a glorious sunny day so we set up a table with some of our educational props such as bird skulls, beach finds and of course a telescope! The event was a great success with many families gaining more insight into their local environment and enjoying matching the skulls to the pictures. It always gives us Rangers a sense of pride when the people we talk to leave us appreciating that the area is special for the thousands of birds who call it home every winter.