Hello to Andy, our new Residential Volunteer Warden

Leighton Moss

Leighton Moss
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Leighton Moss

Hello to Andy, our new Residential Volunteer Warden

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We welcome Andy to the team as our new Residential Volunteer Warden. A keen and experienced birdwatcher, Andy will be helping to keep the reserve looking amazing through continuing his life as a warden with us at Leighton Moss. In this blog he tells us a little bit about himself and his experiences so far before arriving here.

Hello! I have just started as a volunteer intern warden at RSPB Leighton Moss and shall be here until late February. I am very happy to continue my 12-month internship, which I began at RSPB Fairburn Ings and St Aidan’s, with a new team of both humans and creatures. Leighton Moss is a splendid place in a fantastic setting. I have been coming here since I was 11. When I was 16 years old, I did my work experience here and got to help with bird surveys and butterfly transects.

As you will see form the distribution map I have spent much of my life in Scotland. I was born in Cumbria, studied Ecology at Aberdeen University and have worked in many places, for much of the last 5 years or so, for consultancies doing bird survey work for environmental impact assessment, particularly for wind turbines, in remote areas.  Highlights include finding hen harriers and red-throated divers (under licence), discovering a singing wood sandpiper in suitable breeding habitat, finding a blue and white phase snow goose whilst counting Greenland White-fronted geese and getting amazing views of golden and white-tailed eagles. The work wasn’t always so glamorous and often there was nothing to see for many hours but vast numbers of midges, which I only escaped  by gluing glasses into a midge net. Much of my job was to map occasional flights of species that are both protected by European law and considered to be of sufficient size to be at risk of collision with wind turbines. This work tends to be secretive, because data belongs to consultancies and their clients, and the hours were often exhausting with much dawn and dusk work.

Since February I have been enjoying the diverse challenges of warden-work, developing practical skills like path creation, painting things blue (the RSPB colour!), participating in other kinds of wildlife surveys, blogging and leading a Dawn Chorus walk.  I have really enjoyed the diversity and the sociability of the work. At Fairburn we were blessed with an amazing brood of 3 beautiful spoonbills, the first to have nested in the north of England for 300 years.  

Spoonbills at Fairburn by Andrew Francis

I was delighted that BBC "Look North" used my photo (left), when reporting on this welcome addition to the breeding birds list onsite.

St Aidan’s re-opened to the public this April and has been home to some incredible and very special species. These two reserves were developed into first rate nature reserves from the legacy of deep and open cast mines respectively.  

The view of Barrow Scout and Morecambe Bay from Queen’s steps, SD 481 734… surely this is one of the RSPB’s most beautiful reserves. Image by Andrew Francis. 

Leighton Moss, with it’s more rural setting amongst top-class limestone pavement habitat and its coastal location is a very different reserve and I look forward to learning from the people here and doing what I can to benefit this beautiful place and the special wildlife that resides here!

Andy Francis

  • Great to see you again Andy;  really enjoyed reading your blog and your BTO listing  !!   Here's the link to the thread I mentioned to you this morning following your lead   !    


    Hope to catch up again soon, best wishes Hazel and Mike