Volunteer Profile: Steve Nixon
If you’ve been to one of our green spaces recently, you may well have spotted Earth Trust’s land management volunteers out and about. These generous individuals share their time and passion to help care for our natural green spaces for everyone to enjoy.
This week we caught up with Steve Nixon, a butterfly counter and Volunteer Warden at Wallingford Castle Meadows. As well as helping to safeguard our green spaces with various practical tasks, Steve’s butterfly monitoring work helps us to better understand the biodiversity at our locations and the wider impacts of climate change. Here is Steve’s story:
How did you get into volunteering at Earth Trust?
Over recent years, I have been volunteering for BBOWT undertaking practical conservation work and butterfly and bird surveys. The Upper Thames Branch of the Butterfly Conservation were looking for surveyors to fill in gaps in the local network of monitoring sites: these included Wallingford Castle Meadows and Crowmarsh Riverside Meadows which are managed by Earth Trust. As I had relevant experience in surveying butterflies, I volunteered to undertake surveys at these 2 locations in 2021. Later that year, Earth Trust were recruiting Volunteer Wardens for their Community Reserves and I became a Volunteer Warden at Wallingford Castle Meadows. As a resident of Wallingford for over 30 years, I very much appreciate what a special and valuable reserve Castle Meadows is, and I am happy to be able to help to safeguard it.
What do you do for Earth Trust and how much time does this commit?
Butterflies are surveyed once every week over a period of 26 weeks, starting on 1 April every year, by a team of surveyors. During the 2021 season, I surveyed butterflies for 7 of the 26 weeks at both Castle Meadows and Riverside Meadows. I recorded 18 different species at both reserves with the highlight for me being a small copper at Castle Meadows. Butterflies are identified and counted along a fixed route, which takes around 1 hour at each reserve.
As a Volunteer Warden, I visit Castle Meadows at least once a week when I inspect the condition of the benches, gates, fences, paths, signage and the dipping stage in the pond area. Anything that requires attention or repair is noted and reported to Earth Trust. Litter is also picked: to date the most “interesting” items have included an arrow and a bicycle wheel. There is diverse wildlife in Castle Meadows but my most unexpected sighting was of a Harris Hawk, sitting in a tree and seemingly unbothered by my proximity. It is likely that it was an escapee from a falconer as it had “jesses” (short leather straps) on its feet. I live in easy walking of the Meadows and on average my visits last about an hour.
What has the volunteering experience given you?
I have always loved being outdoors and developed an interest in nature at a young age. I was then lucky enough to work in the environmental area for my entire career, much of it involving fieldwork and environmental monitoring. I saw volunteering for Earth Trust as a way of continuing and developing my love of nature and the outdoors now that I have retired. I also hope that I am able to give something back to the community in general, and, more specifically, contribute to the safeguarding of nature.
Most rewarding has been the appreciation expressed by other users of the Meadows of what I am (and others are) doing. I have also got to know other like-minded people.
Are there any new skills you have learned from volunteering?
Volunteering for Earth Trust has given me the opportunity to develop and improve my butterfly identification skills. I also now know how to plant trees, having participated in the River of Life II project!
What would you say to anyone thinking about volunteering for Earth Trust?
Volunteering for Earth Trust will give anyone the opportunity to interact with their local environment, meet like-minded people and contribute to the safeguarding of the natural world for future generations. To my mind, it is vital for the well-being of us all and our planet that we connect people with nature and, in particular, educate our younger generations about its value and importance.
Our thanks to Steve for sharing his story with us. If you’d like to find out more about our current volunteering opportunities, please visit our volunteering pages.