“It’s a feast or a famine with those buses, you wait half an hour and then 5 come at once, it’s a joke!” Ah yes, the wise words of my mother, spoken countless times throughout my teenage years, university years and well, actually it’s still a regular conversation anytime I go home. But who knew her wisdom extended beyond the realms of urban public transport scheduling? Not me! You see for weeks I have waited (impatiently) to see my first butterfly of 2015. There have been multiple, specific, butterfly hunting excursions to reserves and likely habitats but to no avail! Twice it has happened that the person I was with spotted one over my shoulder but alas, I couldn’t snap my head around quick enough to catch sight of the little minx. Who knew lepidoptera were such teases?
For weeks I’ve complained to anyone unfortunate enough to stand next to me that the butterflies were avoiding me and it was completely unfair and I’m pretty sure I was at least mildly irritating. And then, Easter Monday. Easter Monday in all its unholy sunniness finally delivered and in the space of twenty minutes as I walked from my flat into Reading town I SAW FIVE BUTTERFLIES. Five. Two brimstones, two red admirals and what I suspect was a large white. My mother was right. I was finally at the feast and boy did it taste good. My partner, unlucky enough to be escorting me on this outing at one point described me as a “deranged toddler” and did that thing the English do so well: looked around slyly and told me to calm down. Classic. But I was only delighted. Nature had revealed herself and (as we say in Dublin) she was a massive ride!
But what has led me to being an audibly inappropriate, butterfly-spotting, bird-watching, nature-loving woman? That’s a long story and maybe I’ll tell you one day (over a drink, that you have bought me), but for now I’ll just mention the most significant part of my journey and that has been the last six months. In September 2014 I moved to Reading having been accepted onto the MSc Wildlife Management and Conservation programme. It’s difficult to summarise what happened next but what I can say is that it has been the most intensely wonderful six months of my life. It’s been hands on and terrifying. I’ve learnt how to tell a leafhopper from a treehopper, how to tell a dunnock’s song from a robin’s and how to set a small mammal trap and wield the creature it captures.
I’ve learnt about the tools available to conservationists and how and when to deploy them: reintroductions, habitat restorations, eradications, protected areas, the list is endless. I’ve learnt about the big issues for wildlife conservation and how they all really boil down to one big issue: people and the way we live our lives. Not only has my career path changed but also my daily routines. I eat substantially less meat and I only buy fish that is MCS (Marine Conservation Society) approved.
These are small things, but significant on a personal level. I’ve been thrown into the deep end for the last few months but the rewards have been well worth the stress and hours spent staring at a blank computer screen thinking “how does one actually produce an essay?” Having spent a few years ‘in the real world’, living at home, abroad and very abroad, working jobs that ranged from great to dismal, it has been a revelation to realise that there is a place in the world for me. In a few short weeks I will be starting my dissertation research, studying insect diversity in Berkshire forests. I can’t wait and provided it doesn’t go horribly wrong, I’ll try to keep you updated. Oh and to anyone thinking of applying for this course I’d say, don’t hesitate. It’s great craic altogether.