I can’t quite believe it’s already been eight months since I started my new job here at College Lake nature reserve, near Tring.

It was back in February that I began working as warden for this amazing site and the time since has passed in a blur.

It’s been exciting, challenging, surprising and rewarding, and I’d like to share some of the highlights of my first summer at the reserve.

I started at a great time of year, just in time to see the return of spring and with it the return of some of our breeding birds such as redshank, little ringed plover and oystercatcher.

Later on, it was wonderful to see spring unfolding into summer and watch as the reserve came alive with a spectacular display of colourful wild flowers and buzzing insects. I really enjoy learning to identify new species, and being here has given me the opportunity to do just that. A personal highlight was seeing my first ever green-flowered helleborine, just one of several species of orchid found here at College Lake.

The whole of my first year here is about getting to know the site; seeing how it changes with the seasons, watching different species come and go, and learning when work needs to be done in different parts of the reserve to keep all our wildlife habitats in excellent condition.

I’ve got to know many dedicated people, who make up the various volunteer teams at College Lake. They do fantastic work and contribute a huge amount to the conservation.

A lapwing

The volunteer work parties that I run every week have helped me to carry out all sorts of jobs around the site, from constructing fences and clearing scrub to controlling some of our ‘problem’ species such as ragwort and nettle, which can easily dominate an area and stop other species from growing.

Some notable achievements include repainting six of the bird hides and resurfacing a muddy and neglected stretch of footpath leading to the June Ives Hide on the western side of the water.

Now, with autumn here, I am getting ready for work the new season is bringing. One of the major jobs I am looking forward to is getting out onto the marsh islands to cut back the vegetation. Once this is done it must be raked up and cleared from the islands.

By doing this each year we will stop the islands from becoming too overgrown and will keep them in good condition to attract some of the breeding wading birds, such as lapwing, that we want to encourage.

Doing this work should really allow me to see the reserve from a different angle.

College Lake is a large and complex site and it has been a challenge with so many new things to learn, but it is such a wonderful, beautiful place that it is a good challenge, and I feel privileged to be able to work somewhere so inspiring.