A day in the life of an Essex Wildlife Trust ranger

Katie Goldsborough, ranger for Essex Wildlife Trust

Katie Goldsborough, conservation ranger for Essex Wildlife Trust - Credit: Katie Goldsborough

Bird-spotter, habitat creator, bat ambulance driver and bug hotel manager – it's all in a day’s work for Essex Wildlife Trust conservation ranger and custodian of Abberton Reservoir Katie Goldsborough 

Katie explains a little about her work, ‘My main role is the custodian of Abberton Reservoir Nature Discovery Park, and with that comes looking after the wildlife, habitats and people that enjoy this beautiful place. I work in partnership with Essex & Suffolk Water, helping to care for the wider reservoir, which allows for experiencing some amazing wildlife spectacles across this fantastic site.  

‘A day can vary from running a work party with volunteers, giving a guided walk, doing ecological surveys, partnership work, interpretation on site or habitat management and creation – the list is endless! 

So, what is so special about the site? ‘Abberton is famous for being a safe haven for many migrant and resident birds. We are one of the few places in Britain where there are tree-nesting cormorants and we're home of the first-ever spoonies (spoonbills) to breed in Essex!’ 

Sunset at Abberton Reservoir

Sunset at Abberton Reservoir - Credit: Peter Bowden

It is no secret that Essex is home to many amazing bird species. Katie explains some of her favourites and what visitors can expect to see at this time of year, ‘My top three bird species at Abberton are nightingales, skylarks and great crested grebes. The best time of year for this amazing trio is in the spring and summer. Nightingales can be heard singing their melodic tunes by the entrance to the reserve in the old woodland from April to June. 

‘Skylarks can be seen all year round and give us great joy in the spring and summer, listening to their erratic song and bold parachute displays in our meadows. Lastly, great crested grebes are a great bird to watch on the reservoir all year round. Their early-spring courtship displays can rival any dancer, definitely worth a watch if you can spot them!’ 

Katie clearly loves nature, but how did she get into this line of work? ‘I have been obsessed with animals and nature since I was small, so I knew that this would be the theme of my journey; what exactly the career would be was never planned!  

Golden Plover (and the odd Lapwing) in flight at EWT Abberton

Golden plover (and the odd lapwing) in flight at the reservoir - Credit: Peter Bowden

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‘I did my BSc in zoology and a MSc in wildlife conservation, which steered me down the road of wildlife conservation. Volunteering, networking and experiencing all sorts of different areas in wildlife from ecology to wildlife rehabilitation helped to guide me, and I still do all of those things today – our learning is ongoing!’ 

Proudly Essex born and bred, Katie is keen to highlight our county’s natural assets. ‘Essex can be overlooked for how much biodiversity and important habitats we have here. There are so many amazing places ranging from salt marshes, woodlands, wildflower meadows and waterways – all just waiting to be explored!’ 

But it’s not just Abberton Reservoir where Katie’s skills and passion are utilised. ‘Alongside being a conservation ranger with the Essex Wildlife Trust, I volunteer for Essex Bat Group as a bat ambulance driver and rehabilitation carer. This started from doing my first bat survey in 2015, which got me obsessed with bats – and the rest is history. I am officially batty! For any budding conservationists out there, my advice would be: if you are passionate, you will find your calling!’ 

Another aspect of Katie’s work is within an area that is constantly being highlighted: the use of plastics. ‘One thing I am actually working on changing is the use of plastics in conservation, focusing on plastic tree guards. Plastic pollution is something I am very passionate about and plastic tree guards have been my focus for many years now. 

‘We have a project that aims to collect them from the environment and recycle them if possible, so they do not contribute to plastic pollution and microplastics. It also aims to change the way we plant trees in Essex and the UK, using more natural methods. There will be an exciting update for this project soon with Essex Wildlife Trust, so watch this space!’ 

Bug hotel at Abberton Reservoir

The Bee 'n' Bee - Credit: Essex Wildlife Trust

Another job that Katie undertakes at Abberton Reservoir is the creation of bug hotels. ‘We have many throughout the reserve, and our latest one is the biggest yet! It is located right by the entrance to the nature reserve, so it is very easy to spot if you come to visit.  

‘I took inspiration for this bug hotel from Fawlty Towers! It is called Bee ‘n’ Bee Hotel and there are layers of wood, bamboo canes and play pipes – lots of nooks and crannies for mini-beasts and insects to enjoy. Bug hotels are a great way to help our insects and educate ourselves about them too. There is nothing more exciting than releasing your inner child and letting your curiosity take over exploring a bug hotel!’ 

Of course, working on a nature reserve must have many special moments, but is there one that stands out? ‘One special moment was planting my first tree at Abberton. It was a very meaningful moment as I knew this tree would help wildlife, as well as providing food and shelter for generations to come. I would recommend it to everyone. Nature is for all of us, we are a part of it and it has never been more important to protect it.’