RSPB Walsall Local Group

a million voices for nature


Ann West featured in Woman's Weekly

The following article appeaed in 'Woman's Weekly' magazine, issue dated 7 January 2003, and is reproduced with their kind permission.

Ann West, 49, a midwife from Walsall in the West Midlands, does volunteer work with the RSPB at the Sandwell Valley nature reserve. She has also been a keen bird-watcher for 15 years.

'I first became interested in birds when I was out mountain walking and saw some birds I didn't recognise. I was intrigued, so I joined a bird-watching class at our local nature reserve, Sandwell Valley. I was made to feel very welcome and met my husband, Mike, there. We'd go to the reserve regularly and eventually were asked if we'd help out at the centre, meeting and greeting people.

People come to us for advice and we tell them what they can do to help protect birds. For instance, in the summer, they might find a baby bird in the middle of the lawn and bring it to the centre in a box. We advise them to put it under a bush where the parent can find it. In the run-up to winter we have an open day on feeding birds in your garden.

The reserve is like a little oasis in the middle of a built-up area. We've got two lakes, a reed bed, grassland and trees, so we attract quite a variety of birds. In one day you could easily see 40 to 50 different species. In October, we get the goosander, a type of duck, coming to spend the winter in the mild British climate. They seem to feel safe here. Their numbers are increasing every winter - last year we had about 60 of them - so that's a success story for us.

We're down at Sandwell Valley all through the year, encouraging people to look out for wildlife, while other volunteers work on preserving the birds' habitat and making sure it doesn't get too overgrown so they have room to nest. There are a lot of schools in the area, so we pass on our knowledge to the children, too.

Our interest expands into all areas of our lives. When we go on holiday it's usually a birdwatching holiday. Our garden has nest boxes and bird tables. Our neighbours know where to come if a bird is in trouble. Recently, a heron got stuck in some netting over a neighbour's pond. They called us to go and rescue it.

As my job is quite stressful, I find bird-watching helps me unwind. Early morning is my favourite time of day - it's lovely and calm and peaceful, and all you can hear is the birds singing round you. We wouldn't want to lose that, would we?'

* The RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) manages 176 nature reserves throughout the UK; where volunteers can get involved in maintenance work, conducting surveys and showing people round. They also have a wide range of free leaflets on all aspects of bird gardening. Write to The RSPB, UK Headquarters, The Lodger Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2OL. Call 01767 680551, or visit

RSPB Sandwell Valley.


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