Tilly Hopkins currently volunteers as Content Officer for A Focus on Nature - The UK's youth conservation network. "I enjoy combining my creative skills with my passion for helping the natural world by raising awareness, inspiring, educating and engaging people through digital communications. In my spare time, I enjoy exercising, photography, birdwatching and posting wildlife images to my Instagram."
Her interest in wildlife grew during her time at university. "I found it pretty stressful, but soon discovered how a walk in nature and some time spent bird watching could completely transform my mood for the better. Fortunately, the course enabled me to write my own project briefs and choose the subject matter I was most interested in. This allowed me to focus on the natural world and create some exciting projects based around that, such as my final major where I produced a short promotional film for a local nature reserve. Since then, my passion for bird watching has continued to grow and I've been working on my identification skills."
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve © Tilly Hopkins
In her first blog for us, she tells us what Rye Harbour Nature Reserve means to her:
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a special, unique place for both people and wildlife alike. It’s a refuge away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, which is something we need now more than ever. With all the negative news we’re bombarded with on a daily basis, the reserve offers a much-needed escape from the noise, and a welcomed moment of calm. Space to breathe in fresh air and just be present for a while, instead of constantly rushing. Precious time to forget about the things on your never-ending to do list and simply enjoy the 'right now'. That’s why the reserve matters to me.
Like so many people, I’ve had struggles with mental health in the past and again have experienced challenging times recently due to the pandemic. In November 2020, unfortunately I lost my first full-time job after months of furlough. However, during that time, and again now in the current lockdown, I’ve been able to connect with nature in a way that I’ve never previously had the time to before. Daily birdwatching in my garden has offered solace, alongside regular visits to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve for long walks and photography.
It’s well-known that spending time outdoors surrounded by the natural world hugely benefits us both physically and mentally, and I couldn’t agree more. After even a short time at the reserve, I feel ten times better and ready for the next challenge.
My time at the nature reserve is always enjoyable and sometimes pretty exciting, especially when I spot a new bird I’ve not seen before. I’ve been a keen birder for a couple of years now, and last year I was finally able to tick off ‘Avocet’ in my ID book.
Avocet at Rye Harbour
I was walking along and spotted an adult Avocet out the corner of my eye in the shallow water, swishing its incredibly shaped bill around looking for food. Alongside it was two juveniles, both keeping close by. I saw my first murmuration of Golden Plovers here too. It was such a breath-taking sight, all the dynamic shapes they created were so beautiful, there must have been thousands.
Golden Plover at Rye Harbour
The reserve is a feast for the senses, from the sounds to the sights, there’s a lot to take in if you tune in to your surroundings. From noisy Oystercatchers overhead to crashing ocean waves. One of my favourite sights is the vast and ever-changing sky. One winter afternoon I watched the most stunning golden sunset at the reserve – the sky looked like a perfect watercolour painting.
Always keep a look out as you really never know what you might see with a pair of binoculars in your hand and a camera at the ready.