RSPB volunteer celebrates 30 years protecting Northumberland seabird colony

RSPB volunteer Hilary Brooker-Carey is celebrating her 30th year helping to protect the seabirds of Coquet Island.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 10:16 am
Hilary Brooker-Carey pilots the boat to Coquet Island

The island is the UK’s last remaining roseate tern breeding colony, a species driven close to extinction in the 19th century.

Thanks to dedicated conservation their numbers have climbed from 104 breeding pairs in 2016 to 150 pairs in 2021.

Since 1991, Hilary has supported wildlife monitoring on Coquet, worked nightshifts to protect the island’s birds, and helped with everything from vegetation management to admin duties.

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She also regularly pilots the island’s high-speed rigid inflatable boat (RIB), acting as the team’s ‘reserve taxi driver’.

This year alone she has spent more than 900 hours volunteering for the RSPB.

Hilary said: “Anything that needs doing I just help out. The work is so incredibly varied.

"I started by counting the eider ducks and ducklings along the seafront in Amble, and it just slowly increased from there.

"When my girls left home I had more and more time, and apart from seeing family and going on holiday, I just wanted to help on the island.

“It's just nice to be able to have the site ready for them. Providing them with a space that’s safe to breed, or as safe as we can make it, and then to see them all go with their young always gives you a nice warm feeling.

"I know a lot of people feel sad at the end of season because everything has gone, but for me it’s a sense of achievement, and that’s just a lovely feeling.”

She continued: “Everyone should consider volunteering because there's something out there for everybody. We haven't all got the same skill sets and there's always something that you can do. If you can give a little bit of time, even if it's just an hour, it all helps. The sense of well-being you get is a great reward.”

Her efforts were recognised on International Volunteer Day.

Paul Morrison, RSPB Coquet Island site manager, said: “Hilary is effectively an extra member of staff. She plays a key part in our monitoring work on Coquet and even undertakes security night watches to guard the birds from disturbance and egg thieves.

“We simply couldn’t operate at the level we do without her expertise and support.”

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