My six months in BIOM – volunteer`s diary
Half a year ago on the BIOM website there was an information about Polish volunteer joining the organization in a project “Experience Nature” a part of European Voluntary Service under the programme Erasmus+ Key activity 1: Youth mobility.
Six months have passed. It is a great opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts from this amazing, fruitful, busy season.
I came to Zagreb on the 1st February 2017. Very soon I discovered that everything is organized perfectly from the BIOM side – accommodation, working place, organization of work, language course and learning plan. Beautiful apartment in the heart of Zagreb, own desk, very good Croatian teacher and clear supervision for the next months. It was still before the spring come and I did not expect how much I am going to learn during such a short period of time.
A key word for work in BIOM is fieldwork. My first fieldwork was a cleaning of a small island in the middle of Ormoško jezero – an accumulative lake on the Sava River on Croatian-Slovenian border. The BIOMs team every year goes there to prepare this island, which is a nesting place for terns. The island is nothing but a small heap of rocks. Perfect place for those birds, if it is not overgrown by a grass or bushes. Three months later I came back there to see over 50 pairs of Common tern incubating from 3 to 5 eggs each. Like in many of BIOM’s activities it is very uplifting to see your work really matters for the wildlife.
Second activity I was helping with was Ptice oko nas – birdwatching trips organized for citizens of Zagreb in city parks to teach people to identify common species. This fieldwork I knew I really want to improve my knowledge about birds and my identification skills. The level of enjoyment grows dramatically, if you exactly know what you are looking at. For now thanks to my EVS activities I am able to identify over 90% Croatian species by their appearance. The biggest improvement I got thanks to participating in another BIOM’s project BIRD ID.
BIRD ID is a training on bird identification led by professional ornithologists as trainers, organized for people, who would like to go to the field, see as many species as it is possible at the moment and learn how to recognize them by appearance, sound and ecology. The project is great by many aspects. It is very well prepared, you can go to many wonderful locations like fishponds in Siščani, Nature Park Lonjsko Polje, island Pag, delta of the Neretva River, Nature Park Biokovo, National Park Risnjak, and Nature Park Vransko Jezero. Trainers are very professional and thanks to them I could progress really fast. Identification of bird species is not a simple thing, especially by sound, and it is an extraordinary chance to learn it from professionals.
Fortunately, this season I assisted in many other projects: monitoring of woodpeckers, song birds and owls in Plitvička Jezera National Park, ringing of swifts in Telaščica Nature Park, localization and counting of rooks colonies in Zagreb, common bird monitoring in agricultural habitats, bird monitoring for the European Breeding Brids Atlas. I also had an opportunity to assist in organization of workshops for children.
My last fieldwork was habitat restoration camp in Nature Park Učka, about which you can read here. For two weeks I was coordinating a group of Belgian volunteers. During this time I learnt a lot about restoration of meadow habitats, I improved my communicational, educational, organizational and teamwork skills.
In conclusion, I am very happy I can volunteer for Association BIOM. I have really experienced the nature and got a lot of experience in nature conservation fieldworks. There is still much to say about Croatian language and culture, but this is a topic for separate article. All of it could be done thanks to from European Voluntary Service, which is funded by the European Commission, and enables young persons (17–30 years) to become a volunteer in another country for a specified period, normally between 2–12 months.