Zoe joined the Unlocking the Severn project in 2021 when she signed up as a Fish Migration Monitoring Volunteer. Here, she shares some thoughts on her experiences as a volunteer during the shad count, and her excitement about being involved with the project.

Written by Zoe:

I simply sit here on the riverbank watching the weir notch and it is memorising – the water tumbling, swirling as it bubbles and sparkles in the light.  Some days I don’t’ see any shad and that’s ok – I am just happy to simply be here. I feel eased, my worries lifted as my mind is cleared. I am connected to the river, to the wildlife, and I have escaped the weight of everyday life.

When I do spot shad endeavouring to pass the notch I feel excitement, I just jump up and cheer them on and when they cross over there is a feeling of delight. You just can’t help feeling happy for the little fish to have reached the next stage of the spawning migration journey, ready to find some fish love.

My family had been going through change and I was thinking that connecting my children with nature would help them with the transition in our life. I was listening to a podcast one day that was discussing conservation projects, and I thought that a project would be beneficial to my children. So, I searched the internet for something local and found that the shad count was taking place. I had no previous knowledge of this existing and in-fact I never even heard of the shad!

I loved to spend time with my children by the river and they loved counting and learning about the fish. It was fun to see them interact with the river and appreciate the river and its life. We were usually joined by a heron, Harry we called it. We took a picnic, drawing pads and my children would sketch, play, explore and make dens whilst I counted.

I also took part in one of the overnight acoustic spawning monitoring sessions and, although on that night there was no spawning activity, it was a special evening spent talking to the project staff learning about the river and their inspiring work. We heard owls and was fortunate to have an otter hang out with us, splashing about as it fished around us.

One of my highlights was appearing on the BBC. We had filmed for Midlands Today but made it on to the national news too. They ran a short piece on the shad count and I got to appear and speak on TV! It was only for a few seconds but it was my first time on TV so I got to cross that off my list and my children of course loved it!

I feel lucky to have been able to take part in the count and its fantastic to feel you are contributing to the protection of the river and the wildlife. For me it’s also a way the escape the daily stresses of a busy life, to slow down and connect with nature and my children.

I will definitely be volunteering next year, and I am really keen to get involved in other Unlocking the Severn volunteering activities.

If you would like to get involved with the shad count next year, keep an eye on the ‘Volunteering’ section on this website – we’ll be recruiting volunteers for the 2022 run early in Spring 2022.

We also have a number of other volunteering opportunities, you can find out more about them HERE.




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