Meet the Volunteer - Sharon Stilliard

Meet the Volunteer - Sharon Stilliard

Slow worm and survey kit.

Sharon Stilliard has been volunteering with the Wildlife Trust for nearly 15 years and was a joint winner of the 2021 Oliver Rackham Award at this years AGM. Find out how she got involved with volunteering for us and the various projects she has helped with over the years.

I’ve walked with my dogs and children on the Totternhoe reserve since moving to the area thirty four years ago. On one occasion about 2007 I met a group doing a Chalk Hill Blue butterfly survey. Seeing my interest they suggested I got in touch with the Wildlife Trust to volunteer, so I did and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

With retirement from my science teaching job looming I started by helping out with butterfly and bumblebee surveys. Then in 2010 there came a request from the Trust for volunteers to help monitor slow worms on the reserve following their translocation from the Luton-Dunstable guided busway. I jumped at the chance and so began my 10 year task of eight week slow worm surveys during Spring and Autumn. In between these I’ve been involved in many butterfly and orchid surveys, helped out with scrub clearance on the reserve and worked in the laboratory identify insects. One of my most unusual jobs was to assist a student set up and then check traps for stag beetles although I’m afraid to say we didn’t catch any.

I love being out on the reserve whatever the weather and so does my dog Leila who usually accompanies me. She is raring to go when I get out the “slow worm bucket” in which we carry our equipment. When the Trust decided to graze sheep on the reserve I became a sheep checker which has often fitted in with survey work but also gives me yet another excuse to get up to the reserve. The sheep soon learn to recognise us and come running for their treats.

It gives me joy seeing the reserve changing through the seasons. Over the years I’ve had lots of memorable wildlife experiences but some stick in my mind.  I’ve been thrilled by a huge swarm of bees roaring a few feet over my head and hearing the wonderful purring call of a Turtle dove; delighted at finding a nest of new born baby slow worms and entranced for a good five minutes watching a glow worm larva hunting down a tiny snail under one of the slow worm tiles. Drama in miniature!

It’s been a pleasure working with and getting to know such lovely committed Wildlife Trust staff and many other volunteers. I certainly intend to continue volunteering for as long as I am able.