Guest blog - Mya Bambrick

Guest blog - Mya Bambrick ~ 1st February 2016 ~ 

Hiya folks, sorry it's been a bit quiet lately! I've been very busy with A Level work which has left little time for birding/ringing, let alone blogging! Anyway, without further ado, here is a guest blog post from a friend of mine, Mya Bambrick (@MyaBambrick1):

Since I was about 7 I have been interested in wildlife photography. It began when I was looking for a way to record the wildlife I had seen, and then share them with my friends and family. It was also a coincidence that I have loved art from a very young age so it linked in with that well. Now it has grown into my main hobby.

©Mya Bambrick - Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

I find it really interesting how the press of a button can save a memory for a lifetime, whether it be the first Barn Owls I had seen, the first decent Kingfisher photo I had taken or just a great day out bird ringing. Also in my opinion photography not only records memories but it records imagination as well. There are endless possibilities of photos, animals in their natural habitat, close-ups (my personal favourite), birds in flight, the list goes on. Photos can not only show an animal, bird, reptile or amphibian, but they can highlight and raise awareness about conservation issues; I hope to create photos like this when I am older. That’s why I love wildlife photography!

©Mya Bambrick - Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

When I started with a tiny Canon camera I didn’t really know much, except how to zoom in and out and how to snap a photo. Now after 6 years I think I have progressed a lot, with lots of practise and taking 100s and 100s of photos. Now I am lucky enough to have Canon 600D with a 400mm lens to practise my skills on. Most weekends I go out to various nature reserves mainly in Sussex such as RSPB Pulborough Brooks which is home to 100s of geese, ducks and waders (including Black-Tailed Godwits!), my local nature reserve, Warnham and WWT Arundel (particularly good for Kingfishers).

©Mya Bambrick - Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

When I am older I hope to become a semi-professional wildlife photographer and hopefully study Ornithology (the study of birds) at university. I would really like to use my photos to show people how amazing wildlife is and how it is so vital that we do our best to conserve it.

You can find more of Mya's photography on her Flickr site:

Long-Tailed Tit

A look back at 2015 (Part 2)

A look back at 2015... (Part 2 of 2)

As 2015 is now officially over and it's well and truly 2016, it's that time of year to reflect on the past 12 months, as well as looking forward to the next 12 and all that comes with it.

So as not to make it too long a post, I've split the year in two... this is the second half of the year and you can find Part 1 here so without further ado here's July - December:

July

July was a pretty awesome month, and one that saw me meet loads of brilliant people, see some cool wildlife, visit 2 extraordinary places & also have fun welcoming a new puppy into our household! I spent the 4-11th July on Skomer Island which is located off the south-west coast of Wales. I was there to primarily assist Ros Green with her bird ringing studies on the Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but I was lucky enough to help her ring some other species, such as Puffins, Razorbills & Manx Shearwaters. It was a superb week on a magnificent island where I met lots of lovely people. Hopefully I'll get to go back again one day!

Skomer, July 2015
Later in the month I headed down to Icklesham in East Sussex to participate in a BTO-led Bird Ringing Course. The course was just superb; set on a brilliant site, plenty of birds (and moths) caught, a great learning experience and a really lovely group of people. Oh, and the quiz...how could I forget the quiz!

Icklesham, July 2015
August

August was another busy month that saw me visiting not 1, not 2, but 3 Bird Observatories and having an awesome time at Birdfair! I spent just over a week (2-10th) on Skokholm Island (near Skomer, off the south-west coast of Wales) with my ringing trainer Martin. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Skokholm as it is a fantastic island - it was great to explore as well as getting to ring 2 new species (Storm Petrel, which was also a lifer, and Rock Pipit) and meeting some other ringers from different parts of the country. We also enjoyed a number of windy, rainy nights out searching for Manx Shearwaters which was great fun despite the scratches they leave on your hands and arms! Oh, and we also got to set the gull trap which proved successful as we caught around 20 adult Lesser Black-back and Herring Gulls, so it was great to see them up close as well.

Skokholm, August 2015

For my next adventure I headed back to Portland Bird Observatory where I'd persuaded my parents that it was the perfect location for a family stay. We were only there from 14-18th but it's just such a lovely place to be that all of us enjoyed it and found things to occupy our time (surprise surprise, I was helping with the ringing)! For me, the highlights of the trip were the Pied Flycatchers that we caught (I'd only ever ringed 1 prior to the trip), Willow Warblers (we caught quite a lot) and all the moths I got to see (either in the traps or just around the place).

Portland, August 2015
The 20th August saw me heading north to Rutland Water in Leicestershire for the annual British Birdwatching fair, or Birdfair. Birdfair is the event for birders in the UK and it was great to catch up with friends, browse the many hundreds of stalls as well as attend some interesting talks and still manage to avoid seeing Tree Sparrows! I was only able to attend Birdfair for 2 of the 3 days this year due to reasons you will find out soon enough! But boy was it a fun, though very nerve-wracking 2 days!

On the Friday evening (21st), Georgia Locock and I were the comperes for the celebrity lecture with Chris Packham, Simon King & Nick Baker (sell out event!). Despite being incredibly nervous beforehand, I did manage to relax a bit and found that I actually enjoyed being sat on stage with everyone, listening to the anecdotes that the gents had to share, and so did the audience apparently (though I think some were dreading having to explain what some of it meant to their children at the interval)!

At Saturday lunchtime (22nd), Georgia and I were back up on the main stage with Chris Packham, along with another young naturalist, Connor, to talk about the different aspects of nature that we enjoy and what we love about it. Naturally, I talked about bird ringing, the different types of surveys within it and how they all link together to give us the bigger picture of what's going on with the bird populations in the UK. Unfortunately I was extremely nervous and didn't relax into it at all so I can only imagine how shaky my voice sounded throughout. Anyhow, we all managed to get through it and were treated to a round of applause at the end so I don't think it went too badly!

Birdfair, August 2015
Now, onto the reason as to why I couldn't stay for the duration of Birdfair...well I had to be up sharpish on the Sunday (23rd) to head to Nottingham where I met my friend Sorrel and her family to head to Wales...as you do! We stayed the night at a cottage that Sorrel's parents had booked for the week and then on Monday morning we headed to Porth Meudwy which is where the boat for Bardsey island departs from. We made the crossing over to the island with Ben Porter, his mum and sister (all Bardsey residents), Aidan and James O'Neill. We were all eager to get up to the observatory and meet fellow Next Generation Birders Ephraim Perfect, Dan Rouse, George and David Hunter as well as the Observatory staff. We had a great week and managed to beat the NGBs that were on Skokholm at the same time in a bit of friendly competition. My personal highlights were ringing my first ever Dunlin (thanks so much Ben and everyone for letting me ring it!) as well as just the awesome company! Bardsey is a fantastic island and though I'd been there before it was just great to explore it again and bird it without any distractions!

NGB does Bardsey, August 2015
September

September was a month of local happenings, no trips as such, just some good old patching and a venture into the world of mothing.

September 2015
October

The beginning of the month saw me pass my driving test (exciting times), pick out a Yellow-legged Gull in the gull flock on patch (much more exciting & a PWC year tick) as well as catching a few more moths in the moth trap. The 13th October saw me head to London for the launch of the Response for Nature Report. It was a great evening and thankfully my speech went better than expected (you can read about the event & report here and find a transcript of my talk here) and let's face it, it's not often you get the chance to speak in front of around 200 people from nature/conservation NGOs including Chief Executives and Directors - a pretty special event! 

October 2015
On 26th October I headed down to Portland Bird Observatory once more but this time it was for an NGB meet up that I'd organised. It was a really enjoyable few days with great wildlife and great company in a brilliant setting. Highlights were watching Short-eared Owls up on Top Fields in the evenings, catching a number of Firecrests, some cool moths and just minutes before some of our group were due to leave, a Pallas's Warbler turned up in the nets - a very smart bird to round off a superb trip!

NGB does Portland, October 2015
November

If you're still reading then congratulations for making it this far, and thank you! The 4th of the month saw me having an unusual Skype call to the crew of BBC Autumnwatch Extra to catch up and talk about ringing a bit more - it was good fun and thankfully all the technology involved worked perfectly! Then on the 16th I was on my patch and I was actually taking a panorama photo since the light was so lovely and while I was doing that I heard some Crossbill which was awesome since they were a new species for my patch! Not just 1 Crossbill either, a whole flock of them perched in the pines across the pools and called loads before flying off over the woods. It just shows that it pays to know your bird calls! On 28th I travelled down to Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory for the Southeast Ringers Conference which was really good - all the talks were very interesting and it was great to catch up with friends!

November 2015
December

The beginning of December saw me travelling up to Swanwick in Derbyshire for the BTO Annual Conference. It was basically 3 days of thoroughly interesting talks, inspiring people, networking and chatting about birds and ringing...perfect! I wasn't speaking this year, unlike last year, so I was able to sit back and enjoy the conference to the max. I particularly enjoyed the talks about Honey Buzzards, Black-tailed Godwits and Nightjars. The rest of the month was pretty quiet, with only one ringing session due to the inclement weather and a few visits to patch.

December 2015
A final update on my Patchwork Challenge attempt for this year sees me with 97 species and 107 points....not a bad total at all in my opinion considering I'm in inland Hampshire! Though I think aiming for 100 species next year is a bit optimistic...only time will time I guess!

Well that's it from me with regards to 2015...roll on 2016 and may it be everything you hope it to be! I already have a very exciting adventure planned for February, but until then I'd best get back to studying!


A look back at 2015 (Part 1)

A look back at 2015... (Part 1 of 2)

As 2015 draws to a close it's that time of year to reflect on the last 12 months, as well as looking forward to the start of a new year and all that comes with it.

For me 2015 has been a year of ups and downs and though it didn't go quite as expected, I have had some amazing adventures, met loads of brilliant & interesting people and made plenty of superb memories!

So before I go any further, I would just like to say a big thank you to all those who have helped, inspired and/or encouraged me in any way this year - I really am grateful for it!

For this blog I thought I would sum up what happened each month and post some photos that represent the events, places or species that made each month awesome.

So as not to make it too long a post, I'll split the year in two...so here's Part 1, January - June:


January

Unfortunately there's not much that happened in January as I was pretty ill and unable to much birding, ringing or anything really so we'll just move swiftly on to February I think...

February

Again, not a lot happened in February as I was still not very well, however I did manage to get out ringing once or twice, which included helping with a ringing demonstration at one of our sites. I really enjoyed doing this as it is great to see people of all ages so interested in the birds and the whole process of ringing them.


March

Not much happened in March if I'm honest, just some birding on patch, taking pretty terrible pictures of moths and keeping an eye on the nesting Blue Tits in our garden.


April

By April I was much better and as a result I was able to get out a lot more. I made the most of my recovered health and spent a few days down at Portland Bird Observatory between the 8-12th. I had a great trip and got to see some cool species in the hand, like the smart Redstart in the image below. When I returned, I had the opportunity to help colour ring some Woodlark chicks (which was awesome - they're so cute!) and I also got out patching quite a bit. I was rewarded on patch with some Little Ringed Plovers on and off throughout the month and a Greenshank on the 13th (something I never thought I'd see in inland Hampshire, let alone on my little patch)!


May

May saw me back down at Portland from 2-7th on the suggestion that the first week of May was the time to go...it's safe to say that although it didn't quite live up to the high expectation, it was a great trip nonetheless with Spotted Flycatchers and a Redstart being the highlights. In May I continued to follow the nesting attempt of the Blue Tits in our garden and within the month saw the transformation from eggs into tiny blind, naked chicks, into fully feathered little creatures until one day I checked the box and they were all gone (presumed fledged!). Oh, and I also got to spend time listening to a Nightingale belting out its song about 10 metres from me on my patch, see and hear some Turtle Doves not too far from my house and help colour ring some more cute Woodlark chicks.


June

June was a fairly busy month and I was lucky enough to get some brilliant opportunities! For the whole month I took part in The Wildlife Trusts 30 days Wild Campaign which hoped to get people to engage with nature in some way on each day of June (I also tried to blog about my 30 Days Wild so if you scroll back to June you'll see a whole host of blogs about what I got up to). On the 4th I was lucky enough to head up to RSPB Minsmere where I appeared on BBC Springwatch Extra. It was a great day and on the reserve we saw loads of birds, including my first ever Bearded Tits, a Bittern and some Spoonbill. On the 13th I headed down to the New Forest to twitch a Black-eared Wheatear that had rocked up - my first one and what a corking bird it was! I also managed to miss all the key New Forest species (Wood Warbler, Honey Buzzard & Goshawk) so I remain having not seen any of these species...a bit poor if you ask me. Anyway, laster in the month I was incredibly lucky to be invited out to do some pullus ringing and amongst other cool species like Stonechat & Tree Pipit, I also got to ring 4 Nightjar chicks. That was awesome because Nightjars are a favourite of mine and so to be able to see them up close was just incredible!



So that brings us to the end of the first half of the year...phew! The next 6 months holds lots more excitement and awesome adventures which I will post either later tonight or some time tomorrow. 

What was your highlight of 2015?


Merry Christmas everyone

As it's only 3 days away, I would just like to wish everyone reading this a very Merry Christmas wherever you are in the world! I hope you all have a lovely time and don't eat too much chocolate...oh, who am I kidding, it's Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

#COP21

UN Climate Change Conference - Paris 2015

Today I have kept an eye on the live feed from the Paris Climate Change Conference in which, over the next fortnight, the leaders of the world will come together and decide whether to set limits and make pledges to save this world of ours, or not.

I have to say that in general, from the leaders' introductions that I have managed to listen to, I have been rather impressed by the optimism, passion and urgency that has been communicated.

In my opinion, and bearing in mind that the introductions haven't finished yet (http://unfccc6.meta-fusion.com/cop21/channels/plenary-1), I thought that Barack Obama's speech was the most inspiring and hopeful speech I have heard so far. With emphasis on the fact that this conference is our last chance to unite together to act with a common purpose “We are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, and the last generation that can do anything about it” as well as the fact that my peers and I, the future world leaders and stewards of the Earth, are watching “The next generation is watching what we do.”

On the other side of the coin and I guess I must be a tad biased in my opinion, but I found David Cameron's ~3 minute drone quite simply, embarrassing.

This is the leader of our country, he who probably flew to Paris in his taxpayer-funded private jet, who has in recent times cut funding for green technologies, scrapped green bursaries/funding/grants and then spoke mainly about passing technology from 'developed' to 'developing' countries (rather avoiding the direct subject or curbing emissions within the UK don't you think).

He then came out with this laughable sentence “Instead of making excuses to our grandchildren tomorrow, we must take action on climate change today”. I thought that was one of the few things Cameron was good at - making excuses for his actions?

But anyway, much as I would love to believe that David Cameron will make firm pledges for the future of the planet and the continuation of the human race, the cynic in me thinks it is all a farce with the current low tax, low spend government.

In more positive news regarding #COP21, it is simply amazing that more than 570,000 across the world took part in the Global Climate Marches yesterday (29th November) and goes to show how important the subject is to communities across the globe.

Let's face it, it's not looking good for the future, but it isn't too late to change things for the better. We just need the world leaders to make tough decisions and make firm pledges to strive towards a better future for all of us, not just the wealthy or the poor, developed nations or least developed. We will all be affected by climate change so each & every country needs to take a responsibility in reducing their greenhouse emissions and protecting the planet for future generations.

I just hope they have the courage of their convictions to take the actions necessary to protect the environment for future generations. After all "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children" (Native American proverb).