C Permit Upgrade

C Permit ~ 23rd October 2014 ~ 

Last Thursday I was issued my C Permit for bird ringing by the British Trust for Ornithology. This allows me to ring with the use of mist nets independently, without any supervision.

It has taken me 3 years of weekly dawn starts to get to this point but I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement of my parents who have done the chauffeuring for most sessions!

I also couldn't have done it without my trainer, of course, and so I am very grateful that he decided to take me on when he did,  as I know he was concerned at the time about taking on a 13 year old trainee due to reliability, determination and interest!

Anyway, yesterday I was kitted out with rings and was lent a 9m net and accompanying poles so that I could get started in my garden. When I got home at about 15.00 I decided to put the net up for a while to see how I got on. It took me quite a while to sort out the guy ropes but I got there in the end and the net went up without a hitch. Fast forward 25 minutes and I'm bombing it out the back door in my socks to make sure that the Great Spotted Woodpecker doesn't get out! What a way to kick off being a C ringer. As well as the Great Spot, there was also a Goldfinch - another lovely species!

I decided to open up the net up this morning as well and caught 7 Blue Tits, 1 Goldfinch and 1 Robin. It is furled now as the wind picked up a bit too much but if it dies down, I may open it again later.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 

Lastly, I just wanted to thank everyone else who has helped me with my ringing so far - there are far too many to name individually, but you know who you are!

NGB Bardsey Bird Observatory Trip

Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory ~ 27th - 4th October 2014 ~ 

A few weeks ago I spent a week on Bardsey Island at the Bardsey Bird Observatory with 4 other Next Generation Birders (Matt Bruce, Liam Curson, James Garside and Susan Jones, as well as NGB island resident, Ben Porter). The aim of the week was to learn about the roles of the Obs staff, gain experience in island life, help with surveying and ringing and contribute to their bird records through birding the island each day.

It was a fantastic experience, everyone got on really well, we saw some lovely birds and I can't wait to return in the future!

Here are 'a few' photos from our amazing week:

Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria) that we re-trapped. 
It weighed 32.0g!
James couldn't stop grinning when he got to release it.
Matt doing a spot of seawatching before a day of birding.
One of many cute seal pups from around the island.
Manx Shearwater chick just prior to being ringed. 
Matt taking the wing measurement of a young Manx Shearwater.
Manxie chick being weighed.
Hoopoe (Upupa epops). What stunning birds! My photo
really doesn't do it justice...
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina).
Merlin (Falco columbaris).
James with a Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus). 
Matt with a Moorhen.
Painted Lady butterfly.
Some scenery. 
One of the many sheep present on the island.
Plant sp that we came across as we climbed the mountain. 
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca).
Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla).
L->R: Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warbler & Goldcrest. 
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) 
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus).
One of the many moths from the trap.
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis).
Panorama with the lighthouse on the left, Solfach beach in the
middle and the mountain on the right.
Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus).
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). 
Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus).
Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca).
Little Owl (Athene noctua).
The view from the top of the Obs garden towards the lighthouse.
What happens when you get bored on Bardsey...
The view from Solfach of Ty Capel, Cristin and Ty Pellaf.

On the way home and after we dropped James off at the station, Matt, Susan, Liam and I headed to Morfa Madrhyn for the Grey Phalarope. After some confusion with where the bird was supposed to be, we headed back to where we started and saw a small crowd gathering. We joined them and right there in front of us was the bird! It was very confiding and the light was superb at times which allowed for some fantastic photographic opportunities! My 2nd (now of 3) Grey Phalaropes this year that have showed ludicrously well!

Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius).
Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius).

Many thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! It was an amazing trip and I'd like to thank all the Islanders for making our stay at the Obs so enjoyable, with a special thanks to Steve for being so enthusiastic and encouraging! Another special mention must go to Connor for his incredible cookies and fudge - they were delicious and I think we all spent a small fortune on them over the week. Thanks also to the male voice choir & Steve and Emma for the wonderful food - I think we would have run out of food completely had we not had those two extremely filling meals! 

Don't forget you can keep up to date with my activity on FacebookTwitter and my website here.

A Rant About Life and my 'Vision for Nature': Enthusing a generation

Living in modern society is so hectic that the environmental processes that underpin our very existence are often forgotten, undervalued or quite simply ignored. And if this situation continues for much longer, it will not end well for any of us.

If you switch on the news, what do you see? Stories highlighting the devastation caused by human conflict, tales of political incompetence or some load of tosh about the latest celebs to get married/divorced/etc is my guess! When was the last time you saw a feature on the hardships faced by species which are almost always as a result (direct or indirectly) of our intervention?

The 90-99% decline (since the mid-1990s) of Vulture species in India, Nepal and Pakistan has mainly been linked to the use of Diclofenac, a cheap veterinary drug used on cattle to treat inflammation, fever and pain resulting from disease or injury. And guess what? This disastrous drug became widely available across Asia in the early 1990s...coincidence? I think not.

Vultures play a key role in any ecosystem in which they are present - they are nature's bin men. Their exceptionally corrosive stomach acid allows them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with Botulinum toxin, hog cholera and anthrax bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers. But they are not invincible. The birds were eating the carcasses of animals that had recently been treated with Diclofenac and were then dying of kidney failure.

It has been shown that even if less that 1% of animal carcasses contained lethal levels of the drug, this would have been enough to cause the collapse of vulture numbers. Thankfully, the manufacture of the veterinary diclofenac was outlawed in India in 2006 and this was followed by bans in Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Due to the swift action taken by these proactive and clued-up governments, the latest evidence shows that diclofenac levels are beginning to come down and this can only be a good thing for the vulture populations.

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are another example of the devastating impact human action can have upon the environment when we play the hand of God and upset the natural balance.

I think that's the rant part of this blog over and done with, but I'm not promising anything.

My Vision for Nature

In an ideal world the environment would be valued so highly by everyone that there would be no need to purposefully protect it, and its importance for both our mental and physical wellbeing would be more than enough for it to be respected and revered in the greatest possible sense without fear of it being put under pressure from developers, loggers, frackers, drillers or otherwise. Unfortunately this is not the case and this needs to change. This is our only planet, and to paraphrase 'The Voice of the Beehive' "We walk the Earth, this is our home". There is no planet B. 

I believe that young people are the way forwards in nature conservation and that the key to making a difference is ensuring that the environment is something they care about. Because if they don't care about it, they won't stand up for it - I mean why should they, what has nature ever done for us?! (I jest of course)...

Children have an innate sense of wonder and curiosity for all things natural, whether it's watching butterflies, digging up worms, racing snails or something else. It is this unconscious connection that we should endeavour to nurture, throughout their childhood and teenage years, in hope that this small spark ignites a life long passion for the natural world!

There are numerous ways in which kids can engage with nature but I think there are 3 main points to remember:

1. Get 'em when they're young. This is the time in their lives when the first seeds of interest are planted.
2. Don't neglect them in their teenage years. It's a tough time and they need all the help they can get. Nature can sometimes act as an outlet for feelings - i know from personal experience that going for a long walk around my local nature reserve can help relieve nerves, anger & stress!!
3. Let them get stuck in. Allow them to climb trees, fall out of trees, jump in puddles, touch nature, run through long grass, roll down a hill, build a den etc...

I would like to focus on point number 3 in particular because I feel that in modern society there is the increased thought that nature is dirty, shouldn't be touched, played with or interacted with in any way other than observing. This is wrong and exactly what washing machines were invented for!

Nature's tough. An ecosystem won't collapse if you dig up a few worms or catch a couple of crabs to hold and touch. So go do it! Please take your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to your local park, nature reserve or green space. See if there are any local events being run such as pond dipping, bug hunting, den building or orienteering.

Other events to keep an eye out for are bird ringing demonstrations. These are a fantastic way of allowing people, particularly those of a young age, to fully interact with nature because quite often the ringers will let you release a bird once it has been processed. Being given the opportunity to study a wild bird at such close quarters is second to none - and that's based on my own experiences.

After almost 3 years of training to become a qualified ringer I still feel immensely privileged and humbled each and every time I extract, ring or process a bird. This is because to me, it is not just another bird...each one is an individual and I find it absolutely mind blowing that the little Reed Warbler I'm holding that has a wing length of 64mm and weighs just 10.6g will migrate all the way to Subsaharan Africa in a ridiculously short amount of time, only to sit out the winter, moult its feathers and then migrate all the way back again next spring...simply amazing!!

Anyway, to sum up what has been a phenomenally long post (congratulations for making it this far), we need passion and emotion with regards to nature, for without that, it is doomed. Any passionate and dedicated naturalists/conservationists with a backbone want to go into politics - I'm sure it wouldn't hurt given the current situation...

Please do what you can to support and encourage any young people you know in interacting with nature because for all you know, your enthusiasm could be just the thing needed to inspire the next Charles Darwin or David Attenborough.

Many thanks for reading and I would really welcome any and all comments/suggestions/feedback on this post or about what your #VisionforNature is.

(Oh and apologies for the really long post - I felt what I've written really needed to be said!)