The future is now

BTO Conference & AGM ~ 5th-7th December 2014 ~ 

So this weekend I have been fortunate enough to attend the BTO AGM & Conference and wow, just WOW. What an absolutely fantastic, interesting, inspirational and encouraging event it was!!

All the talks were fascinating, really well presented and everyone was so genuinely passionate about birds, the natural world and the desperate need to conserve it.

My favourite talks were those by James Pearce-Higgins (about birds and how climate change is affecting them), Mark Thomas (about his job as a wildlife crime investigator and the harrowing acts of persecution and egg collecting that still go on today), Dave Leech (always entertaining to listen to because of his immense passion and unquenchable thirst for knowledge), Kate Plummer (some fantastic information on Blackcaps, their wintering activities and the possibility that speciation is occurring now(!!!)) and Viola Ross-Smith (some great data from her gull tracking project and a 3D visual of one of the bird's movements which was outstanding).

I am extremely grateful to the BTO for not only organising this amazing event, but also for inviting myself and 5 other young birders to speak this morning. It was a real privilege and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to share my passion for birds with everyone there and the chance to show the older generation that not only are there young people who have an interest in nature, but that there are young people who are so passionate and determined to do everything we possibly can to protect and conserve the wonderful biosphere that is Earth for future generations.

The young birders (and some siblings).
L->R Harley, Ellis, Ben, Evie, me, Abby, Findlay, Toby & Molly.

One thing that was very noticeable when looking at the audience was the sea of grey or greying hair and then there was really quite an age gap as it seemed there was then a massive jump (bar the small number of people bridging the gap) down to a group of people in their mid 20's and then down to myself and the other young speakers. With the benefit of hindsight the best time to be pro-active about encouraging young people would have been about 20-30 years ago but the second best time is now.

Acting now to try and engage with and inspire more young people is something that I feel very passionately about and I will do my utmost best to help the BTO (and other conservation organisations) to achieve this. After all, you won't stand up and protect something if you don't care about it and we need more people to care - we only have 1 planet, we can't afford to destroy it!

Before I finish, I would just like to thank everyone at the BTO, AFON & NGB for all their support and encouragement over the last few years. Without this I wouldn't be where I am today and I most definitely wouldn't have had the guts to stand up in front of an audience of almost 300 people like I did today.

I hope everyone had as good a time at the conference as I did - I can't wait to see what happens in the next year and I'm already looking forward to next year's conference!

You can find me on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Hen Harrier Christmas Cards

Harry the Hen Harrier

Findlay Wilde is a remarkable young man. At only 12 years old he is a passionate conservationist, dedicated bird ringer and is more determined to inspire change than many adults would be.

This year, Fin has been actively involved with the Hen Harrier campaign and Skydancer, a project that aims to raise awareness of the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and earlier in the year he employed his family to create a model Hen Harrier, whom they affectionately named Harry.

Harry travelled with the Wilde family to Hen Harrier Day on 10th August where, in the typically british weather, he helped remind the sodden event-goers why they were there. As well as this, Harry was present at Rutland Water at Birdfair back in mid August. Having been on a bit of a tour, Harry is now spending the winter at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands to remind people of the problems Hen Harriers are facing.

Findlay (right) with Andy Clements (Director of the BTO) and
Harry the model Hen Harrier in the background

It is estimated that there is enough habitat in England to support up to 300 breeding pairs of these wonderful birds of prey, yet only 3 pairs nested this year. This is unacceptable and if we aren't careful, these beautiful creatures could soon become extinct as a breeding species in England. We cannot allow this happen and rather sadly this brings me nicely onto the point of this post.

Findlay is selling Christmas cards which feature Harry the Hen Harrier on the front and all the profits made are being donated to the Skydancer project. The cards are £1 each and I sincerely urge you to purchase as many as you can because the money is going to such a fantastic cause.

The Hen Harrier Harry Christmas card design

Hazeley Heath Ringing

Hazeley Heath ~ 15th November 2014 ~ 

I think it is safe to say that the weather has been most unkind over the last few weeks and so despite the fact I got my C permit almost a month ago, the weekend just gone was my first chance to get out and exercise a proper ringing session on my own.

After a lot of discussions with a fellow ringer, it was decided that all the usual nets would be put up because if it got too busy I could always turn off the tapes and furl the nets.

In the dark on Friday evening, MC and I set the nets. Everything went smoothly and all the nets went up fine and were furled for the night.

My alarm went off at 5.30 on Saturday morning and after packing some food and my hat & gloves, my mum and I headed to Hazeley. Once I arrived, I headed to the nets to start opening them.

There is a small Redwing roost in some of the trees next to one of the net rides so once I began to hear them starting to move around, I put on a tape to try and attract them to the nets. This didn't work too badly and I ended up with a grand total of two. Not quite as many as I was hoping for, but certainly better than none! I then spent the next 8 hours ringing or doing net rounds. It was a great session and I caught some lovely species too - Redwing, Marsh Tit, Lesser Redpoll & Treecreeper were the highlights!

Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

When I finally left at 15.00, after my mum and her friend had helped me carry all the kit to the car, the total stood at 104 captures including 46 re-traps. The species totals are as follows (re-traps are in brackets):

Blue Tit - 27 (12)
Bullfinch - 3 (2)
Chaffinch - 2 (1)
Chiffchaff - 1
Coal Tit - 2 (4)
Dunnock - (7)
Goldcrest - 1
Goldfinch - 4 (1)
Great Tit - 6 (10)
Lesser Redpoll - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 3 (3)
Marsh Tit - (1)
Redwing - 2
Robin - (2)
Song Thrush - 3
Treecreeper - 1 (1)
Wren - 2 ( 2)