2014 at a glance

2014 - what a year!

Well, that's 2014 nearly over and done with but wow, what a year it's been. I've had some pretty bloody amazing opportunities, visited some fantastic places and met loads of wonderful and inspiring people so I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been a part of it. 

A special mention must go to A Focus On Nature and the Next Generation Birders as well as all the ringers & birders that have offered their advice and/or enthusiasm over the last year; for without the help of all the people around me, I would definitely not have achieved as much as I have over the last 12 months.

Here are some of my 2014 highlights in pictures:

A very obliging Grey Phalarope in East Sussex
A memorable encounter that I shared with some fellow AFON
members on the Somerset Levels
The group of us that spoke at the AFON #youngbirders workshop
at the BTO
My first ever Stone Curlews which rounded off an amazing day
at the #youngbirders workshop
It was a privilege to follow the breeding trials and tribulations
of a pair of Starlings that nested in my neighbours roof
Ringing some young birds of prey, such as this Kestrel, was
an unforgettable experience
Meeting other young like-minded birders is always good fun
Ringing some Barn Owl chicks and meeting some more great
people thanks to AFON
Finally catching up with a Nightjar at a ringing session
after 6 failed attempts
A trip to the Farne Islands with 7 other young photographers
Cairngorm family 'selfie' - fantastic wildlife, scenery and company (most of the time)
Masses of jellyfish washed up on a beach on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula
Spotted Flycatcher trapped and ringed in Hampshire - a cracking
species to have in the hand
A few days spent at Portland Bird Observatory with some good
birds and cracking company 
I <3 my patch - Nightjars, Dartford Warblers & Woodlark...
what more could you want?!
Met some amazing people on the NGB Bardsey trip
Stunning scenery on Bardsey Island
Some cracking birds on Bardsey too
After 3 years of training, I achieved my C Permit for ringing!!!
There's nothing quite like being out on a marsh in the freezing cold
catching some lovely birds and great company too
What a way to end the year - speaking at the BTO Conference with
5 of my birding friends in front of c.300 people. Very nerve wracking
but an amazing opportunity and experience nonetheless

Thanks again to everyone who has supported me over the last 12 months. I am extremely grateful for all your support and really do appreciate it because without it, I wouldn't have done or achieved half as much as I have managed in the last year, so for that I really do thank you.

So, with only 5 minutes of 2014 remaining, here's to 2015 - I hope it's a good one! Happy New Year folks!

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!

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