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:


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...


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.


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.


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 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 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!


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).

Nature apps for IOS

Nature apps for IOS ~ 24th November 2015 ~ 

So this post is all to do with citizen science and easy peasy ways you can contribute to it, simply by downloading and using apps on your smartphone!

Now, I am a little bias since I have an iPhone, so all the apps mentioned are definitely available through the App store, but I'm not sure whether they're available for android or other operating systems, so if anyone knows, please let me know in the comments at the bottom!

Also, if you know of any other nature apps that you'd recommend, do leave a comment with the name and price in the comments below!!

So, first up is Birdtrack. Birdtrack, as its name suggests, is an app where you can record your bird sightings. You do need an account to be able to submit your records but this is easy enough to set up. There are two types of records you can submit, casuals or lists. Casual records are used for the odd species you see, such as a Kestrel hovering above a motorway. In the app you simply fill in the fields in the screenshot below, click 'done' and that's it!

Lists can be complete or incomplete. Complete lists are used to submit all the species you record (hear/see) at certain place and incomplete lists are, as you might have guessed, an incomplete record of what you saw/heard at that location on that occasion. All you do is fill in the fields in the first screenshot and then click 'done'. This sets up your list so to add species to the list you simply click on the arrow on the right which brings up the list and then you click the '+' in the top right corner to add a species. You can then add a count and further details about the sighting. You simply add all the species you see/hear at that place and then you're done!

Next up is an app that I have particularly enjoyed using this summer as it is so easy to use and is also a great id guide to a group of insects that I don't yet have a 'proper' field guide to.

It is the FSC Shieldbugs app. It's really simple to use and within a few minutes you could id and have recorded the Shield bug you've spotted - excellent and free as well!!

You simply choose the main colour of the shield bug then scroll through the different species to match it up with what you've spotted and once you've done this and are confident it is what you think it is, you can enter a record of it by clicking on the species and then 'enter record'. You then take a picture of the shield bug using the camera on your phone and once you're happy with the picture click 'use photo'. It will then determine your location using the GPS on your phone and all you do then is click 'submit record'...all very straightforward! I think you have to enter your email address after you click submit record so that the app can email your record direct to iRecord at the UK Biological Records Centre. Once your record is submitted, records go to iRecord for experts to verify, and, if accepted, will go on to NBN Gateway.


The last couple of apps I want to mention I will only do so briefly as I haven't had much chance to use them, mainly because I forgot I'd downloaded them this summer which is annoying but oh well...I'll just have to remember for next year!

They are:

- iRecord Grasshoppers (this was recommended to me by another naturalist I know and from the quick whizz through the app I've just had, it looks superb - great illustrations and lots of info about the different species of Grasshoppers and related insects! Oh, and it also has recordings of each species which is awesome!!)

- FSC Trees Guide (this is the free version but there is another app called FSC Trees that is £1.49 but I haven't bought that as the free one looks pretty good from what I've seen!)

NOTE: Not all of the apps have the ability to submit records directly, some are just a useful identification tool for when you're out and about.

Anyhow, I hope you've found this post of some interest and as I said at the beginning, if you have any other suggestions of nature-related citizen science apps then let us know in the comments section below!

Autumnwatch Extra

Autumnwatch Extra ~ 4th November 2015 ~ 

Having appeared on Springwatch Extra back in June this year, I was delighted to receive an email a few weeks ago asking if I would like to be on Extra agin but this time via Skype to the Autumnwatch headquarters of WWT Caerlaverock.

Of course I said yes and thankfully technology did not fail me yesterday so you can find my appearance on iPlayer here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06p5b73/autumnwatch-extra-2015-9-afternoon-04112015 (I'm on from about 41:30).

Guest Post

Guest blog post ~ 4th November 2015 ~ 

A few weeks ago I was very kindly asked if I would write a blog post about my ringing by young wildlife photographer, birder & ringer, Mya Bambrick. Well I finally got my act together and wrote something which you can find on Mya's blog here: http://myathebirder.blogspot.co.uk/

Mya is a 13 year old wildlife photographer and birder as well as being a trainee bird ringer who also featured in my "22 Young Conservationists to Follow" blog post.

She is a great young photographer and you can find some of her photos on her Flickr here and hopefully below as well:

Little Egret

22 Young Conservationists you should follow!

22 Young Conservationists you should definitely follow, in no particular order...

There are far more brilliant young conservationists who I could have listed but I decided to stick a limit on how many I mention here, so for those who I've missed out, I do apologise!

If you have any more suggestions of young conservationists to follow, make sure you leave a comment and link to their Twitter/blog below!!

1. Mya Bambrick - @MyaBambrick1 - http://www.myathebirder.blogspot.co.uk

2. Tiffany Imogen - @tiffins11 - http://tiffanyimogen.com/

3. James Common - @CommonbyNature - http://commonbynature.co.uk/

4. Sorrel Lyall - @SorrelLyall - http://sorrellyallwildlife.weebly.com/

5. Findlay Wilde - @WildeAboutBirdshttp://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/

6. Georgia Locock - @GeorgiaLocockhttps://georgiaswildlifewatch.wordpress.com

7. Ellis Lucas - @ellisethanfoxhttp://elliswildlife.blogspot.co.uk/

8. Ryan Clark - @RyanClarkNaturehttps://ryanclarkecology.wordpress.com/

9. Dan Rouse - @DanERouse - http://www.danrouse.org.uk/

10. Peter Cooper - @PeteMRCooper - https://petecooperwildlife.wordpress.com/

11. Billy Stockwell - @StockwellBillyhttp://www.wildlifebilly.blogspot.co.uk/

12. Lucy McRobert - @LucyMcRobert1 - http://www.afocusonnature.org/

13. Matt Williams - @mattadamw - http://mattadamwilliams.co.uk/

14. Megan Shersby - @MeganShersbyhttps://mshersby.wordpress.com/

15. Ros Green - @r_green24http://rgreengingernutbirder.blogspot.co.uk/

16. Matt Collis - @MattCollis9 

17. Abbie Barnes - @AbbieSongThrushhttp://www.songthrushproductions.co.uk/

18. Lizzie Bruce - @Lizzie_Bruce

19. Stephen Le Quesne - @SLeQuesnehttp://www.stephenlequesne.com/

20. Evie Miller - @ev1e_miller - http://evieloution.blogspot.co.uk/

21. Simon Phelps - @WildlifePhelpshttp://www.wildlifephelps.com/

22. Chris Foster - @hatbirderhttps://chrisfosternature.wordpress.com/

PWC Update - September 2015

Patchwork Challenge Update ~ September 2015 ~ 

Having not submitted a new score since April, I felt that I ought to get my act together and update my spreadsheet for the September round up!

Summer and early autumn didn't go too badly for my little patch in inland Hampshire and some rather unexpected species including Tree Pipit, Grey Heron and Great Crested Grebe made their way on to my patch list.

Once autumn migration started to get underway I managed to catch up with some commoner migrants that had evaded me in the spring. These included 2 Redstart, 2 Wheatear and a Spotted Flycatcher on 31st August as well as a Pied Flycatcher that I caught while ringing on patch on 12th August.

Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

As of the September update of the Next Generation Birders minileague, I am now top of the comparative league and 19th (out of 36) in the points league - see below:

In the Inland South minileague I'm not doing quite so well, but have leapt to 2nd in the comparative league and am up to 16th in the points league - see below: 

I'm pretty happy with how I'm doing and since the update I've already added 2 more species in the form of a Yellow-legged Gull in the gull roost on 3rd and 3 Teal on the pools on 16th. Hopefully I'll have a few more additions to the list before the year is out - I'm really hoping for a Yellow-browed Warbler considering the large numbers about at the moment...only time will tell!

Thanks to the folk at Patchwork Challenge for all the scoresheet updates!

Response for Nature Launch

Launch of the Response for Nature report  ~ 13th October 2015 ~ 

On Tuesday evening, I headed to Westminster to attend the launch of the Response for Nature report: England. This report is a response to the State of Nature report that was released in 2013 and found that 60% of the species studied in the UK had declined in recent decades and that more than 1 in 10 of the 6,000 red-listed species are thought to be under threat of extinction in the UK.

The Response for Nature report outlines the key actions needed by the governments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales with 34 different conservation organisations contributing to the project.

The event was launched by Steve Backshall and then, with a very tough act to follow, I was up next! I was very nervous, but thankfully my speech went better than I'd expected it to and seemed to be very well received, which was brilliant! If you're interested, here is a full transcript of my talk. On stage after me were Rory Stewart MP (Undersecretary of State for DEFRA), Dr Martin Warren (Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation), while Steve Ormerod (Chair of RSPB Council), rounded off the first part of the evening and introduced the second part.

The second part of the event consisted of 4 talks going on simultaneously for each of the three time slots. Obviously I didn't manage to listen to all of them, but those that I did hear were very interesting!

Overall it was a great evening that left me feeling inspired and hopeful for the future. It was great to catch up with a few A Focus on Nature members as well as having the chance to network with people from some well-known organisations within the conservation sector, including RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, National Biodiversity Network, and Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Westminster Abbey
Line-up for the first half of the evening - no pressure then! 
Me and Steve Backshall after we'd done our speeches
Steve Backshall and the AFON representatives
The 'marketplace'
Westminster Abbey lit up at night
Big Ben at night

Response for Nature - Transcript

Response for Nature launch ~ 13th October 2015 ~ 

For those interested, here is the full transcript of my talk at the launch of the Response for Nature report: 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. So we’ve just heard from Steve about the links between past and future with some hard-hitting statistics shared from the State of Nature report.

Over the next few minutes I would like to tell you why nature is important to young people and why we must act now to ensure that our generation is remembered for all the right reasons.

From a personal point of view, due to the long-term declines of many bird populations in the UK, there is the very real prospect that my children and grandchildren may never hear the iconic call of a Cuckoo or song of a Nightingale and as a young person interested in nature this saddens me greatly. But, not only does it sadden me, it also angers me because even I, a 17 year old student, know that there is much that could be done to improve the prospects of nature right across our country, but it needs to start here and it needs to start now.

I have had an interest in the natural world for as long as I can remember and have been fortunate enough to have had many fantastic experiences involving nature and the environment. But there is one experience that particularly sticks in my mind. 

Picture this - it’s around half past 9 on a warm summer’s evening and the sun is low in the sky. A bat flies overhead making little squeaks, audible to only the most sensitive of ears. You’re sat waiting patiently and then it is as if a switch has been flipped and the night comes alive - a male Nightjar starts churring from the nearest large tree *(sound of Nightjar churring)*. The churring continues for a few seconds, sending a shiver down my spine. He then swoops down from the tree, wing-clapping as he goes; his white wing patches flashing in the twilight. Then, as if from nowhere, a female appears and they chase each other in a superb aerial display, calling to one another. But within a few seconds, the show is over. The female disappears back into the night and the male resumes his churring. 

Watching Nightjars on a little patch of heathland near my home in north Hampshire is one of my most treasured experiences and one I look forward to every summer. It is brilliant to watch and makes me feel incredibly lucky as these birds have completed an impressive migration all the way from sub-Saharan Africa to get here. 

Experiencing nature is important for everyone, especially children and young people. Children have an innate sense of wonder and curiosity for all things natural, whether it's watching butterflies, digging up worms or making mud pies. It is this unconscious connection that we should endeavour to nurture, throughout their childhood and teenage years, in the hope that this small spark ignites a life long passion for the natural world!

The point I really want to make is that young people are the future; they are the leaders, educators and scientists of tomorrow. In my eyes, the way forwards, the key to making a real difference in the conservation and protection of our natural world is to make sure that the environment is something that young people understand, take an interest in and most importantly of all, care about. After all, if people don’t understand or care about nature, they’re not going to stand up and fight to protect it!  In order to do this, we all have to work together; making the most of knowledge and expertise available. A cross-sector, cross-generation collaboration is needed and we need to get a move on.

The way I see it at the moment, the human race and the future of it, is resting on a knife edge. It could go one way or the other and it’s up to us to decide which way we want to go. If we continue on our current path, sticking to how things have always been done with short-term gains taking priority over actions that are more sustainable, profitable and productive in the long run, then we risk everything. If we keep saying that more money will be put into protecting and enhancing the environment once the economy is secure then really, we are kidding ourselves. If something else always takes priority and nature, the environment and all its processes aren’t given the recognition and importance that they deserve then the future looks bleak.

But it doesn’t have to go that way. Support for nature has to come from the top - our representatives in parliament have to act to support nature and the environment otherwise it won’t get done. The Response for Nature report is a call to action for decision makers, and asks you to recognise that you have a key role to play in helping nature. 

As a young person, I’m really encouraged to read recommendation 6 which is to improve the connection of people to nature, particularly for our children as they will be the next stewards of the natural environment. It proposes that the government should amend the education act to ensure that learning to care for the natural environment is an essential part of a balanced curriculum for all schools in England. 

This would be a huge improvement because from my personal experience, the importance and relevance of nature to our lives is not taught well at any level and by the time you reach secondary school everyone is so obsessed with getting the best grades possible that only the matter of fact processes such as the carbon and water cycle are taught; there seems to be no room or time for the teachers to explain their wider relevance and importance to our day-to-day lives.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! There is a fantastic organisation in the UK called A Focus on Nature which is the network for young nature conservationists. It has hundreds of members between the ages of 16 and 30 and two of its key objectives are to promote nature conservation and natural history to young people as well as contributing to a society in which nature is more valued and better protected for the benefit of young people and future generations. Over the last year, AFON has gathered the opinions of many of its members to develop its Vision for Nature report which lays out what members want the natural world to look like by 2050 with ideas on how to achieve it. My friend Matt Williams will be elaborating on this later this evening in a short talk.

As the Response for Nature report sets out, by working together we can be proactive in supporting the government and its agencies to help nature to help us. So what I’d like you all to think about today is do we want to be known as the generation that stood back and did nothing? Or do we want to be known as the people who stood up for nature and did everything we could to ensure a richer and more biodiverse world for generations to come. I know which I’d rather be remembered for!

The line up for the evening


Mothing ~ 19/20th July 2015 ~ 

I have very kindly been lent a moth trap and so last night the forecast looked pretty good - low wind, no rain and fairly warm, so I decided to put the trap out in my garden and see what happened!

This morning (20th) I got up at 6am to go and cover the trap so that any moths in the trap couldn't escape and then I went back to bed for a few hours before getting up again to go through the trap.

To my surprise there were quite a few moths in the trap and there seemed to be quite a variety of species too which is always good! I also noticed that there were some Elephant Hawkmoths in the trap which was awesome as they are a species I've really wanted to see for quite a while and they really do not disappoint!

Anyway, I won't bore you with any more writing, so here are some pictures of the moth I caught. Many thanks to all who helped me with id'ing them yesterday - I very much appreciate it!!

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua fimbriata)
Common Footman (Eilema lurideola)
Scarce Footman (Eilema complana)
The Flame (Axylia putris)
Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata)
Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata)
Dun-bar (Cosmia trapezina)
Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae)
Crambus pascuella
September Thorn (Ennomos erosaria)
Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba)
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua janthina)
Double Square-spot (Xestia triangulum)
Euzophera pinguis
Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor)
Blastobasis adustella 
Eudonia mercurella
Riband Wave (Idaea aversata) 
Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula)

Chrysoteuchia culmella (Garden Grass Veneer)
Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides) 
Celypha striana
Single-dotted Wave (Idaea dimidiata)
Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha)
Buff Ermine (Spilosoma lutea)
Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata) 
Endotrichia flammealis
Least Carpet (Idaea rusticata) 
Ancylis achatana
Scoparia ambigualis
Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria) 
Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)
Scallop Shell (Hydria undulata)