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 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 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 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

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

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

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!