Sunday, 25 September 2016

Post 440 - Numerous Wonderous & Astounding - Northern Wood Ant

A Northern Wood Ant (Formica lugubris)
Hey guys, this is post 440, and I've been out and about as usual but because of the lovely warm weather lately I've seen quite a lot of insects, more than I remember seeing in my summer holidays! On one walk Dad and I went on we were looking for a Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve called Birch Wood. We didn't actually find it (as it was on a completely different road!) but went for a great woodland walk and we did see lots of nice wildlife while we were there. One particular thing, although it was actually quite a lot of things, was the Northern Wood Ant.

I did a post generally about ants a little while ago but these wood ants are amazing creatures to watch and I had to find out more about them, so, here are some facts:

  • They are Red Listed in the UK as they are Classed as Local and on the Scottish Biodiversity List.
  • Wood ants are the largest UK ants and are about 1cm long.


  • Another name for them is the 'Hairy Wood Ant', strange because I didn't actually see any hair on them at all! But, to be fair, you would need a microscope!
  • The extent of the wood ant's population reaches as far up in the Highlands of Scotland to, sometimes, the South of Wales.


  • In these areas there are many local colonies most of which appear to be stable at the moment.


  • Like I say they live in colonies which can have up to half a million ants in them! This is quite amazing as sometimes there is only one queen that lays all the eggs!
  • You can probably guess from their name that these ants live in woods. They like coniferous or mixed woodlands mainly.


Some of the ants pointed their abdomens at us -
squirting formic acid in defence 
  • Wood ants make up a very important part of the eco-system in the forests as they eat insects that are pests to the trees such as the bordered white moth Bupalus piniaria which can defoliate pines.
  • I found these ants walking quite a long way into the forest as they were on our route for quite a while, even crossing a little bridge we had to cross. They emerge from the nests working in long lines like this to gather prey. Sometimes they will gather honeydew from aphids on trees (by stroking them!) and other times they will hunt invertebrates. 
  • They can kill small prey with their pincers, larger prey will be attacked by lots of ants working together. They can use formic acid which they squirt from their abdomens for attack too. This can be squirted up to 5cm by the ants and is also used in defence.


  • All the workers in the colony are Female and, as they are not developed, don't reproduce. They can, interestingly, lay eggs, but they are used only as a food.


  • The Males, though, don't really do ANTything ;) and their only purpose is to mate with the queen.


  • Going back to the workers, they do really as their name suggests, they bring food in, keep the nest standing and tend to the queen. 


    Some were carrying pine needles but dropped them
    as we went by.
  • The nest can be over one metre high and 2.5m in diameter, but the tunnels extend into the ground where most of the ants spend their time.
  • The ants nests' are made up of pine needles, quite a lot of them, but the ants take a lot of care in placing the needles so that they act like a thatched roof and keep water out.
  • Many tunnels line the nest and one of the ways that the ants control the nest temperature is to open and close tunnels to let air flow through. Also they make the next a bit flatter on the south side of the nest so it can absorb more heat from the sun.
  • A final way they can warm up the nest is to send workers out to sunbathe. Once they've warmed up they return to the nest brood chambers and act like little radiators releasing the heat they got from sunbathing.

I didn't have time when I was out for my walk to find the nest. Dad seems to remember seeing one a few years ago but now I've read about them I want to see one as they sound amazing. Dr Roger Key also told me about a beetle larvae that live in the nests sometimes and is protected by the colony, in the spring I might be able to see the adult leaf beetle which is yellow - sounds great so I want to find the nest soon.

Before I finish off the post I'd like to say thank you to all of the people that took part in my Thunderclap and thank everyone that has signed my petition. There were exactly 5,600 signatures on it when I checked earlier! That's great, over halfway to a government response now! If you don't know about my petition you can read about it here, basically it's about trying to get some strong laws to protect our wildlife when the EU laws don't apply after #brexit. If you agree please sign up and tell others about it please.

Oh, and one last thing, when I went out again for a walk near Rievaulx and we took a different route home, Dad had worked out where Birch Wood actually was so I had a quick stop off. Now we've found it I think I'll enjoy exploring this place in the Autumn, looks like it will be great for fungi and lovely autumnal colours as the leaves start to change colour.


Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Post 438 - Magnificent Mig Fest

Probably the star bird of MigFest - Kentish Plover
One of the MigFest Photos by Dave Tucker
Hey everyone today's post is 438 and this time last week I was still recovering after an amazing weekend at Spurn Point. Specifically, Mig Fest! This is an event that happens every year at Spurn to celebrate all the migratory birds coming through on their annual migration.

Dad picked me up from school and after a brief stop at home to say bye to Mum and Esme we set off. Even though I live in Yorkshire it's still a long way to Spurn! We got there and put the tent up straight away as it was already getting dark, and then we went off to the talk about how some migratory birds that you wouldn't expect to end up here with theories such as reverse migration theory (where the birds go entirely in the wrong direction) and the dog leg theory (where they start off right and then take a 45* turn.)

Saturday was wet! Dad and I drying off a bit in the barn
Stuart (@raptorwatcher) has his back to the camera
It was great to get to say hello to a lot of people I knew again too like Stuart Pike, a lot of the young birders from BTO bird camp (more on that in a bit) and some of the BTO staff like Andy, Paul and Debbie. Over the weekend too I got to bump into Mike Dilger who I'd missed meeting at Birdfair but who was at Migfest as he's the patron of Spurn Bird Observatory. It was great to meet Mike and we talked about blogs and birds for a while while waiting for tea,

It was dry when we got there on Friday evening, but not the next morning! It rained pretty much from 4 in the morning to 6 at night. And there was a lot of it! We were out at 6am and spent pretty much all of that day wet, and there was no point changing either as those clothes would have got sodden too! I'm quite used to the rain, living in the North, but as people were coming from all of the country (some even from the rest of the world), some people weren't best pleased about the rain!

Still damp but happy and nice to meet Mike!
It didn't matter though about the rain, It was a magical experience to see how many birds there are there, I remember going there in February and not being as impressed as this time, but that was because I went at a quiet time. This was absolutely amazing, I saw 9 new species of bird when I was there:


  • Red-Throated Diver
  • Common Scoter
  • Manx Shearwater
  • Whinchat
  • Wheatear
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Arctic Skua
  • Pied Flycatcher
  • Kentish Plover



The last two were both interesting finds, the Pied Flycatcher was when I was talking to some people in the Triangle and a small black and white bird flew up and hovered for a few seconds before going back down.

The Kentish Plover was when we were Sea-watching and word came through over the radio. Andy Clements had found it.


Dawn from the campsite
The hide erupted with activity as everyone rushed to the car park to get a lift from someone down to where it was seen.   We got there and met up with the group that were with Andy when he found it and started to have a good look round for it. After looking for about 10 or 20 minutes, it was decided it had flown somewhere else. Me and some other young birders (George Dunbar, Eleanor Morrison, Sam Pitt-Miller , Jacob Spinks, Harry, Ellis Lucas, Joel Tragen, Findlay Wilde, Frank Osterberg, Toby Carter  and Darragh Hudson  decided to have a look at Kilnsea Wetlands as the tide was coming in and a lot of the birds would probably head there. It was nice to go there and get into the hide out of the rain for a while too. Low and behold it was there, Findlay refound it. We headed out in the rain to get better views like these:

A Meadow Pipit being ringed

I spent most of the rest of the day birding with the young birders until it was teatime and time for more talks.

The Saturday night  talks and had speakers from two other amazing bird observatories on peninsulas, one in America (Cape May) and another in Sweden (Falsterbo). They were amazing places and the numbers of birds that passed through them were incredible. It seems that peninsulas are the best places to see migrating birds as they all get funnelled down the land before they eventually head off to sea, so that way you get to see lots of them. These two observatories and Spurn are going to be working together on research in the future. After this most people headed to the pub so I joined the young birders in a glass of J2O, chatted about birding and just generally had a bit on banter and a laugh. We tried to twitch a badger too but sadly we missed it.

Sunday was another early start as I had arranged to meet the Young Birders at the sea watching hide again at first light. It was hard to get up at 5am but worth it as dawn was amazing. Funny thing with Spurn is that you could see both dawn and sunset over the sea! Sunday was a lovely warm sunny day and was definitely a Meadow Pipit day, thousands of them flew over that day. We saw a flock of Golden Plovers too high in the sky which was incredible watching how they glittered as they changed direction. I spent quite a while there before I went off for another activity,

Looking up at the lighthouse
My blog has been a brilliant project for me. I've met lots of great people, seen lots of great people and lots of great places. My Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves challenge has been great too and because of what I have been doing they did a really nice thing for me. They offered me a free Spurn Safari which was so nice, thank you very much YWT! I got to go right to the point on the Unimog (a big truck with seats in the back) so I managed to get some good pictures of wildlife on the way there. But when we were there we went right to the top of the lighthouse to have a look round. It was an amazing view as you could see for miles right up the point and straight over the Humber!

A panoramic shot from the top of the lighthouse

When we came down we went for a walk with the Guide who was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the Point and also about the wildlife around there. Common Lizard and Common Blue butterflies were the highlights - it might have been a Barred Warbler but the glimpse of the bird that may have been one was too quick to be sure sadly.  We stood at the very tip of the peninsula which was the most southerly point in East Yorkshire before heading back.

A Common Blue Butterfly on the point
That was more or less the end of the weekend. We headed to the farm to put the tent away, dried out by the lovely sunshine and then managed to get to say goodbye to a few people before setting off.

Well, it was an amazing weekend and I look forward to next year!


Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Post 437 - State of Nature & a Petition update

Hey everyone,

I sat down tonight to start Post 437 which was going to be about a brilliant weekend at Spurn Point at Migfest, but something important was released today that made me think I should maybe blog about this instead. (I will come back to Spurn though!).

I'm talking of course about the State of Nature report - you can find the whole state of nature report on the RSPB website but also if you don't want to read it all there's a great summary too.

So why is it important? Well it gives us a big warning about how we are treating our environment. They have collected masses of data to support the findings, there were 7.5 million hours of volunteer monitoring covering 9,670 species, which I guess was on top of experts too.

There are a few headlines from the report that are very worrying....

Nature is in trouble!

Using modern Red List criteria, which identify species of the highest conservation concern, we assessed 8,000 species. Of these, 15% are extinct or threatened with extinction from Great Britain.


This is horrible news for me, I love nature, I love doing my blog and seeing what I can find, it's my favourite thing to do. If in 50 years time and half of all wildlife is gone (or even 10%) then I'd be more than devastated. So it was quite upsetting to read that the UK is one of the worst countries in the world (189th out of 218) for its biodiversity intactness - basically meaning that wildlife and the environment fares much worse in our country than in most others!

But there are some bits of good news, this tweet from the BTO show some of the highlights...

Exactly, this is fantastic news. to know that some species are actually on the rise is amazing news. All the work that we've put into helping species has come off great. If we can all just push that little more and we could get things like Hedgehogs and Turtle Doves on the rise, then hopefully everything would be great again! The report does give examples of how species can and are being helped so we just need to do a bit more.

The report is not the only thing that has been in the news lately about the environment, some MP's are wanting to protect nature too...
The National Trust are also supporting changes to farming to help the environment...
So with all of the conservation organisations involved in the State of Nature report, (there were 50 or more!) and lots of organisations and MP's wanting to protect the environment maybe there is some hope that we can help many of the species that are declining. The headline that is in most papers and articles I've see though is that 1 in 7 species in the UK are in danger of becoming extinct.

There is a lot we can do to help though, like getting involved with some of the conservation organsations like the Wildlife Trusts.
You could also support my  petition which I have been promoting for a while which  I started with my Post 430 it's doing OK and is up to 4825 signatures but needs over another 5000 to get a response from the government.

If you want to help defend nature by getting strong laws to protect it when we leave the EU please sign it by clicking the link below...

Protect UK Environment & Wildlife - adopt European environmental legislation.

...and by supporting the Thunderclap I've set up

Post-Brexit Nature Protection

While there is a lot of hope for nature it is so important that we keep telling our politicians, and everyone really, that nature is important and that we want it to be protected.

Hope you enjoyed,

Zach.

Post 437 - State of Nature & a Petition update

Hey everyone,

I sat down tonight to start Post 437 which was going to be about a brilliant weekend at Spurn Point at Migfest, but something important was released today that made me think I should maybe blog about this instead. (I will come back to Spurn though!).

I'm talking of course about the State of Nature report - you can find the whole state of nature report on the RSPB website but also if you don't want to read it all there's a great summary too.

So why is it important? Well it gives us a big warning about how we are treating our environment. They have collected masses of data to support the findings, there were 7.5 million hours of volunteer monitoring covering 9,670 species, which I guess was on top of experts too.

There are a few headlines from the report that are very worrying....

Nature is in trouble!

Using modern Red List criteria, which identify species of the highest conservation concern, we assessed 8,000 species. Of these, 15% are extinct or threatened with extinction from Great Britain.


This is horrible news for me, I love nature, I love doing my blog and seeing what I can find, it's my favourite thing to do. If in 50 years time and half of all wildlife is gone (or even 10%) then I'd be more than devastated. So it was quite upsetting to read that the UK is one of the worst countries in the world (189th out of 218) for its biodiversity intactness - basically meaning that wildlife and the environment fares much worse in our country than in most others!

But there are some bits of good news, this tweet from the BTO show some of the highlights...

Exactly, this is fantastic news. to know that some species are actually on the rise is amazing news. All the work that we've put into helping species has come off great. If we can all just push that little more and we could get things like Hedgehogs and Turtle Doves on the rise, then hopefully everything would be great again! The report does give examples of how species can and are being helped so we just need to do a bit more.

The report is not the only thing that has been in the news lately about the environment, some MP's are wanting to protect nature too...
The National Trust are also supporting changes to farming to help the environment...
So with all of the conservation organisations involved in the State of Nature report, (there were 50 or more!) and lots of organisations and MP's wanting to protect the environment maybe there is some hope that we can help many of the species that are declining. The headline that is in most papers and articles I've see though is that 1 in 7 species in the UK are in danger of becoming extinct.

There is a lot we can do to help though, like getting involved with some of the conservation organsations like the Wildlife Trusts.
You could also support my  petition which I have been promoting for a while which  I started with my Post 430 it's doing OK and is up to 4825 signatures but needs over another 5000 to get a response from the government.

If you want to help defend nature by getting strong laws to protect it when we leave the EU please sign it by clicking the link below...

Protect UK Environment & Wildlife - adopt European environmental legislation.

...and by supporting the Thunderclap I've set up

Post-Brexit Nature Protection

While there is a lot of hope for nature it is so important that we keep telling our politicians, and everyone really, that nature is important and that we want it to be protected.

Hope you enjoyed,

Zach.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Post 436 - Nourishing Natural Norfolk

Muntjacs in our clearing at Kelling Heath
Hey everyone today's post is post 436 and it kind of explains my inactivity over the last month or so. I've been on holiday! I went to Norfolk, as long time readers will know that I do every year at around the start of August, on a nature holiday. We stay at a beautiful holiday park called Kelling Heath. It's a big woodland next to an area of SSSI heath where Dartford Warblers nest, Turtle Doves are seen, Nightjars nest and it has Silver studded Blue butterflies too! In the woodland there is a little clearing for each caravan, so much so that you can't see your neighbours, but you do get Muntjac deer wandering in! Just sitting in this little clearing is enough to cure anyone from nature deficit disorder, but with all the other places I went to and the wildlife I saw it was a very relaxing and restful holiday.

But anyway, I'll get into some of what I saw,

Large Emerald and a Pebble Hook Tip
- just a couple of the moths we saw
We left home at about 10am and got there at about 4pm, stopping off to get supplies and to stretch our legs at points, one stop was the wonderfully named Sprotbrough Flash which I mentioned in my last post! There wasn't really much to do with nature on the first day until we got to Kelling, but we saw enough just sat out on the decking just looking and listening. From Jays to Pipistrelle Bats, and Wood Pigeons to Squirrels. Aside from this we took Esme for a walk around the heath, but didn't see much the first time.

We went to Titchwell Marsh a couple of times. and racked up quite a list, we saw the Spoonbills that are there at the moment as well as a Little Stint, 4 Bearded Tits, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, a Hobby and a lot more, but, strangely, the highlight for me were the Yellow Wagtails. I've been looking for these for so long, and if I ever thought I'd seen one, I just couldn't confirm it. And to see them so close this time was just amazing.

Yellow Wagtail at Titchwell
Later in the week I met up with Luke Nash and Paddy Lewin, two young birders and went to Cley reserve, Luke's patch. It was great to have such a good guide while we went around the reserve as we saw a lot more than we would have, including a Hobby sat just a few metres from the hide! We also saw Snipe, Green and Redshank, and lots more. Before we leave this topic I want to quickly congratulate Paddy on his amazing GCSE results. Hope I can do as well as you!

An awesome encounter with a Hobby at Cley
We also walked around the Heath with Luke and Paddy, and got my first sighting of Turtle Doves! As we walked we flushed a pair right in front of us from the ground the first of time, but they flapped off in a hurry, but the second time they moved from a tree so we got a great sighting! That was pretty awesome so it more than made up for not managing to see the Silver Studded Blue Butterflies again! I look every year but no luck yet.

Another day was spent exploring the broads and we went to Horsey Mere where we went on our traditional wildlife boat trip. This one was a bit different as it wasn't with Ross who usually runs the trips, as he was away running a sailing Regatta, but instead it was his friend Chris, who was just as good. We didn't see that much but the dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies were good, as well as a really close pass of a Marsh Harrier! I must time one of my Norfolk holidays right so that I get to see some Swallowtail Butterflies, I've only ever had a couple of brief glances of them as I always seem to be there between broods!

Some of the seals soaking up the sun
Last time I was in Norfolk Dad and I took a walk to Blakney Point. We didn't get all the way there but far enough to see lots of seals as well as things like Ringed Plovers and Dunlins. Well this year so that the whole family, including Mum and Esme our Jack Russell, could see the seals we decided to have a boat trip to see them. It was a lovely trip and the sea was very calm (much to Mum's relief!). We got to see the Common Seal colony as well as see a good few Grey Seals bobbing about in the sea too. On the way to and from the seals we saw quite a lot of birdlife too. There were quite a lot of gulls, cormorants and geese around but I've discovered bird spotting from a bobbing boat is harder than it looks!

A Swallow having a rest in the rafters
There were lots of other activities too. We had some nice walks in Sherringham Park and I saw a very happy little Swallow that came and fed its family then sat in the rafters for a little rest. I also had a ride on the steam trains that you can catch from Kelling Heath. I'll miss sitting on the decking and just watching and listening to everything in the woods. I see something new every year. One of the most interesting things I watched was one morning having breakfast, where I watched a Grey Squirrel moving her babies from an old drey to one in a tree right by our caravan, something I'd not seen before and it was very cute to watch her bring them in one by one in her mouth and then scamper back for the next one.
Squirrel scampering around moving dreys
- the baby is in her mouth

The last reserve I went to was on the way home, it was the fabulous RSPB Snettisham. I'd been getting reports fed to me all holiday from Elliot Monteith (thanks Elliot) as the phone reception was not very good about a Red Necked Phalarope was here. Well I didn't see that sadly but I did see a Spotted Redshank which was a lifer. On the walk back to the car as well I got to to see all the birds being moved on by the tides and there were some fabulous murmurations so that was a nice end to the holiday!
Stunning Sunsets too!

Well I could go on but I hope this was a nice little summary of my holiday. This and Birdfair kept me quite busy through the summer holidays but now I hope to get back into a more regular blogging routine.

Thanks to everyone that's supported my petition - its now at 4,246 signatures :-)

I've also started a Thunderclap to promote it too and if you could sign up to that too that'd be awesome!

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Post 435 - A reserves Challenge update - Dales Meadows!

Looking down over Leyburn Old Glebe to the hills.
Hey everyone, today's Post 435 and at the start of my summer holidays I went around the Yorkshire Dales to see what some of the reserves around there were like, expecting no less than I got, some absolutely beautiful places. But, it is the Dales of course!

Now I went to more flowery and meadowy reserves this time as there aren't that many birdy places around where I live. Luckily, there's about 5 of these in quite a small area so after we'd gone into one, we hopped in the car and took a ten minute drive down to the next reserve. The weather was fantastic too, a lovely sunny dale for pootling around the Dales!

Devils Bit Scabious
Common Blue
The first one we went to was Leyburn Old Glebe
. This was quite a special one as it's home to the Burnt-Tip Orchid. This is a plant that I haven't yet seen before, and still haven't as I didn't manage to find one, whether we were a bit late for them or we just didn't look hard enough, we still don't know. But it was a lovely place, with lovely flowers and a lovely view.

Pelucid Fly on Knapweed


The Place was alive with insects feeding on all of the flowers that were blooming. I saw some lovely Devils Bit Scabious and orchids amongst them all. I hadn't been on the site long when a lovely Common Blue Butterfly settled nearby and was quite happy to have its photo taken. A Pelucid fly on (I think) some Knapweed was also very happy for me to get quite close for a shot.


Seata Quarry
Erinus Alpinus
A bit further down the road was another one great reserve Seata Quarry. This was a very small reserve, famous for its Fragrant Orchid, which, again, we looked for, but didn't see one. We saw some sort of raptor fly into a tree that was only about 50 metres away, but then seemed to disappear. It was probably a Buzzard but as it won the game of hide and seek I can't be sure. But the inland cliffs, although man made, were lovely. Lots of specialist little plants like one of Dad's favourite non-natives Erinus Alpinus (Fairy Foxglove) have managed to grow on the rock faces. The landscape is man made too as it's mainly grazed and there's not a lot of forest, but it's still pretty amazing.
Too late - Newbiggin was mown!


Disappointingly, the next reserve on our travels, Newbiggin Pastures, was a bit of a let down as we were too late. It was mown. This would be a lovely one to visit earlier in the year as apparently there are Marsh Marigold and Redstart there, I only saw my first Redstart today, but I'll cover that in another post.


Yellands Meadow must have been a reserve that the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have had for a while, as it had a very licheny sign that said Yorkshire Naturalist's Trust, which is what it was known as before it changed its name! This was another mostly mown one, but it was still a really nice one! There was a little stream running through the middle of it and the banks hadn't been mown so we were looking for insects like flies and hoverflies on some of the Cow Parsley. There was a bit of rustling in the plants and we heard a 'plop' in the stream, so we suspect that we may have been inches away from a Water Vole!


Semer Water - looking in the plants
Awesome meadows
The last one of the day was Semer Water, and it was a funny one because it was kind of two reserves, one a little path, through the meadows, but as you go further on there's also a lake! This is another natural glacial lake like Lake Gormire that I go to quite often. The meadows here are huge and seem to run to the hills in the distance. It was full of flowers and insects happily buzzing around in the fabulous Yorkshire sunshine that stayed with us all day

Helophilus pendulus
Well, this really did prove to me that the Yorkshire Dales is one of the nicest places, I think at least, in the world, not like I need any persuasion!

Sprotbrough Flash
One last one just to mention is Sprotbrough Flash. This was a flying visit on my way to my Norfolk holiday. We decided to stop off near here to have lunch and give Esme, our little Jack Russell, a little walk. This place looks pretty amazing. It was another warm sunny day and in the few minutes we were here I saw loads of butterflies and dragonflies. It's one I'll have to come back to for a better look around soon.




Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Post 434 - Blown-away by brilliant Birdfair!

The Young Birders just before we went birding!
Hi All,

I haven't been posting much in August as I have been a bit busy. I've had a few days out around Yorkshire reserves and I will have to do an update post on that soon! I also had a holiday in Norfolk for 10 days, that was amazing so I should do a post on that too! To top all that off I also spent this last weekend in England's smallest county, Rutland, for this year's absolutely brilliant Birdfair.

Jono Leadley & me doing an interview for BBC Leicester
So what was so good about it? Well it is described as the Birdwatcher's Glastonbury. It is a festival all about nature, sure it has a big focus on birds, people like Birdlife, RSPB and the BTO are there, but also the British Dragonfly Society, Butterfly Conservation, Wildlife Trusts, A Focus on Nature and many others are there. Check out the exhibitors list on the Bird Fair website, it's pretty awesome.

There are so many great people that go but one of my favourite bits was meeting up with lots of young birders, I saw a lot of people that went along to this year's BTO Bird Camp and a lot of other young birders. It was great to catch up with them. I will do a blog on the young birders and another great group AFON as there are a lot of great young birders and naturalists and too many to mention here really.  We all went to do a bit of birding organised by Toby Carter as Rutland water is sort of his patch. It turned into a mini bird-race and the reserve is so good for birds that over 70 species were found in an hour and a half!

Alex 
I also bumped into lots of people I know off twitter and from past Birdfairs and conferences. It was great to see you Alex (another top young blogger - please check out his blog) who I missed at last years Bird Fair. Other people I met up with were Hugh Brazier, Rob Sheldon, Charlie, Lawrie & Phil from BAWC, Phil Gatley, Andy, Ieuan, Viola, Paul, Lee from the BTO, Jono and Lucy at the Wildlife Trusts, Ben Hoare from BBC Wildlife Magazine. Chris Calow, Georgia Locock and so many others. Thanks to all of you for all the support and encouragement ;-)

People I missed but hoped to see were Tony Jeavons, David Darrell Lambert, Jason Alexander, Stewart Abbot  - hope to eventually meet up with you soon!

Great to see Chris again
Anneka Svenska
Then there were the speakers and wildlife presenters that I met. I went on a bug hunt last year with David Lindo so it was great to bump into him again. Of course it's always great to bump into Chris Packham and I got to say thank you for his support and following me on twitter. I also got to have a quick chat to Nick Baker and told him how the first Unsprung I was on, that he was presenting, really inspired me to start my blogging.  I was honoured to get a mention in her talk by Jess French who said some lovely things about my blog. I also saw Anneka Svenska who has been very supportive on twitter.

It was a busy time and I got to do some awesome stuff, like meet up with young birders, watch bird ringing, meet up with lots of people and go birding with the BTO. I also ended up doing an interview for BBC Radio Leicester with Jono Leadley of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, you can hear it here, about 47 minutes in, and I get to talk about conservation and how important it is. It was totally unexpected and unrehearsed but I think it's one of the best radio interviews I've done so far!

Jess French -
thanks for mentioning my blog 
David Lindo
One of the things I enjoyed the most though were the talks.There were some really good ones and more this year on important issues that are affecting our wildlife. The talk with Mike Dilger, Charlie Moores and Dominic Dyer (one of the people I didn't get to meet) was brilliant and really put across that everybody can help prevent wildlife crime and that anybody who commits it should be prosecuted - even if they are very rich and 'important'. I learnt a lot from that talk and the Grouse Shooting talk with Mark Avery (another person I had hoped to say hello to again and let him know I'm writing to my MP about the debate on grouse shooting). I really don't see how a hobby of a few people should be allowed if it harms wildlife and contributes to flooding. A lot of adults I speak to are quite annoyed that anybody who pays tax is helping to pay for it too! Surely hospitals and schools need the money more?

Chatting to |Nick Baker
I really enjoyed the talks too from Nick Baker and Jess French. They both spoke about how important it is to let children experience nature, to be able to play outside and get close to bugs, birds, mammals and plants, to be fascinated by the little things that rule the world and develop a connection with the natural world. It can make people sad if they don't have enough wild time and if they don't connect with nature they won't care for it. It is so important that young people do so that we have more people that will look after the world better in the future. Fear of letting children play out and technology were some of the things mentioned that stopped this but Jess French said technology can be used in good ways and mentioned my blog (thank you so much Jess :-).

Chris at the Rewidling Talk
Plugging the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting Petition
I also saw a great talk on rewilding, it was hosted by Chris Packham but the best bit was Derek Gow's presentation. He spoke so passionately about how different creatures need to be in our ecosystem because of the benefits they bring to other species. I'd love it if some of the Birdfair talks were put on youtube afterwards as I'd love to hear that one again.

So overall I've had an awesome summer. Bird Fair was incredible and it was really good that the conservation issues came out very strongly, at least in the talks I went to. Because of this I got to tell a lot of people about my petition. Its nearly at 4,000 signatures now. If you can help to get it up to 10,000 signatures I'd be very grateful.

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.