Thursday, 15 November 2018

Post 494 - Brilliant BTO's Agenda for Change

Two new faces -
Baroness Young of Old Scone &
Kabir Kaul
Hey everyone.

Well yesterday I wrote about Inspirational #IWill and what a great day I'd had. Well my day didn't end when the event at Kew did. I have #IWill to thank in a way for making it possible for me to attend a second event in the evening...

A little while back Dad and I got an invitation to attend an event with the BTO at the House of Lords! Amazing right, but in London on a school night evening.Would we be able to get down? Would I get permission to be out of school early? But then the penny dropped. "What date was that?" said Mum, "The 13th? Well you're in London anyway!" Brilliant! Solved all the problems thanks to #Iwill. So we gladly accepted the invitations and waited for the big day. 

Great to catch up with Natalie Bennett -
thanks for all your support on twitter
Earlier this year I got to go to Portcullis House, a part of Parliament, but I'd never so far got to go into either of the Houses of Parliament so this was exciting. But so was the event. The BTO are an organisation that our family has been a member of for a number of years. I've got involved with a few of their surveys and of course got to go to one of their brilliant bird camps for young people. If you are a young birder I'd highly recommend getting along to one. Sponsored by the Cameron Bespolka Trust they give you lots of great experiences in a full-on birding weekend and you meet a lot of young birders too.

The event on Tuesday though was about change. It started with security checks of course before getting to the venue and a bit of networking and catching up with lots of familiar friendly faces from the birding world and meeting up with a few new ones too. Of course we had to stop for a while to hear the speakers and the reason for us being there.

Some great speakers with great messages including
Caroline Lucas
There are regular headlines about how the natural world is struggling, really quite scary headlines. Baroness Young of Old Scone kicked off the evening highlighting this but also how the scale of the problems wouldn't be known nor would the effects of conservationist's actions be capable of being tracked without the work of organisations like the BTO. Lots of volunteers (60,000 in fact) like me and others there contribute to their scientific work that makes a real difference. The problem though is that while they engage with lots of people, and have collected really useful data over a long time, people and politicians don't always realise how valuable this data is. The second speaker Caroline Lucas underlined that and like she does on many important green issues is supporting the BTO and trying to raise awareness of the importance of this work continuing.

Great to catch up with other young birders,
Andy & the Bespolkas
The final words of the night were by another great speaker, Andy Clements, the BTO Chief Executive. He covered 10 key actions that make up the BTO Agenda for Change. I'm sure they'll be up on their website soon but they are basically a commitment to keeping on doing what they do well and to do some things they don't do quite as well, better. I think this will be a challenge. They are an amazing organisation, very supportive, very well respected and to set themselves the challenge of being better I think is a tough one.

One of the 10 actions though I will write out as it was very relevant to the day and to my passions :-

"We will become much more accessible and relevant to wider society, inspiring a new generation to participate in the understanding of, and engagement with, the natural world."

If you think of any way I can help with that #IWill.

Thank you so much for the invite Baroness Young of Old Scone, I had a great evening.

Hope you enjoyed.


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Post 493 - Inspirational #IWill

Hey everyone,
Venue for our event - Kew's Nash Conservatory

Yesterday I had the privilege to be in London at Kew Gardens. I love Kew and have visited it several times before, but this time it was for a special event.

Those of you that know me and follow my blog will know that I have a passion for nature and that I try to spread the word and encourage other young people to appreciate and care for it too. I didn't really think of it this way but a lot of what I do is social action, doing something to help make a difference, to improve society in some way, without seeking anything in return.

Well that is just what a group called Step up to Serve are interested in and they run a campaign called #IWill which is all about encouraging social action in young people. After an article in New Nature on the theme of "I can't vote but I can make a difference" the #IWill team told me about the 2018 Ambassador programme which this year is themed around environmental action. It sounded like a brilliant programme with lots of opportunities so of course I had to apply but didn't expect I'd be chosen as it was bound to be popular.

A few of us already involved with environmental social
action got to meet and have a photo with Lord Gardiner
of Kimble
Despite my pessimism I did get selected! And better still, the #IWill event to tell the new ambassadors the news was to be held at Kew Gardens. To say I was pleased, excited, over the moon, chuffed - what ever the words you use it would probably still be an understatement.

We made social action pledges on a pledge tree
I'd read up about the campaign and the previous ambassadors but didn't really know what to expect from the day. Dad came with me and we turned up at Kew just as it was starting to get busy. The event was in a lovely building, the Nash Conservatory. I'd taken my camera of course to record the day, and I was able to put it to good use. In fact as the official photographer was late I had a little job to do to try and capture a few informal shots of the event.

We had workshops to help us Raise our Voice -
here I worked with Princess & Yetunde
There were 50 ambassadors and the day was all about celebrating the things we had done, showing how important social action is and helping us to think about how we can build on what we've done and be role models to encourage more young people to get involved. There were some amazing speakers. The day was hosted by former #IWill  Ambassadors Ceylon Hickman and Tom McEachan and we had some fantastic speakers mixed in with workshops and discussions all designed to help us to promote social action and help inspire others.
I got to work with lots of passionate young people
- here's Shahid 

I really enjoyed learning about Kew's @GrowWildUk project from Tim Owen, I hope I'll be able to get more involved with this and the things they are trying to achieve. There was an awesome talk by Antony Bennett talking us through his journey. It could have been really sad, he'd had a really tough time with his health when he was young but the story was focused on how he viewed the world differently after his problems and how he started saying yes to opportunities and how from that great things have happened. He has been engaged in some great social action work and helped raised lots of funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital who cared for him when he was really, really ill.

There were a few familiar faces - but being behind the camera I
missed my chance to say hi to Rob McFarlane!
Workshops, networking and discussions filled the rest of the day. Through it I got to meet, talk with and start friendships with a really great bunch of passionate people. The range of things young people are doing is incredible and it just goes to show that as I said at the beginning you don't need a vote to be able to make a difference! It was great to meet up with someone I know as well, I was glad to hear Dara McAnulty was a fellow #IWill ambassador. Great to catch up with him and hear him recite a social action poem he'd written, such an incredible talent with words!

I hope I'm well on the way with this now.
This is a shot from my workshop which was about "Raising Your Voice" and I had some actions to follow up on. Well, I hope this blog contributes to the first one! The second one, well I had my camera in hand through the day and I hope some of the images here you'll be seeing a lot more of. Of course I'll be doing more on these points but the third point I'll have to work on with a few organisations I know, but if any of you reading this want to help out and enable a twitter take over based on youth social action please let me know.

All in all what an incredible day. Such a positive, inspiring group of people. I am very proud to be an #IWill Ambassador and look forward to #AYearofGreenAction - #IWill4Nature!!

Look out for more on this through 2019. I think it's going to be a really interesting year!

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 10 November 2018

Post 492 - EcoExplorers, Project Wild and Haggewoods - Thank you!

Hey everyone, an overdue post today to update on a project that I got involved with this year. I thought that I had written an update on this before and I really should have done as this has been a great project and the people involved have been really supportive so I wanted to say a big thank you to all the people involved.

Back in Post 477 - A Happy Return to Haggewoods I covered how an article I wrote gave Rosalind at Haggewoods Trust an idea and how a group of us shaped up a project idea. Well through hard work by Nick at Project Wild CIC and Rosalind at Haggewoods the project was made a reality by getting some funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

So through this year the EcoExplorers project has been busy engaging lots of young people with nature. They've done lots of talks and workshops in schools and at the Haggewoods Meadow. If you've seen my blogs before you'll know it's one of my big passions trying to encourage other young people to care for nature the way I do so I was really pleased to have been a small part of making the project happen.

Talking Dragonflies
(I am short but here I'm stood in a ditch - really!)
I was able to help out at one of the sessions for a group of primary school kids and I really enjoyed it. The young people really enjoyed the day and were amazed at the wildlife they saw. Lots of questions were asked and lots was learnt. I was able to share with the group a lot of information about dragonflies and my experience at Haggewoods of watching the adults emerging from the nymphs as I was lucky enough on a visit here to spend ages watching this almost magical transformation. I was also privileged to be able to handle a really calm and incredibly gorgeous grass snake. I've mostly only ever caught glimpses of these incredible creatures before as they slither off into the undergrowth. It's hard to explain well but it really seemed everybody got a lot out of the day, the adults helpers as well as the young people that came along.

An amazing creature!
I didn't get to go along but there was also a weekend dedicated to film making, it was a shame to miss that but I'll bet it was good and the people involved enjoyed it.

They also had a photography competition, you can see some of the amazing images that were entered into that here on the Haggewoods site. Of course I had to have a go at that! The project made it at really special competition by having a presentation of the photos and films from the project and a prize giving ceremony at Selby Abbey, an impressive place I'd not been to before. Well I knew that I'd been shortlisted for a prize due to being invited there but I never expected to do so well. I did well in two categories and my photo below was the overall winner for my age category. After seeing the other images I was amazed to have done so well. Part of the prize was a canvas print of the wining picture - that is proudly hanging on our hall wall now for everyone to see when they enter the house!

Grouse in Heather.

So, and I'm very sorry this is overdue, I want to say a very big thank you to Rosalind, Nick and all the other folks at  Haggewoods and Project Wild CIC. It was really great to be involved in a project from the start and I really enjoyed helping out.

Thanks also to the Heritage Lottery Fund. I really hope after the success of the project that there will be more of this sort of thing to come.

Hope you enjoyed.


Sunday, 7 October 2018

Post 491 - Naturally Zach - a wild life journey

Hey everyone,

A bit of a different blog today about something I've been thinking about for a while but I've finally decided to do. It may not seem like much to some people but it's been something I've thought about a lot.

Ich bin ein Nerd! - I've always embraced a love of science
This was a primary school Easter project :-)
Most of you reading this will know me from twitter. It's where I post a lot of my wildlife activity. Over on there my handle is @nerboy386. I don't know if I've ever explained why I chose that handle. Well it stemmed from primary school and from being a bit different. Most of my class, in fact most my school, was into football, celebrities and lots of stuff that I didn't care much about, and still don't. As you probably know I've always been more interested in science and nature so I used to get called a scientist, professor and of course a nerd. Being a fan of things like the Big Bang Theory and science fiction that didn't bother me much so I decided to use it, acknowledge it and not let it be a bad thing.  So I was a random nerd boy, hence the 386 - some random numbers.

The nature community has always been very supportive and encouraging. I've suffered very few trolls or unpleasantness at all online, but I do try to stay very positive even when I speak out about stuff I don't like. So it's not mattered what I've called myself and the handle has been fine.

As I've grown up though people at school seem to be less accepting of people that are different. You have to look like this, you have to like this stuff and not that, it's cool to shoot stuff (lots of farmers and pro-hunt people at my school!). I've been given a hard time for just being me and not liking all of the same stuff other people do.

Well all that led to me thinking about things. I've always thought that it's good to be different, that it's important that people follow their interests and passions and that we aren't all clones of each other.

Whilst it's not common in my school I've realised it's important and not strange to love nature. I've also realised there's a need to emphasise this is normal, that it is important that everyone should care for nature. So whilst I'm ok if people want to call me a nerd, I think I need to change my handle to emphasise that I'm not different, that it's not unusual to care for our natural world, that in fact it's probably the most important thing to care about.

I found out something else recently too that has had me thinking about this. I'm Autistic, I have what used to be diagnosed as Aspergers Syndrome. So on one hand again I could think I'm different to other people, that I'm wired different. But then I started thinking about the term Autism Spectrum and how people with Autism can be very different in how this affects them. Thinking that through further, well everybody is different when you think about it. We're all good at different things, we all have different things we like and don't like, however much the 'clones' at school like to think otherwise and seek to fit in.

So I am different, but so are you, and so is everybody. I'm proud of following my passions and it has given me some interesting and wonderful opportunities. So I've decided not to single myself out as different any more. 

I'm @NaturallyZach :-)

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 23 September 2018

Post 490 - What a Wonderful Walk for Wildlife

Hi everyone.

Yesterday I had one of my best wildlife related experiences in a long time, probably ever. And it was in the centre of London! It was of course the #PeoplesWalkForWildlife initiated by Chris Packham who also developed a #PeoplesManifestoForWildlife to go along with it. I can't imagine the effort and energy that went into that but I am so grateful that Chris decided to develop both these ideas.

Dawn on the train.
My experience of the walk started well before the day, helping to spread the word about the walk and the dictionary of wildlife wonders that is yet to come. I did a couple of videos which I hope helped in making people aware of it. It all added to the anticipation of the day and the hope that we could really raise the profile of the plight of our wildlife. It was all about getting people to come together and say we want wildlife!
Nice to catch up with Lindsey

Well the day came. Dad and I started the day at about 5.15am in order to get the train to London. I love trains so this in itself was a treat. The journey for us was very straight forward, straight down the East Coast Mainline and we were treated to an incredible dawn, signalling to us what was going to be an awesome day. Not visiting London that often we decided to walk from Kings Cross to Hyde Park and arrived just before 10 to find there were already a good few people there! Almost straight away we started bumping into people we knew like Stewart Pike (@raptorwatcher), Alex White (@appletonwild) and Lindsey Chapman (nice to catch up with my fellow Wild Watch patron :-) .

It was pretty much a whirlwind from there on as we just kept bumping into people we knew, catching up and also seeing new faces and admiring some of the awesome costumes and artwork. I got to say hi to people who have been a great support on twitter like Caroline Lucas. One of the things that was great to see was the breadth of passionate people there. Young and old. People passionate about bats, trees, bees, seals, hen harriers, hares, owls, squirrels, butterflies, sparrows and flies (for @flygirlNHM :-). That was one of the powerful things about the day, every one there cared and was passionate about our wildlife and you could really feel it.

Lovely to meet Caroline
Then came the infotainment hour and we got to listen to inspiring songs and speeches from a range of people. It was great to see young conservationists alongside the more established campaigners. Mya-Rose Craig, Bella Lack, Georgia Lowcock, Dara McAnulty alongside people like Billy Bragg, Domonic Dyer and Ruth Tingay. We also had spells, words and poems from young people enthused by and passionate about nature. The crowd kept building, and despite it having rained everyone was enjoying the day and hearing from all the Ministers talking about their parts of the Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife.

On the walk the
The actual walk started a bit behind schedule and from where I was watching you could see the Police and others wanted to get us moving, but everyone was patient, polite and peaceful - Police and participants. The walk set off and one of the wonderful things about the day was that we'd been asked to download and play birdsong as we walked through the streets. A very poignant message to mark the millions of birds that have gone missing due to habitat loss, changes in farming practices and climate change etc. I wondered how that was going to work but it worked amazingly. The people watching the march looked on in amazement. The birdsong cut through the urban noise just as effectively than if we'd been shouting or chanting. I think it made people take more notice and I saw lots of people engaging the crowds and asking what we were doing. Some even joined in the walk.
At the gates of Downing Street ready to deliver the

The main walk ended at Whitehall where we had a few more speeches by some great people like George Monbiot, Kate Bradbury and Mark Avery. I say the main walk as there was a last leg to do.

Chris very much wanted young people to attend the walk and to engage in the activities like the Dictionary of Wildlife Wonders. For me this is important as we need more young people to value and cherish nature and the more young people see others taking an interest the better. I think it also sends a message to the politicians that the issues we raise about protecting and caring about nature won't go away. There are fresh generations of passionate, caring, committed conservationists coming forward to continue the fight for our wildlife!

At Number 10!
Photo credit /
To push home this point Chris asked a few young people to take the manifesto to Number 10,  I'm sure from the other young people I know that care, and from all of the young people I saw on the day we could have filled Downing Street with young conservationists, but only a small party was allowed and I was so honoured to be one of those asked. I proudly went to the steps of Number 10 and presented the manifesto to the PM's environmental advisor, John Randall. We also got to go into parliament and have a good discussion with him about our view on wildlife and what we need to do, especially to get more young people engaged.

Discussing environmental policy in Portcullis House
as you do - not my usual Saturday afternoon!
I left the discussion having had a wonderful day, meeting up with old friends and meeting some new ones. It was an inspiring and motivating day, one I shall remember for a very long time to come. It was a day though about saying caring about wildlife isn't enough, that we must do something, it is time to act for our wildlife before it is too late. That's not just a message for the politicians, that is a message for all of us. We can all do our part, in fact we must all do our part if we want to change the awful declines inflicted on so many species. My mind was certainly kept occupied on my train journey home thinking of things I can do to help.

A beautiful piece of writing that I often think about is by Chief Seattle (see this blog post for it all) which has a haunting end. It's from the nineteenth century but is just as relevant today and it reminds me of the need to keep fighting for our wildlife:

"Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the god who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires.

Where is the thicket? Gone.

Where is the eagle? Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival."

Please read the Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife, be inspired, send it to your MP and do what you can to help our wildlife.

Click to go to the Manifesto page on Chris Packham's website


Friday, 24 August 2018

Post 489 - Nosterfield Bioblitz 2018

Hey everyone,

Chris telling me what my job for the day was
(thanks for the photo Lucy White
I have had some really great wildlife experiences and some great filming opportunities but this summer I had the best one yet. It was totally unexpected too.

I knew about Chris Packham's Bioblitz and that it was coming to my local reserve, Nosterfield, so of course I'd made plans to be going along. I was thinking it would be difficult to get along for much of it though as it was on a school day. I can't describe how excited I was when I got a message that the Bioblitz team was trying to find young presenters to introduce the reserves and would I be interested in helping out. Of course I said yes, and then had my fingers crossed school would let me have the day off so I could do it. They did thankfully, they are very good at supporting my wildlife activities, and a chance to work with someone who's inspired me so much wasn't denied. Nosterfield is an incredible place and I've been lucky to be able to go there so often. A lot of the people involved in running the place have been amazingly supportive and encouraging to me so this was a big honour.

Opening up the moth traps!
So Mum, Dad and I were up early to get to the reserve for a 7am start. The Bioblitz had started at 5pm the night before and the place was already a hive of activity. If you don't know what a Bioblitz is it's basically about recording all of the wildlife, every species that you can find in an area on one day. Doing this across 50 sites will give us a really good baseline of data to see how things fare in future. The main area of interest when I got to the Nosterfield Bioblitz hub was around the moth traps being emptied. It had been an incredible night for moths and every tray from every trap that I saw emptied were laden with a massive array of species.

Shortly after I'd got there Chris and the Bioblitz team came along. I'd got it in my mind that I was just going to be doing a film about a species I liked on the reserve but then Chris came over and gave me my job for the morning. He said I was going to be him for the morning! What do you say to that?! After a couple of deep breaths and listening to the things the team wanted to film I set off with  the crew to do the first bit of film. I was still a little awestruck but the crew were so friendly and helpful that I soon got into it. It helped that another conservationist that I admire and inspires me was behind one of the cameras, Ruth Pearcy, so nerves were soon settled.
Interviewing Darren in the hide

The first bit of filming I did was with Darren Rees, he was part of the team that Chris was bringing round with him. Darren is an amazing artist, and was tasked with doing an A5 piece based on every single reserve they went to; that's 5 a day! The filming we did together was as simple as he was talking me through his artwork and I was telling him about the reserve and what we could see out of the hide windows. This was definitely the most relaxed shoot we did because we were sat down in the hide and just talking about our passions.

After that shoot it was straight on to another which would be used as the introduction to the film. We walked across the car park to a place overlooking the first lake so there was a good background and got straight to it. Personally, I love doing this sort of shoot. It gives me a chance to talk about whatever the subject is, and to show my passion as much as I can. I loved doing this one and it only took me 2 takes!

Filming with Lawrie and Pam
As I said Nosterfield is amazing. It's got lots of great habitats and has some surprising species for an inland site. It's been working for 21 years to transform a former quarry into a wildlife haven, and it's working so well. But not content with that they are expanding the reserve into a new bit of the quarry that the quarry company have now finished working on. This time Nosterfield is taking up the opportunity to do something a little different and trying to re-establish a bit of the habitat that would have been around at the time that the Thornbrough Henges were created - this is a series of three big neolithic henges that are next door to the reserve (told you it was a special place!). Simon Warwick explains it really well in the film, and I then had the job of interviewing Simon and volunteers Lawrie and Pam who are working on this really exciting and novel project.

That pretty much wrapped up the filming, or so I thought. As they were about to leave Chris remembered that he wanted a short film on his phone to put on twitter so in a corner of the car park I did a little film that you probably saw posted on twitter on the day. This was just a little snippet about the reserve and two of my favourite species (you might know by now I love Bloody Nosed Beetles!)

A Southern Hawker I found.
Through the day we bumped into another person we knew, Joanita Musisi from Radio York! We talked for a little bit and then she asked me if I wanted to do an interview. Radio York have been very supportive of me so obviously I said yes and we set off over to the main reserve from the working quarry. We looked out over the main lake at the reserve and talked about the types of birds and other wildlife you can see there as well as covering what the Bioblitz was all about. It all came out well and it was nice to listen to it on the iplayer later on.

So that took up a lot of the morning, and it was great fun, but I still had some actual bioblitzing to do! Dad and I had a good walk around the reserve and we found quite a few nice species. Brimstone butterflies, A Southern Hawker dragonfly and a few birds that hadn't been found yet. Sadly I didn't find any Bloody Nosed beetles that day!

Catching up with Darren at Birdfair
The artwork from Nosterfield
It was an amazing day, but the story doesn't quite end there. Unexpectedly I caught up with Darren at Birdfair last weekend and got to see the artwork that he'd being doing on the bioblitz, including the bit he was working on when I was interviewing him in the hide. It's a lovely painting showing a variety of waders that were on the lake that morning. It was really nice to see the finished work, Darren is very talented.

Great to meet up with Megan too!
Birdfair was great and only a day or so before I got to see the finished piece of filming that had been posted on Chris's youtube channel. I think it came out really well, Ruth and the team did a great job. Chris got to see it too and I got a few hints and tips about presenting so hopefully anything I do in future will be even better. And the last thing that was great about the day was I got to meet Megan McCubbin which was great. It was Megan who first got in touch and asked about me getting involved and doing some presenting for the Bioblitz. On the day the team were at Nosterfield Megan was at her graduation so we didn't meet on the day, so it was really nice to meet up.

What an amazing experience! I want to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone on the team for making it such a wonderful day, I really enjoyed meeting you all and working with you.

Here's the film for you to see all about Nosterfield and some of the amazing things that are going on.

The last thing to say is that the Bioblitz was an amazing day. As you heard in the video the reserve was only started 21 years ago before that it was a quarry. So the final total of species was utterly amazing and it really demonstrates that we can make such a positive difference for wildlife if we manage places well.

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 8 July 2018

Post 487 - Eagerly Surveying Species at Eavestone

Hey everyone, post 487 is about my surveying today for the Wild Watch project.

A Common Blue Damselfly - not the Azure that I was
looking for but still very pretty.
As most of you will know if you have seen some of my earlier posts (like this one, this one or this one) I'm lucky enough to be the youth patron of this wonderful project in Nidderdale. It's given me a lot of wonderful opportunities but an important part of the project is the actual surveying that it needs done to be able to find out more about the wildlife of the area. When more is known about where wildlife is doing well and not so well the Wild Watch team will be able to work out how to help it best.

So today I set out early with Dad to go to our transect at Eavestone Lake. It's a really nice place, very quiet and tranquil so much so that we were there for almost two hours today and we didn't see another person, just lots of wonderful wildlife.
A Meadow Brown - bit bigger than the
Small Heath on my survey list

It was really warm and there were some massive splashes as we walked around the lake as some big fish jumped for bugs. There were more splashes too as we disturbed the odd Mallard and they paddled away pretty sharpish. Today I was doing three surveys: Invertebrates, a river survey and a reptile survey.

Volucella pellucens - one of the UK's largest Hoverflies
- impressive but not on the list!
Eavestone Lake is pretty much woodland all the way round, the trees overhang the water along most of the shore with a good crop of Rhododendrons thrown in too. Earlier this year we'd set out  some roofing felt squares as refugia for reptiles - they basically should gravitate to these and use them to warm up in the mornings and shelter under them too at night. Well with it being so woody there weren't many places that would get sun and sadly when we checked them today we didn't see any reptiles at all!

Garden Bumble Bee - and it is on the list!
However we had two other surveys to do. So we looked at the river survey. This was also tricky as it's hard to get to much of the shore but in one spot last year we did see some Otter spraint. We checked today along as much of the shore as we could get to but sadly this time we didn't find any. I also have to look for signs of Water Vole but again didn't see anything. Likewise for the birds on the River survey, no Kingfisher, Dipper of Grey Wagtails today. The good thing was I didn't see any of the plants though. We have to survey for invasive plants. Last year there was one patch of Himalayan Balsam but not so far this year! I wonder if it's late or just doesn't like the hot dry weather.

Helophilus pendulus - also know as Sun Fly or
the Footballer  apparently (stripy jersey?) 
The last survey was invertebrates and there's quite a few to try and see. There is one spot at the end of the lake that is alive with insects when I've been before so I was quite hopeful. So after trekking through the shade and cool of the tree lined lake before I emerged out of the undergrowth to a clearing at the dammed end of the lake.After my eyes had adjusted sure enough I could see masses of insects.

Quite quickly I found a Garden Bumblebee, one of the species on the list, at last a record for the survey! I followed a few butterflies, mostly Meadow Browns but not the Small Heaths I was looking for. There were masses of Common Blue Damselflies - I took lots of shots to check these - but no Azure Damselflies which were on the list. There were plenty of insects around not on the list but I was hoping for at least one more that was.

Nice find for the end of the survey
the Wild Watch logo - Golden-ringed Dragonfly
After sitting for a little while I could hear a faint whirring sound. I'd heard it before, the sound of a big Dragonfly. It took a while to find where it was coming from and to then wait for it to get close enough to see what it was. I had to look twice to be sure but was amazed and pleased to see it was a Golden-Ringed Dragonfly, the UK's longest insect, the Wild Watch logo and one of my favourites!

A really nice find for the end of my survey and a sort of double tick as it's on the invertebrate survey and the river survey. So I set off home hot but happy!

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 24 June 2018

Post 486 - Fundraising for Fabulous Owls - Stage 1

Hey everyone, today's post is a little update.

Where it all started - the walk and, well, me too really!
A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I was going to do a bit of fundraising to see if I could help the BTO Owl Appeal to raise more money to be able to understand how to help these wonderful but struggling creatures. It's going ok so far. I set a target of £2,000 as I just didn't know what would be a good or realistic target. So far I'm up to £350 or 17% of that target. That's 3 and a half times more than I raised last time I did something like this so I'm pretty happy but hoping to make it much better yet.

Amazing countryside and weather.
So my challenge is to walk the Nidderdale Way, 52 miles around some amazing Yorkshire countryside. I'm doing the Nidderdale Way  because of my connection with the Wild Watch project, I'm its youth patron, and this year they've been doing a lot of work with Owls, so it all seemed to fit nicely.

The first challenge though has been trying to find time to fit it in! I'm not set up for backpacking so I'm doing it with Dad when we can get lifts there and back. Happily this weekend, with the weather being so amazing, Mum was able to drop us off and my Grandad picked us up at the end of the stage.

So late morning we were dropped off by Mum in Ripley. I started with stage 4 as Ripley is a bit special to us, it's where Mum and Dad got married, so I decided to start here. We set off from the castle and headed out into the countryside. The route was lovely, taking in fields, passing through woods, crossing little babbling becks and gently taking us on a meandering route though the AONB. We passed a deserted medieval village which I couldn't make out - I will need to explore better when I have more time, and continued on until we hit our first point for a little break at a lovely village called Shaw Mills.
Heading on to Brimham Moor

We didn't stop long as we had a timetable to stick to as Grandad was under instructions from Mum to pick us up a set time as we had friends coming for dinner. So we headed off on the next stretch which was just as nice through more fields, woods, along streams and passing some lovely places like Brimham Lodge. We followed the route of a Monks Wall and enjoyed the view.

A bit of a surprise find!
Then suddenly as we went through a gate the terrain changed. We were suddenly into the moorland of Brimham Moor. That was the first surprise, the next was quite alarming at first as there was a funny grunting - what was it - well pigs of course! Two of them cuddled up sleeping. Never seen that before!

We passed through Brimham Moor and we could see  a few of the rock formations which Brimham is famous for but we also enjoyed Skylarks flying high and singing and a lovely Fritillary butterfly that was too quick to see exactly what it was.

Some rocks at Brimham.
We'd been enjoying the walk and the scenery a bit too much, taking our time, enjoying the views and the wildlife we saw along the way and time was escaping us a bit so we pressed on and got as far as Glasshouses before we had to get picked up. So I'll have to do the little stretch into Pateley Bridge next time. To be honest though I like stopping, admiring the views and exploring the wildlife so I think it's going to take me longer than I thought!

Thank you to everyone that has donated so far, I really appreciate it and so will the Owls.

If you haven't yet but could see your way to helping out then you can donate on my Just giving page:

I'll keep you updated as I do more!

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Post 485 - Lord Lieutenant & Cracking Cairngorms

Hey everyone, I don't know where the time goes these days but glad I've finally found the time to write up a little blog about a recent visit I had to the Cairngorms. 

This trip came about because I was lucky enough to be awarded the North York Moors National Park Trust Young Ranger Award. It was the first one they did and I was amazed to win. The prize was some cash to put towards visiting another national park and I had to attend a prize giving ceremony at the Moors Centre at Danby to be presented with my prize by the Lord Lieutentant of North Yorkshire Barry Dodd. 

This made us both laugh
 - but I really didn't thump the Lord Lieutenant!
I mention this in particular as it was great to meet Barry and he was a really nice man, he wrote me a lovely letter afterwards that I have hung on my wall congratulating me and being very nice about all the things I do for nature. He also laughed at this photo we took at the ceremony where it looks like I'm thumping him. I promise I wasn't! That's probably treason! So it was very sad to hear whilst I was in the Cairngorms that Barry had died in a helicopter accident. I didn't know Barry well or for very long but it was a pleasure to have met him.

It was a bit of a strange co-incidence to hear the news whilst on the trip that the award made possible but it made me all the more determined to get the most out of the opportunity. So what did I do?
A random stop and a Redstart!

Well, I had an amazing nature filled week of course. The weather was amazing too, clear skies and warm days all week. 

The journey was long but we made the best of it by taking nice quiet routes where we could. That was rewarded by nice views and on one little stop we pulled up right next to this Redstart.

We stayed right next to Craigellachie National Nature Reserve in Aviemore which was amazing in itself. Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers, Roe Deer, Peregrines, Heron were some of the things I saw on a few walks I had here. On the second night I walked up to the top of the hill with Dad and was rewarded with some fantastic views over the Cairngorms.


I had one or two special trips lined up as the North York Moors National Park kindly put me in touch with the folks at Cairngorm National Park so I was able to organise a few things.

A Wheatear at Glen Tanar
The first was a land rover safari on the Glen Tanar estate, which is next to the Queen's Balmoral Estate. This was a really interesting visit. Not only did we see some fantastic wildlife, like a Green Hairstreak, Osprey, Ring Ouzel and Wheatear, but we learnt all about the way the estate is managed. Glen Tanar is managing the estate a bit differently to a lot of the estates in Scotland and is very conservation focused. We saw lots of work that they are doing to allow the moorland to revert to woodland. The landscape isn't 'Sheepwrecked' and the only animals that are shot on the estate are deer but only to control their numbers and keep everything in balance. You can pay to go Deer stalking here but it is nice to know that the money is used to help the estate be maintained for forestry and conservation.  The land rover safari was a great way to see a lot of the estate and what it is doing. You even get a little picnic half way round and that's where I was able to see the Green Hairstreak and a big Wood Ant nest.
Cairngorm Summit

Snowbunting in summer plumage on Cairngorm
The second trip I'd organised was with Natural Retreats to have a look around the top of Cairngorm. I was looking forward to this as I was hoping to see a few nice species like Ptarmigan, Dotteral, Mountain Hare and Snow Bunting. We met our guide, Ruari, at the Ranger Station and headed up the hill. A big advantage of a guided tour is that you can use the railway to take you most of the way up the hill. Otherwise if you want to go to the summit you have to walk up. Well with all the walking I was doing that week it was nice to use the railway and Ruari told us lots about it, how it worked and how many people it carried up and down the hill. I found it strange that on a clear sunny very warm day with incredible views ( I could see the five highest peaks in the UK and I was on the sixth highest) that I was there in the off season. Winter and skiing is the busy time.

Dotterel on Cairngorm
So, off the railway and on to the top of the hill. Looking back down the hill, there were amazing views as the only clouds you could see were clouds of pine pollen blowing off the trees way down in the valley.  Rurai told us all about how special and delicate the environment on the top of Cairngorm is, it has lots of national and international designations as it is such a special environment. Ruari was explaining how they maintain it and how easy it is for it to be damaged so they have to manage visitor numbers and routes very carefully. That's why you can't normally use the railway to get up the hill and then go for a walk around.

Amazing views and sky on Cairngorm
What a place though. Amazing views and I got to see Dotterel, Mountain Hare and Snow Bunting on that trip up. Later in the week I went back and got to see a Ptarmigan too. Ruari was a great guide and what a fantastic job he has!

There was more to come of course. Dad had also found out about a Badger hide run by a wildlife group at Boat of Garten. We met up with an amazing champion for nature Alan Bantick. He told us so much about what he had done in the area including being one of the lead people for reintroducing Beavers back into Scotland. He'd set up the hide in the 1990's and has had all sorts of people visit it with him like Chris Packham and Nick Baker. 

Badger at dusk
We met up with Alan just before dusk and he drove us to the hide. Once there he set things up, basically putting a bit of food out for the Badgers and swapping out a memory card in a camera trap. I think we were there about five or ten minutes and then the Badgers started to emerge. I think I have only ever distantly glimpsed a Badger once before as where I live is mostly arable farms. So it was an amazing experience to sit and watch up to six or seven badgers at a time foraging, playing and grooming. It was an amazing experience that will stay with me for a very long time.

No King Eider but I did see a lovely Slavonian Grebe
Aside from that we spent the week exploring different areas, Lochs, the Coast and different bits of the Cairngorms. I got to see a few Red Squirrels and Seals but I didn't see everything I wanted, King Eider was one species I'd hoped to see, but it didn't matter as I had an amazing time. 

I'm very grateful to everyone that made this trip possible, the North York Moors National Park Trust for the award that made this possible and to all the people in the Caringorms, especially The Glen Tanar EstateNatural Retreats and Allan Bantick, that helped me to get the most out of the visit. I will definitely be back!

Hope you enjoyed,