There is really only one thing that I need to go outdoors and observe wildlife to the extent that I do; binoculars. At different points through the year I might be clad in shorts and flip-flops or layer upon layer to fight off those impressive Anglesey winds, but to really see the magic of a tiny Goldcrest or a far away Godwit I need a little magnification!
Whilst working at Cemlyn Bay this summer, I briefly met a lady called Lucy (working as part of a team to promote young conservationists) and as any diligent blogger would I quickly dashed off as I was on my way to a scoop; namely kayaker John Willacy had just arrived back from circumnavigating Britain in his boat.
After filming John’s return (still to this day I have not shared the footage, as my blog will not upload it) I found out more about the programme that Lucy is a part of. ‘A Focus on Nature’ (AFON) is an organisation to “open eyes…minds…and imagination” of young conservationists and to nurture their career in this field. The panel, consisting of Stephen Moss (nature writer, broadcaster and BAFTA award-winning television producer, notably the original producer of Springwatch and producer of Big Cat Diary), Pete Gamby (dynamic sales and marketing manager for Opticron), Dr Rob Lambert (Environmental Historian from Nottingham University and one of the most interesting folk you’ll ever meet) and of course Lucy (McRobert), an Environmental History graduate and nature writer.
This inspiring team of visionaries have developed the idea of AFON and now offer youngsters setting out in a career of conservation the chance to develop their field skills with a pair of binoculars (an often very expensive and yet essential edition to someone’s kit). Although this an opportunity for many, the candidates do have to compete for their optics; showing their passion for conservation through nature-writing, photography and more.
It may have been that I decided to write about AFON in a desperate plea for their assistance, luckily this is not the case. Having submitted work from this very blog, the panel have selected me as one of the recipients of their award. Amazing! Thank you.
It may be apparent from my posts and photographs that I have benefited from use of binoculars throughout, these weren’t mine though. The adorable Ken Croft, my birding mentor and friend, used to lend me his super-duper binoculars and forfeit his own sightings (a difficult thing for a birder to do, believe me) and latterly he lent me an old pair of binoculars to see me through my contract with the Wildlife Trust at Cemlyn Bay. Massive thanks to Ken for his kindness and generosity here.
So yes, this AFON prize of Opticron binoculars is very relevant and not wasted on somebody who won’t benefit; I am very excited and will cherish this prize! I have so many plans for the future and for my career and these binoculars will kick-start me on my way. Wahoo!
You can check out other winning entries and even apply for yourself here. This scheme is set up to help, so please don’t be intimidated. The panel want to encourage you, so apply and see how you get on! For those that won’t be applying, I’d still check out the site as I expect that we’ll hear more from these names in the future and you’ll meet them there first!
Kathy x (eagerly anticipating her new binoculars!!)
What a pleasure it is to be alive these brief sunny July days! The sunshine certainly makes things seem better (especially after having had so little!). Cemlyn shows it’s softer side when the wind drops and the sun bounces off the water. Something like the St Ives effect… I’ve heard it said that artists are drawn to St Ives (in Cornwall) because it is surrounded by the sea and consequently the light is reflected in great quantity. Having spent a lot of time there when my Mum lived there, I am certainly under it’s spell.
Last week I was especially lucky to spend my day off in the sun. Simple pleasures like wearing flip-flops and no coat, sitting outside of a cafe and actually feeling warm, these things help to content me. I have to add that Laura’s delicious Butternut Squash soup and a refreshing Elderflower presse helped also. Laura is the hands-on owner of Ann’s Pantry in Moelfre (which I can highly recommend!). It’s a gorgeous little place with scrummy food and with a garden for days like these (can’t help but think of the Van Morrison song).
I was visiting this part of Anglesey to go kayaking. And what a brilliant time I had!? Pictured above is Ynys Moelfre, affectionately known as Rat Island too! Rats didn’t appear to be much of a problem for the birds that had evidently bred there though… Shags, Cormorants, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and as I travelled through Y Swnt (the channel between the small island and the village of Moelfre) the eponymous “Kittiwake” call rattled through my ears. I had been told that Kittiwakes are named after their call, but I had never actually had the realisation that this is so phonetic until I passed by that island serenaded with “Kittiwake, Kittiwake”. I was taken aback and grinned like an idiot! An awesome sound and a pleasure to witness.
And finally…I am pleased to announce that I have arranged ‘Anglesey Marine Week’; a week of events in August to celebrate the wonderful marine environment that surrounds Anglesey. From August 18th-25th, these events will be open to all; local residents and tourists alike, aiming to enthuse about what our seas have to offer. I am liasing with the participating organisations and businesses to put the finishing touches to the timetable before I share the details with you. In the meantime, I am so excited at the prospect of all the inspiring events and hope that you’ll be able to join me at one or maybe more of the events on offer 🙂
Here’s to more sunny days by the sea!
After being a warden at Cemlyn for more than a month, my last day off was a chance to explore the surrounding area. From the reserve a hill with a trig point is visible and I made this my first goal. From here I carried on cutting a diagonal corner off north-west Anglesey by heading over to Church bay. This part of my adventure was pretty overgrown and although following footpaths, it was evident that they were not much used. Facebook and Twitter followers will have seen a picture I posted en route, where in an attempt to highjump a spiders web I was viciously attacked by a nettle on the sidelines. Ouch and silly girl!
From the beautiful Church Bay I followed the coast path back around to Cemlyn, taking in the sights of the isolated Carmel Head. Having not re-visited South Stack since I started working at Cemlyn this walk was a welcome opportunity to be reaquainted with some of the cliff top birds i’d known there. Just a few minutes walk from the cafe at Church Bay, Fulmar were easily visible zooming, straight-winged, out from under the cliffs (where they were nesting). A moment later and a pair of Chough screeched into view and a Peregrine Falcon tried her luck. Anglesey really is amazing for happening upon such renown and enigmatic birds.
I was also taken a-back by the stunning cliff-top flowers. Bright pink, blue and yellow from the Sea Thrifts, Sheepsbit Scabious and Dandelions of all things! Further round were luminescent Primroses adorning the steeper gullies.
This trail also provided hidden gems, bays that I had viewed from the top of Holyhead mountain, but had never visited. It was novel to meet just one other walker on this coast path stretch and the isolation added to the areas allure.
Returning to Cemlyn and after a shower, I headed out to the hills where a non-birder was showing me his patch. The stunning Moel Faban at the foot of the Carneddau. As well as being ‘wowed’ by the breath-taking scenery, I was astonished to see a huge white bird soaring at the summit. At the time I couldn’t pinpoint what I was looking at, but upon reflection it must have been the pale underparts of a male Hen Harrier made surreal-looking by the setting sun. Beautiful. It’s things like that which make the desolate mountain tops so special.
Last weekend, Cemlyn was invaded by visitors and field experts as we tried to document everything we have on the reserve in the first Cemlyn Bioblitz. A brilliant organisational effort by those at the North Wales Wildlife Trust. Saturday was great and we saw lots of species. Sunday, however, was a bit of a wash-out. Nevertheless, we (the wardens) were able to add the days bird species and an intrepid Spider expert made the trip outdoors. The results are currently being collated, it will be interesting to find out how many species we racked up and, in time, how that changes.
The weather picked up for bank holiday monday and we saw our first Sandwich Tern chicks had emerged on the islands. It must be hard for those guys and their parents in all this rain. The islands are covered in foliage this year though, so we hope that they have plenty of shelter and height to their nest-sites. We, as always, will be keeping a watchful eye.
There is no television reception here at Cemlyn so David (fellow warden) and I have not managed to keep up-to-date with everyone’s favourite Springwatch… it is a pleasure though to have so many nest-cams up and running around the country. I’d like to share two of my favourites with you; my old friends from South Stack http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/s/southstackcliffs/webcam.aspx and some new friends from Attenborough Nature Reserve back home http://www.attenboroughnaturecentre.co.uk/sightings. Enjoy!
Well, we’re finally here. This is when I announce the results of the first naturebites birdrace!
Before you go any further check out all the species seen .
I’m going to list the runners-up in order of their participation, ending with the highest number of species seen in one county in six hours – the winners!
Before I do, I’d just like to reiterate that more importantly than seeing the most bird species was everybody’s passion and effort. We all love wildlife and had a great day watching it. That’s a result 🙂
The team in East Yorkshire consisted of Natalie and Adam; they saw a grand total of 71 species. I had a text from Natalie in the middle of her race simply saying “Lifeeeeer!” – her first Red-necked Grebe.
The ‘Shropshire Starlings’, Pat, Enid and Ken managed a fantastic 62 birds. A write-up of their efforts is to follow.
Cal and Gareth set the standard on Anglesey with a huge 82 in the miserable weather. I was flabbergasted.
June and John took advantage of their local bus service in the West Midlands to tally up 27 birds, including three ‘lifers’ for June!
‘Not your average birders’, Josie and Chris, had their usual day out birding in Hampshire but decided to count the species in… 41.
Paul and co. wowed Hampshire when they raced their way to 89 birds.
Ken, Charlie, Malc and Fred slogged their way to an impressive 79 in the snow in Leicestershire and Rutland (they’d also like me to tell you that they heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker).
Stuart surveyed the isle of Benbecula and counted 46 types of bird.
Marc, Tony, Iwan (with Marc’s wife for a couple of hours) took to the coast of Conwy with a score of 82.
Richard and Kathryn put the rest of us Anglesey lot to shame by doing their race on foot and getting 70 species.
David and Jayne stumbled upon 87 birds around Anglesey, plus they heard a treecreeper.
Wynn and Peter did themselves proud with 52 birds in just one corner of the island (Anglesey).
Ben went it alone, which I think deserves some extra credit when I tell you he managed 83!
My team, with my Dad, Ken and Dave got more than I ever dreamt with 92 (although I did dream about a Rubythroat and that didn’t make an appearance!).
Steve, Tony and Si also matched our 92 on Anglesey, choosing the first half of the day as opposed to our latter half.
Dan, Nigel and Eddie won the North Wales section with a whopping 98 birds in Gwynedd.
As me might have expected, that brings us to a battle for first place from the two teams that did their race in Norfolk!
Close runners-up were Ruth and Alan (world record holders for the most bird species seen in one year) with a perfect 100.
***The winner with an outstanding 108 species, apparently mostly from the car, is Neil!*** Well done Neil!! Neil wrote the guide ‘Best birdwatching sites in Norfolk’ so it’s a good job he won I’d say!
A fantastic achievement by all! Thank you to each and every one of you!
Do not fear, this is not the end…there are prizes to be won and you get to do the awarding!
My next blog will include any write-ups I’ve received from you guys about your days out on the race, from these I will ask for you to vote for ‘best race’. If you haven’t sent me in a write-up or any anecdotes it’s not too late to do so! Then after enjoying the story of the other teams’ races you can also vote for the ‘best bird’ seen.
The prize for ‘best bird’ has kindly been donated by Ruth and Alan of ‘Biggest Twitch’ fame and the prize for best race has been generously donated by Neil Glenn, the dastardly winner! My Dad also chipped in to present our North Wales winners with a prize in the hope that together we’d be able to raise a little money for environmental conservation charities. At the after-race gathering on Sunday I put out a collection box for the RSPB, so thank you to anybody that chipped in. If you weren’t able to add to that collection then I’m asking that as a voluntary bird race entrance fee you put a donation in next time you visit a reserve of your choice or when you see a collection box for an environmental charity of your choice… A small contribution to help support those birdies that we enjoy watching so much 🙂
Thanks again for making the bird race so special,