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!!)
Yesterday had done enough to please me. It wasn’t raining, the wind had dropped and I had had a glorious morning walk around the reserve, documenting all our feathered inhabitants. It was a long walk as there was lots to see! It was very apparent that morning that the birds were also enjoying it. New families finally emerging from the bushes, Whitethroats in great number and other youngsters branching out on their own. By now the islands at Cemlyn are teeming with bouncing baby terns (mostly Sandwich, but also Arctic and Common) and the lagoon is host to a variety of ages of young Oystercatcher, a family of Red-breasted Merganser and a solitary Coot chick. Away from the lagoon there are young Great Tits, Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, Little Owl, Meadow Pipits, and Pied Wagtails all bursting into near-grown life.
The afternoon was spent, like many, meeting visitors on the shingle ridge that separates the Tern islands from the sea. Although the weather was stunning, there were few visitors, but those that had made it stayed a long while and were rewarded with one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen.
A tip of mine for visitors to Cemlyn is to sit down on the shingle ridge, the sea-worn shape naturally means that you’ll be facing out to sea. With your profile lowered the Terns zoom low over the ridge and you get the most amazing close-ups of elegant terns and their silvery prey. Yesterday afternoon I was sat on the ridge doing just so and saw an almighty splash of water metres from a boat that was moored up in the bay. My initial thought was *what have those people thrown off their boat?!*, my mind rationalised that they would not be able to throw something so large as far as that. Seconds later a re-emergence and a cetacean rose up out of the water and into view. Suddenly, bubbles of grey skin were rising all across the bay in a rapid progression toward the shore where I was now stood up and running across the shingle to my nearest visitors. After I had alerted the unsuspecting couple to the activity in the blue, I plonked myself down next to them and gawped as twelve bottlenose dolphin leaped out of the water, flipped in the air and chased fish skywards! I have never seen anything like it. I was amazed (and kept telling the couple so!). The spectacle lasted minutes as dolphins of various sizes appeared and disappeared all over the bay. Looking around the bay, I was pleased to see that everyone in the vicinity had cottoned on to them. Everyone along the shingle ridge, those on the coast path towards Wylfa on the east and those enjoying the “Trwyn” headland to the west all faced inwards to witness this special moment together. We were all beaming.
Around ten minutes later my dear friend Ken arrived on the ridge and had to listen time and again as we all recounted our tale. I’m sorry he missed it.
Another spectacle at Cemlyn this week was kayaker John Willacy as he completed his solo circumnavigation of the UK. Check out John’s latest post about the wildlife he saw as he battled through our stormy seas. It’s particularly fascinating to hear about how the birds acted as weather forecasters…http://clockwisekayak.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/wildlife.html
Wishing you all wildlife spectacles of your own,