This spring I was fortunate enough to make it to the final of a UK-wide competition, run by Tesco in conjunction with the RSPB, to find a “Rainforest Reporter”. It was an altogether amazing experience and I didn’t even win! Imagine how the winner, Gareth Jones, would have felt?! His training involved a day’s tuition from the rather hunky Ed Stafford, an adventurer and explorer and the first man ever to walk the length of the Amazon river.
Following on from the frivolities of the London final and the celebrity training Gareth then set off on the more serious journey of a trip to Sierra Leone. From the Gola rainforest, Gareth produced a series of short blogs about conservation efforts by the RSPB and their overseas partners. Most importantly, for me, he spent time with the real heroes of rainforest conservation, the people well and truly on the front line. I am delighted to be able to read one of Gareth’s articles on today’s Guardian Environment pages. You had read the beautifully written article here.
The together for trees project is a true conservation project, not just for a species, but for an ecosystem. The people are as integral to this project as the trees themselves. Sustainable livelihoods in a thriving forest, let’s hope so!
It’s actually very easy to ignore the ‘eco-messages’ that every business is now obliged to purvey, perhaps the Tesco ‘Together for Trees’ message has passed you by? Feel how you may about Tesco and their exploits, this can only be seen as a step in the right direction; buy the together for trees reusable bags when you need one, donate your clubcard points when you’re feeling generous – if we’re opting in to the conglomerate scheme then let’s direct it where we want it to go!
As an RSPB member, and ex-employee, Gareth’s voyage of discovery fills me with great hope. With the RSPB claim that 91 pence in every pound donated is spent on conservation, ‘ to know it’s getting to the right places.
Congratulations to Gareth for spreading the good news from the forests. It’s great to know that all is not yet lost, not yet.
P.s- thank you to Gareth for the use of his photographs.
I think by now I’ve taken things far beyond the realm of suspense..! Apologies for my two week absence, despite even finding time to blog during a recent holiday, I have just been far too busy these past two weeks!
As I stumble through life I find myself thinking “I must mention that on naturebites”. One such incident was a recent twich to see three stunning Dotterel that had landed on Anglesey. I’ve had the blog title “Dot.Dot.Dotterel” in my head ever since. With almost two weeks having passed since then I thought it was just a little out of date. Those round, colourful birds are still getting a mention though. I was particularly impressed to find that these striking specimens were female, showyness mostly associated with the males of a species. Following on from this, it may interest you to know that this reversal in aesthetics is a sign of their reversal in habits also, with the males left to rear the young.
There was an initial delay in updating the blog because I was awaiting the results of the ‘Together for Trees’ Rainforest Reporter competition. The result came in on the Tuesday following the final and I was told not to broadcast the news until it had been made public by the Together for Trees team… I am pleased to report that they found a worthy winner by the name of Gareth Jones. Of course it was very disappointing not to win, but it was also very pleasing to know that a great person would be going in my place (Welsh readers are probably also pleased to read that a characteristically Welsh name will be flying the flag!).
The same Tuesday that I found out the results of the competition, I also visited the RSPB Glaslyn Osprey project and Harlech castle in the afternoon. The weather was pretty miserable as we pulled into the RSPB carpark and as we looked through the telescopes to view the nest, the rain was driving straight through the holes in the hide. Moving indoors, we saw on the live cameras the three chicks that were now hatched (one just the day before) and their mother stood proudly at their side.
Last week a mega rarity made it to our shores, the Cream-coloured Courser in Herefordshire. I want to share with you the texts I received from Ken concerning this bird. To me, it seems that Ken has seen every bird one could possibly hope to see in Britain and yet it was heart-warming to hear that he is still as wrapped up in our winged-friends as he ever was. Text message number one 21/05/12 10:14am: “Kathy, I know the timing is awful but is it possible you could leave work, Sam (my visiting friend), everyting NOW! and join me on the twitch of a lifetime? A Cream-coloured Courser(!!) has been found in Hereford. I’m leaving in the next few minutes, what do you say? X”. The timing wasn’t great so I sent Ken off without me. Later that day I spoke to a giddy child on the phone who was absolutely over the moon about the bird he had just seen. It was a pleasure to listen to 🙂 Afterwards, text message number two 21/05/12 16:12pm: “Wow! a ‘Stunner’ I’m speechless a dream bird I’m all of a flutter won’t sleep tonight X”. (.,., – here are some punctuation marks for you to insert into Ken’s excited text!). And the following morning, after I enquired if he had managed to sleep…text message three 22/05/12 08:42am: “Very little. I’m still on cloud nine and fearing it was all a dream and I’m guna wake up soon X”. I hope these messages and his love and enthusiasm made you smile as much as I did when I read them.
Another week and another day of work saw me take to the hills as my desire to laze on the beach book in hand was scuppered by a sudden onset of mist over Anglesey. I was right to abandon ship as Ken and I had a marvellous (and sunny) trip out to see Pied Flycatcher and Redstarts in the woods. We started the day revisiting the Nant Ffrancon Pass where we searched for Twite, to no avail, and had a glimpse of a Ring Ouzel along with Redpoll and Mistlethrush. By now it was lunch time, or so said my tummy, and we took our lunch in the spot where we had stopped to scan for Tree Pipits. From the road below we almost instantly saw and heard a Tree Pipit displaying up above us. In the bush in which in landed we were thrilled to see a pair of Whinchat emerge – bonus birds. We sat in the sunshine admiring the view and the birds. Perfect.
On from here we travelled alongside Llyn Gwynant, where there were fields of intense purpley-blue bluebells. These are well worth a look at if you have chance soon as the concentration of flowers was breath-taking!
I first visited the woods at the beginning of the Watkin trail up to the summit of Snowdon with Ken almost exactly a year ago. During that trip, I soon realised that I would never be able to rush in a business-like pace through a woodland again. The wood was alive and the slower I went, the more I would see. This visit took similar form and we dawdled our way around, seeing Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts as well as me catching up with the elusive Wood Warbler that had evaded me this time last year. Such a distinctive and loud call and yet incredibly hard for me to pinpoint. Gotcha this time! Both Ken and I had achy necks after this prolonged session of staring upward – ouch!
Who says social media and the internet discourages real interactions? This week I was I was lucky enough to meet my twitter friends, and winners of ‘best bird’ in the naturebites birdrace this February, @SecretBirder and @chrisdowns77… otherwise known as Josie and Chris the keepers of the blog ‘Not your average birders’ http://notyouraveragebirders.com/. Having met these guys via twitter in was lovely to see them making their way along the ridge towards me at Cemlyn this Sunday (although, I have to say I did stutter as I started to say hello as I realised it may not be them and that some really embarrassing explaination would have to follow). It was them, thankfully, and it was a pleasure to hear about their challenge…Josie (acknowledged birder) is going head to head with Chris (acknowledged novice) to see who can see more bird species in the year than the other. They also have a top ten birds list each which they are aiming to see. On Chris’s list in particular is the magnificent creature that is an Osprey. Unluckily for Chris he had missed an Osprey just a matter of hours earlier at Cemlyn!
Ken knocked on my door to say he’d caught up with a beautiful male redstart that had made an appearance earlier in the day. I was collecting my things to go and have a look as the phone rang, it was David (fellow tern warden) saying “there’s an Osprey above the lagoon!”. I promptly hung up, alerted Ken and gawped as a gigantic Osprey soared towards us from across the lagoon. Wow. I have seen an Osprey previously at Glaslyn where the RSPB have a hide set up to watch the nest. The view I was getting now though was second to none as this pioneering Osprey searched for fish below. Although the terns reacted at first I was surprised at how calm they were in it’s presence. Perhaps they were content to let the gulls see it off? As the gulls mobbed it, the Osprey seemed barely to notice. I wonder if they spend their whole lives wondering at the attention they receive from other birds? After all they are only out fishing.
Bird-wise that topped off an amazing Sunday with loads of birds knocking around at Cemlyn including a hooded crow, whinchat and water pipit!
Although the weather took a nosedive, Monday saw me see my first Swift of the year (finally!). I added to my Swift collection just a couple of hours ago as, sat on the train London bound, I decided to start a ‘train-list’. After this decision, I looked up to see four swifts zooming around above the track near to Llanfairfechan.
Terns are back at Cemlyn in good numbers now and we have sandwich terns incubating. It has been a pleasure to watch their courtship rituals and interactions on the islands. Aside from the glorious terns, a hilarious behavioural moment to watch was a black-tailed godwit (who has spent a few days in the lagoon now) looking from side to side and his seeming alarm when two red-breasted mergansers popped up either side of him. I could almost see him blush!
There’s been a bit of a delay but here are some pictures from my recent holiday to South Wales:
My train journey is almost over now and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s excitement… the final of the ‘togther for trees’ rainforest reporter competition! I am likening it to the apprentice as there will be a board room appearance, hired or fired and a “treat” afterwards (I’ve even brought my wheely suitcase to complete the look!). I’m looking forward to the whole of tomorrow, but am also hoping that I can win the competition as it’s me through and through…I will let you know…Fingers crossed for me!
I have struggled to know where to begin with this blog. I feel as though as I have had so many fantastic experiences during my first week as tern warden here at Cemlyn, and yet it seems they are for me and my brain alone!
I first visited Cemlyn on very rainy day about one year ago with my friend Sam (the same fellow I have just visited Pembrokeshire with). I cannot remember a single bird, but can remember having wet feet all day. I next visited Cemlyn with a group of birding enthusiasts during an event run by Birdlife International with Rio Tinto to encourage the local youngsters to become interested in their natural surroundings. I remember stepping out of the car in the Bryn Aber (west) car park and gawping skywards as the tern colony had taken to the air to chase away a peregrine falcon that had taken the opportunity to strike. The scene was immense and we all took that powerful image away with us. I visited several more times throughout the summer and I think I was always a little bit glad to get back in the car and out of the infamous wind.
Starting at Cemlyn little over a week ago, it hasn’t taken me long to fall head over heels for the place. There is so much more than at first meets the eye when you take a trip over here to trudge along the shingle ridge to look at the terns. Although this is a spectacle in itself, there are little nooks and crannies full of life that are just waiting to be explored. The past week has thrown some dreadful weather our way, but the way I see it is if I can fall in love in the wind and rain then that love will bloom in the sunshine! (Perhaps a little optimistic of me to expect sunshine!)
It might sound a little bit odd for a ‘tern warden’, but today was all about familiarising myself with the three sorts of tern we regularly encounter here. Like with spring calls, the subtleties of these summer visitors needs some revision. sandwich terns stand out with their black-crested heads and their yellow-tipped bills, but arctic and common can look very similar indeed. One suggestion I would make to visitors is to come at either end of the day when the sun affords you a better glimpse of the black-tipped common tern beak, or the bright red (although short) legs of the arctic. Today was the first day that we had common and arctic, often dually referred to as ‘commic’, terns back in any number so was my first opportunity this year to compare.
Some of my favourite moments, however, have not been tern-related; spotting the first whitethroat of the season was a great feeling; a washed up coconut on the beach; having a patch to own, not in a possessive sense, but in a knowing sense; and perhaps finding a robin here in a place where a robin is a ‘red letter day’ (according to fellow warden, David).
I mentioned in my last blog that I had taken part in a competition to become a ‘rainforest reporter’ – a joint initiative between the RSPB and Tesco. I am both surprised and pleased to announce that I made it through the regional heat and now have the final to attend in London at the end of next week! There’s a little about this online http://www.togetherfortrees.com/reporter.aspx , but so far your guess is as good as mine as to what the final will entail! I would be over the moon to win this so send me your good vibes please!
Looking forward to tomorrow with a visit from a butterfly expert and then a North Wales Wildlife Trust barbeque for the Cemlyn volunteers, excellent.
The reason I decided to holiday in Pembrokeshire with my mate Sam was because throughout my summer at RSPB South Stack many of the visitors had urged me to visit the island of Skomer and parade my way through the puffins that brazenly breed there. With just one goal in mind you’d think that was quite achievable…? Alas, I still have not been to Skomer. Except the day I visited Ramsey Island the other days were all too windy to sail (sad face). I have to say that in the absence of this nautical trip I had an amazing wildlife moment elsewhere at Manobier. Just a two minute walk from the youth hostel we were staying in brought us to the top of some rather impressive cliffs. Sat proudly atop a buttress jutting out towards the sea was a Kestrel that sat perfectly still letting us admire each and every feather. We then made our way down the concrete steps to the beach (138 steps was it Sam?). It was a magnificent little cove with a giant sea arch over to the left and a tiny ‘smugglers passage’ through the rocks to our right leading to a secluded bay inhabited solely by two relaxing Herring Gulls. Having crept though the passage and with Sam ‘playing’ on the rocks behind me, I looked out to sea to sea a dozen gannets swirling around in the air. They were soon in very close and I pointed them out to Sam as they began diving for fish; always an incredible sight as they pierce dart-like through the waves. Knowing that these two creatures are often associated I soon spotted a fin of a dolphin or porpoise protruding from the blue. I was unable to get Sam onto this lone dorsal fin and I took my binoculars back to see two familiar faces gliding just above the water. Flap, flap, gliiiiiiiiiiiiiide. Two manx shearwater – my first of the year. Back up the now 300 odd steps I stopped at the top and gazed back to the sea. Do we do this to say “farewell, until we meet again”?! Excitedly, I exclaimed “dolphins”! And a pod of perhaps fifteen dolphins surfaced travelling east to west. Despite having brought two pairs of binoculars on holiday to prevent exactly this problem I had to throw my binoculars Sam-wards as he had forgotten to bring the other pair out on this walk and I couldn’t have him missing out on seeing them altogether! Unfortunately, I was not able to identify the species further.
A quick mention of the Pembrokeshire youth hostels, a big thumbs up from us this holiday. The Manobier hostel, was a very smart set up and perfectly adequate for a self-catering stint, however we absolutely loved the hostel at St David’s where we had our own cottage in beautiful surroundings – perfect for coastal walks and surfing. Would highly recommend to large groups, or people that don’t mind sharing. High five!
I had to be in Newport by Friday as I was in the regional final of a competition to become a ‘Rainforest Reporter’, part of a Tesco and RSPB initiative called ‘Together for Trees’. The idea of the competition being to find someone to visit the rainforest and report back on the destruction/conservation work being done there. Ideal! Friday, at Newport Wetlands, entailed several tasks which were filmed and I expect to be put online – not spotted them yet. It was certainly a very challenging task and because of the spontaneity of the recordings there are many things I have since thought I should have said and things I definitely wish I hadn’t said. All in all though, as cringe-worthy as it will be to watch myself back, I think I did okay. Hhhhmmmm, maybe I should have saved this comment for after I had actually watched the tapes back…?! The winners from this regional final will go on to a national final in London where there will only be one winner. No pressure there then! I only got to meet one other competitor and that was the lovely Cat, also living in North Wales. I’m not sure what the selection process will be, but good luck to all in this and especially Cat as she appeared a deserving winner!
I spent Friday evening watching the red sun drop into the sea at the huge expanse of seascape that is Aberystwyth. En route Sam piped up “look at all those birds over there…”. He knew exactly what they were as this was his home patch. I absolutely had to pull over when I saw around sixty red kites circling like vultures around Nant Yr Arian – magic!
To finish my week off nicely my Dad visited and as well as a yummy dinner out on Saturday night, we visited the stunning Lleyn peninsula on Sunday and only and went and saw a bloomin cuckoo! It was a magical headland on an enchanting peninsula. I was particularly spellbound by a ravens feather swirling down towards me from a mid-air scuffle as a crow tried to see it off it’s patch. Elsewhere we saw our first speckled wood (butterflies) of the year.
I said goodbye to Dad and then the rest of Sunday was spent packing for my new job and new home as a tern warden. Expect far too about terns in the future as they will be my life for the next few months… you have been warned!
A very sleepy Kathy -X-