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!!)
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-