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!
I now know why those people cry on X-factor and other such programmes. Realising their dream is just moments away and in the hands of a panel whom they’ve had just moments to impress. Standing outside the Natural History Museum in London today (my favourite indoor place might I add) I was overcome with emotion at the idea that I could realise my dream… to go to the rainforest and report back. Although the competition itself, for the RSPB/Tesco collaboration ‘together for trees’ is a recent development, my wanting to broadcast environmental news has been a lifelong ambition and why you see this page in front of you now. The emotion I felt was mixed, to be so close to a dream and not achieve it and also the what if I win excitement. Either way, it has been a fabulous experience of which I am proud to have taken part in and today’s London final was an AMAZING experience; not least because of the people who I met today.
The other finalists were a fantastic bunch and we chatted as we each went downstairs for a grilling from the panel. The panel consisted of Ed Stafford (Explorer and Together for trees representative), Ruth Giradet ( Tesco Corporate Responsibility and Community Director), Adam Vaughan (Editor of the Guardian Environment site) and Dieter Hoffman (RSPB Head of International Country Programmes) – what a dream?! It was billed as a grilling, but I enjoyed every second and wish I had at least twice as long to convey exactly how much I thought I could do this opportunity justice. Twenty minutes is a very short time.
We had one more short task to complete, which was an all-finalist discussion under observation by the panel, before we were treated to the ‘Animal Inside Out Exhibition’ at the Natural History Museum. We scrutinised the insides of squids as the panel, no doubt, sat about scrutinising us. They’d have had a hard job i’d say with such strong candidates in attendance.
Alas, I do not yet know my fate.
There is a startling fact that has kept cropping up as I prepared for this competition… an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch is being destoyed every four seconds. That’s the sort of statistic we all hear banded about, but please just think about it as you read this again… an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch is being destroyed every four seconds. That is almost incomprehensible to me. Whichever lucky soul gets to go and report from the rainforest on behalf of together for trees is going to have a huge impact on public awareness of the rainforests’ plight and this is fantastic news and makes it a very worthwhile expedition in my eyes.
Thanks for reading,
I’ve still got some catching up to do in terms of telling you what I’ve been up to, so let’s revisit the story of Martin Garner (bird ID expert featured in yesterday’s blog)…
Martin finished his vivacious talk on finding rare birds and promptly went out the following day with Alan Davies (of The Biggest Twitch fame) for them to only go and find a first for Wales (that is to say the first recording of a bird of it’s type in Wales)!! The bird in question was a race of Iceland Gull, named Kumeliens. I believe it is still awaiting official ID but speaking to the chaps afterwards there was no doubt in their minds – cool hey?!
I had spent the day following the talk birding around Holy Island with Ken and we bumped into Alan, Martin and the rest of the group at Penrhos Country Park where we were watching a couple of Meditteranean Gulls amongst the Black-headed variety. This was a bit of a refresher for me because I’d apparently got a bit rusty on my old med-gull identification and after watching them for a while I soon got to grips with the differences again – the white wing tips and bandit mask being particularly useful things to look out for.
This was the end of my days birding, but what a day it had been! First thing, Ken I went down to Hen Borth at the bottom of South Stack road to see Fulmars for the first time in months! I love Fulmars because they seem to take their time about everything, on this occasion I think they were checking out ledges to nest on in summer, early bird catches the worm eh?! Next we had a scout around soldiers point with a grotty little pool throwing in a Water Rail stood next to a Grey Wagtail! Beautiful! The Rail even looked at the Grey Wagtail bobbing around for a moment, decided it was not too fussed and continued to toss leaf litter around. It was a beautiful morning with plenty of birds flitting in and around the trees, and then something stopped me in my tracks…a beautiful male Bullfinch! This might not sound so exceptional except that as far as I knew you just didn’t get Bullfinches on this part of Anglesey – get in!! We watched as it was joined by a female and a couple of Dunnocks danced around below. Fingers crossed that they stay!
I got to see Purple Sandpipers for the first time on the shore at Treaddur Bay, these tiny fellows were a delight as they snuggled amongst the rocks and preened. Here we stopped for lunch and were dismayed to find one of the clementines was mouldy
Afterwards we took a route between Treaddur Bay and Penrhos and I was aghast as once again there was a pair of Bullfinches! Brilliant! I’m hoping that now I’ll be able to tell people that we do have Bullfinches on Holy Island and (in the future) that they breed here too…let’s hope so!
Fridays find me helping out on the reserve (RSPB South Stack) and last Friday was particularly enjoyable. Along with a team of other volunteers, Denise (the assistant warden) led us in heather burning. It seems abhorrent to me to write that. It seems the most unnatural thing to do when you spend the summer extolling the virtues of Wales’ largest maritime heathland and reminding certain visitors that it is illegal to take it away with them. This seemingly barbaric process however is a vital part of the habitat management undertaken on the reserve and around Britain. The idea is to create a mosaic of heathers at different stages of development to benefit the ecosystem as a whole. One particular area of focus at South Stack is the conservation of the Chough population we have here. Last year there were eleven breeding pairs of Chough and these exist within a Special Area of Conservation which means we need to provide them with a habitat to see them thrive. Heather burning is one way in which the reserve can provide suitable foraging area for the invertebrate-eating beauties.
To put your mind at rest further I can tell you that this burning process is all carefully planned. Besides waiting for an ideal day where the wind was on our side, Denise had been busy creating firebreaks around the area we wanted to burn so that along with our help on the day the fire would be contained to that specific area. Also, the linear method of burning means that anything not rooted to the ground has the chance to escape, as exhibited by a darling shrew that day.
Weather permitting; there will be further burns throughout the next few weeks to help complete that mosaic I referred to.
Here are some pictures…
…and despite what you might think about burning Heather…it does not smell good!
This satisfying day was topped off with a stunning sunset over the sea as we walked back to the visitor centre. I tried to photograph it, but it’s never quite the same. To quote a Greenday song, I like to “take the photographs and still frames in (my) mind”.