Thursday, 31 December 2015

Willington Gravel Pits

The other day I went birding at Willington Gravel Pits with my family and Simon Roddis (a great birder we have met through Twitter). Willington is my local nature reserve and it is always a favourite place to go birding in my opinion. We were also keen to try the new hide which has recently been completed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

I took our new scope my family received for Christmas, it was the first time using it and I absolutely loved it. The scope is an Opticron and is the MM3 60 GA ED/45. We were so excited about it, we forgot to take a photo!

It worked really well and gives really clear views of the birds on the wetlands. It is great for us because it's a nice simple scope to use and light to carry.

There were plenty of species to see, such as Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Lapwing, Redwing, Fieldfare,Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit and Great Crested Grebe. We also heard Water Rail and several Cetti's Warbler.

At the new hide we had a great view of a Kingfisher there catching from the large shoals of fish you could see. And thanks to the scope we had amazing views of the species, the colours appeared really bright and beautiful.

Sunday, 27 September 2015


On September the 4th, my Mum and I headed to Spurn for The Migration Festival (MigFest). I was a competitor in the Young Birder of the Year Competition, along with Findlay Wilde and Ellis Lucas. I was feeling very nervous but I was also excited about what to expect, learn and experience.

My mum and I arrived eagerly at Spurn after a nights stay at Highfield Farm B&B, we soon bumped into Findlay and his Mum, Heather. We last met them at Hen Harrier Day in the Goyt Valley and it was good to see them again, we soon saw Ellis and his Dad, Mark too. An hour later Ellis and Findlay and I began the competition. (Check out Findlay and Ellis's blogs for more information on the actual competition I won't repeat what they have already written very well: Findlay Wildes blogpost and Ellis Lucas' blogpost.)

Spurn is an amazing place, full of a variety of different habitats such as, wetlands, estuary, garden habitats, farmland scrub and coastal. It was amazing to see the damage caused by the severe winter storms along the point, we took a guided trip in the Unimog to the lighthouse excellently guided by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Ellis and his Dad Mark came too - it was a fun trip! We saw a lovely Wheater too. During our stay at Spurn I saw new species to me, one of which was a juvenile Red Backed Shrike (summer visitor that winters in tropical Africa); a gorgeous bird that is a lovely red colour, it hunted insects quite openly which allowed us to get fantastic views of it perched on a branch or a fence. We caught a very,very brief glimpse of the Barred Warbler (passage migrant), it felt quite strange to be peering at birds in people's gardens along with lots of other people!

There were plenty of opportunities and areas to experience different types of bird watching, such as areas to sea watch, wetlands and of course looking up for vismig!. On the mud flats there were several different species of waders, such as: Golden Plovers, Redshank, Little Plover, Curlew etc. Sea watching was something I'd never really done much of before apart from the day before in the competion which was a challenge and little bits on holiday, living in Derby means the coast is not very handy for us! As I don't have a scope, to start with I did find it difficult to see the distant birds well , however once I borrowed a scope from Chris on the Opticron stand I soon got the hand of it and I managed to spot Gannets, Gulls, Scoters and Skuas. Now I want a scope!!!

Spurn has very good ringing facilities , they have a couple of Heligoland traps (A Heligoland trap (or funnel trap) is a large, building-sized, funnel-shaped, rigid structure of wire mesh or netting used to trap birds, so that they can be banded or otherwise studied by ornithologists.) and  mist nets. They were catching Whitethroats, Redpolls, Warblers and even a Kestrel, which I released, thanks to Tim for allowing me to do this, it is a wonderful bird and this one was a lot calmer than the Sparrowhawk I had ringed in Derbyshire, however not as calm as the Tawny Owl I helped ring in February when out in Thetford Forest with the BTO. 

I was very grateful for the oppurtunity to take part in the competition and would like to thank Nick Whitehouse and his team for this and the lunch! I really enjoyed the competition despite the nerves. it is great that Spurn want to encourage more young people to visit and if the competition can grow this should encourage more young people to attend the festival.
We were all lucky enough to win free membership of the Spurn Bird Obsevatory and two frree nights stay at the obs. I can't wait to go back but am reliant on my parents having the time to take me!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

BirdFair 2015

Wristbands and bracelets from BirdFair
This year my family and I spent all three days at BirdFair, on previous years we had only been for one day, so I was excited about how much time we would have there and that we would finally be able to explore the reserve. Everyone on Twitter had been talking about Birdfair so I was becoming increasingly excited about it,which was adding to my anticipation!

Once we arrived we headed straight to the BTO stand as Ben Moyes, Toby Carter and I were volunteering for the BTO, promoting their new membership for under 18's.

AFON Young Birders
On the Friday we began handing out the leaflets for the BTO youth membership whilst exploring all the stands, we bumped into a few familiar Twitter faces including; Sam Pitt Miller, who was on the ringing stand working hard all weekend. Josie Hewitt, Georgia Locock, Billy Stockwell and Sorrel Lyall. We also caught up with David Walsh and a few other Twitter people, too many to mention!

That evening we attended a talk involving Bill Oddie, Lucy McRobert, Adam Rowlands and Ian Wallace. The talk was about their best birding days and at the end of the talk the audience had to vote for the best story told. Bill talked about the Faire Isle and all the amazing birds he found in their vast numbers on migration, Lucy spoke about searching and  finding Capercaillie, Red Grouse, Black Grouse and Ptarmigan in Scotland. Adam Rowlands spoke about rare birds he found and missed at Minsmere and Ian Wallace told his best birding day at Flamborough Head in the style of  a play. Ian Wallace won by telling a very captivating story about his adventure spending a whole day in pursuit of rarities.

Afterwards we headed straight to the events marquee where Josie and Georgia were hosting a talk asking questions of  Chris Packham, Nick Baker and Simon King. The evening was very interesting and we heard about their highlights and low points of their wildlife experiences. It was very funny but also had some serious messages about the choices humans face in the care of the planet.

On Saturday we went to an event hosted by Chris Packham and sponsored by the BTO, where Josie, Georgia and Connor Coombes spoke about their passion for wildlife and inspirations. Josie talked about ringing, including RAS and CES schemes, which I enjoyed very much, being a ringer. Connor talked about his passion for photography and what was the main stimulus for his interest in birds and finally Georgia talked about all the volunteering and campaigning she does for wildlife and what she does to help and inspire others.

Afterwards, a few young birders (Myself, Abby Miller, Ben Moyes, Toby Carter, Sorrel Lyall, Billy Stockwell, Max Hellicar, Noah Walker, Sam Pitt Miller and Zach (nerdboy386) went on a walk around some of the hides. We saw plenty of birds, including: Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Lapwing etc.

The Millers & Nick Baker
That day we also went to listen to Lucy McRoberts talk about mammals, which was fascinating and Beth Aucott's presentation on the work of A Focus On Nature; a growing organisation for young people to help them get involved in conservation of which I'm proud to be a member. So thank you to Lucy and all the other members of the group. 

That evening my family and I went on a cruise with Nick Baker, there were many species of Gull and also Grey Herons, Egrets, Common Tern and best of all 8 Ospreys! One we watched hunting and successfully - it was a great trip!

Ben as Henry the Hen Harrier
Finally, Toby, Ben and I headed over to the Swarovski tower, where we spotted a Great White Egret - a first for me! 

After viewing all the stands again we headed over to see the performance of the Gruffalo. Lucy McRobert played the  Squirrel, Rob Lambert as the Fox, Nick Baker as the Snake, Domenic Couzens as the Owl, Mike Dilger as the Mouse and Bill Oddie as the Gruffalo. It was a very funny performance, which all age groups enjoyed. 

It was also great to see so any supporters of the Hen Harriers, many people were wearing their Hen Harrier day t-shirts and wristbands!

Thank you to the BTO for allowing me to volunteer for them an help out, I had a wonderful weekend. It was great to be involved with the BTO and help them recruit many new young members, the BTO are very supportive and I feel a part of their family.

Also thank you to the BirdFair for the whole event. I can't wait until next year, put the date in your diary now  August 19th-21st 2016!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Swan Round-Up

Last weekend, my family and I attended our first swan round-up with Sorby Breck ringing group. It was a great experience.

We arrived and after a drink in the aptly named 'Swan Cafe', several people in a kayaks herded the swans downstream, where the experienced ringers caught the swans and started ringing them.

Teams of up to 4 of us weighed, ringed them (we use metal rings and yellow plastic rings), measured the wings, took moult and age and sex data. Then then we carried them further downstream where we released them and watched them swim off into the distance.

The Swans were really calm, it was great to get up to them so close. I look forward to next year and thank you for the opportunity.
Mute Swan being ringed

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Nest Boxs Update!

I am writing this blog post late due to the fact I have been so busy with end of year mock exams and tests.

My sister and I went to check on the nest boxes we put up around school for our nest box project. All nests were Blue Tits and we had 11 nest attempts. From that, 36 young Blue Tits hatched, but only 23 chicks fledged. With the guidance of our trainer we ringed all the chicks and a few adults. The survival rate out of the chicks that hatched was 63.8%. All the results will be submitted to the BTO for NRS.

More information will be published in the BTO magazine 'Lifecyle' later in the year.

We cant wait to make further improvements to next year and seeing the results.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Nest Box Project

Abby, checking a box
My sister, Abby and I are being awarded a grant from Derbyshire Ornithological Society from a fund which was set up to help young ornithologist and we are very grateful for it.

We decided to carry out a nest box project at our school, this project has many variables (such as: where the hole is placed or where the box is placed and the effects of predation due to these variables.) and we will also ring the chicks. We placed 20 nest boxes around our school over the Easter holidays (10 in the woods on the outskirts of the school and 10 around the school buildings.) We have since been monitoring them and so far we have discovered 10 nests out of the 20 boxes.

Me, checking for a nest
From the fund we have invested in a pair of pliers, scales, a recording book and 2 rulers, in order to carry out the ringing of the chicks under the guidance of our trainer.

We hope by putting up these boxes my sister and I can spark an interest in other young people at our school.

We are going back tomorrow to check for further nests and nest development. We think the nests will mostly be Blue Tits and Great Tits. We are really looking forward to going back and finding out what is now in the boxes!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ringing in Spring

This morning was a great ringing session and it was a beautiful, clear day with lots of sunshine. Which makes a change from the usual cold mornings! We had a wide variety of birds, including Reed Bunting, stunning Yellowhammers, Siskin and 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (2 female and 1 male), which I was lucky enough to ring one of the females for the first time. They have such powerful beaks and wonderful plumage.

We saw an Osprey flying north, probably to Scotland, that was a fabulous sight to see so close to home, because the last time I saw an Osprey was a lot further away - Belize! We had lots of Redpoll zooming past our heads. We saw plenty of Curlew too. I love their call! Whilst ringing I heard a rustling in some bushes, so I went over to inspect and discovered a male and female common Lizard preparing for their midday sunbathe on a nearby stone! We then went looking for Adders, unfortunately we didn't see any. However we came across a few Toads.

To top it all off, later in the evening we spotted a Hedgehog visiting our garden - which was lovely to see.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

BTO Work Experience

During my half term holiday I went to the BTO for a week of work experience. I wanted to do this through my school, however school wouldn't let me go out of area, as this was my dream placement I decided to go in my free time (I'm also  going to do work experience with school at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in March).

I worked in the ringing office, where I could begin to understand how the department runs. It was really fascinating seeing recoveries from the past and hearing the stories of how people had found rings on birds. I really enjoyed working in media, where I wrote 'Bird Of The Month' for March which is Long Tailed Tit and also learn more about National Nest Box Week, which I also wrote about and tweeted about when I did some social media work. It was really fun tweeting and doing Facebook, Ieuan sent me some stats on the amount of people some of the tweets potentionaly had reached and it was nearly 3 million views!!

I also spent time in the survey office, where I worked on BBS data and wrote some promotional information for BBS with Sarah in regions across the country ( This was very fascinating finding out what species were decreasing/increasing in different areas. I also discussed with Debbie how the BTO can further engage with young people.

My sister Abby looking after the birds!
During my week of work, Justin Walker and Lee Barber took my family and I ringing on the BTO reserve and to another local site. We caught many birds, including Robins, Tits, Finches, Lesser Redpolls, and Marsh Tits! The first session we did Nick Moran came with us and he spotted a Barn Owl, my favourite bird flying over the field near one of the owl boxes. On the second ringing session, Ieuan also came. I gained more experience removing birds from the nets and I am very grateful for Justin, Lee, Ieuan and Nick for passing on their knowledge. It was interesting to see the variations in different ringers techniques to that of my ringing group.

Sarah Harris and Neil Calbrade took me around the BTO reserve during our lunch break, where I learned a bit about the reserve which is a mixture of wetlands, woodland and pasture. The BTO offices are a great place to work at, having that reserve on their doorstep. We saw a lovely pair of Kingfishers and many other birds, it was interesting to see the collar rings on the geese that Lee has been ringing. They also took me to a local area known for Hawfinches, unfortunately we didn't see any!

I was also very lucky to get a chance to go out with Mike
Toms and Lee Barber to try and catch a Tawny Owl to ring as Mike and Lee need to study the population in Thetford Forest to secure funding for nest boxes. My family and I helped to get the nets up, a tape lure was set playing and we waited until we thought an Owl might have flown into then net and we checked the nets. After the second check a male Tawny Owl had made its way into the net. With the help of Lee I got the chance to ring the Owl, measure its wing and beak, then release it (Lee weighed it and worked out its age and sex). Thank you so much to Lee and Mike for giving me the opportunity to ring the 5th or 6th Tawny Owl in that forest!

 Thank you to Andy Clements for allowing me to come and work at the BTO.

Also, thank you to Viola Ross-Smith and Ieuan Evans for looking after me, you made me feel very welcome!

I would also like to thank everyone at the BTO for being so welcoming and supportive. It was great fun! I loved being there and it was much better than school which I didn't want to go back to!

I had a wonderful time, doing and learning amazing things that I will never forget. On the journey back home I was wishing I could stay, I smiled the whole way back, especially after having opening the Owl book!! I hope to be back for my year 12 work experience!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Avian Poxvirus

Avian Pox (Avian Poxvirus) is a virus that has become increasingly common in our garden birds. The birds develop a growth around its eye or beak area. are guidelines on the BTO website which explains that birds can catch Avian Pox from bird contact, biting from insects and contaminated areas, such as feeders. It is important to change your water daily and clean your feeders and disinfect often, to be free of any disease.

Watching our garden birds we noticed a Wood Pigeon with what seemed to have a growth on it's eye, we reported our findings to Garden Wildlife Health, a survey through the BTO, and they told us it was most likely to have Avian Pox. This disease affects species such as the Dunnock , House Sparrow, Starling and Wood Pigeon.  However, diagnosis of avian pox virus infection in garden birds is only really achieved on dead birds at post-mortem examination. 

I am very excited to start my work experience at the BTO next week, and I will be writing a blog about it when I am back!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Uttoxeter Ringing

Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus Tristis)
Last weekend we went ringing in Uttoxeter, plenty of different species came into the nets, such as Meadow Pipits, Redwings, Song Thrush and Grey Wagtails.

However, we did have one bird that was very exciting and I was lucky enough to ring it!! It was a Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus Tristis) and to top that we caught the more common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) to compare the differences.

The Siberian Chiffchaff has a much more brown or brown/grey on the upper parts of the body and can have an olive-green tip on the edge of the wing., there is also no yellow underneath but eyelids and cheeks are very buffish.The Siberian Chiffchaff is quite a rare bird, especially in this area, as they are more likely to be spotted in the South of the UK.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Bakewell Ringing

It was a freezing cold morning for ringing, but everywhere looked beautiful covered with a blanket of frost. As soon as we arrived at the site we heard 2 Tawny Owls calling, which made me even more excited (I was already very excited because we were finally going out ringing after the Christmas break). Overall we caught 38 birds, including Wrens, Starlings, lots of Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail.

We also caught a couple of Blackbirds, especially a very handsome male Blackbird with a bright orange beak. A small flock of Starlings were flying around and fortunately a couple came into the nets, as ever their plumage was stunning.
We were pleased to find a few Meadow Pipits, they must have been at the site because there was a plentiful supply of insects. Meadow Pipits are often found on lower ground in the Winter. According to 'The Birds of Derbyshire' "The longest movement by a Derbyshire ringed Meadow Pipit within the UK is 220km." The bird was recovered in Somerset.

I'm looking forward to going out again to see what else I can ring and learn new things about.