Wednesday, 13 February 2019

#iwill4nature Campaign Launch Event, 31st January 2019

A few months ago I was talking to Hattie, former Urban Rangers leader at Morden Hall Park, and I was delighted to be asked to the #iwill4nature launch event in London on the 31st January, a day to look forward to!

The campaign, for 2019, was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2013, while DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) pledged to develop youth social action through it. As it's part of the governments 2019 plan for Green Action, it's an important campaign aiming to develop the ideas of the younger generation so that we can get more involved with what we care for and make sure that change, for nature in this case, can take place. To improve the chances of success, many key groups around the UK - such as The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, RSPB, WWF, Woodland Trust, Kew and Action for Conservation - are also pledging to promote youth social action for nature. 
Find out more from the main website here.
https://www.iwill.org.uk/environment/

#iwill4nature

#iwill4nature

#iwill4nature

So after leaving school I arrived at Morden Hall by 4pm so Hattie and I could travel up to ZSL London Zoo for the launch, arriving well in time for the start at 5pm. Hattie had also told me while we were on the tube that we would be in charge of the National Trusts External Affairs twitter account, so would be live tweeting throughout the event.

#iwill4nature

#iwill4nature

For a while we spoke to representatives from various groups, such as Action for Conservation, before the talks began. It was interesting to talk to people with much more knowledge than myself, which gave me a better idea on how change could be brought about. This also helped me to decide what to write for a pledge that I added to the tree of pledges that was in the room. 

Michael Gove speaking
Michael Gove speaking
Soon after speaking to people and taking a few pictures, and a few snacks, we took our seats in preparation for the speeches. 

Firstly, after an introduction to the event with a video from the HRH Prince of Wales (who was unable to attend the event,) a few speakers addressed us including Dominic Jermey and Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove, who's speech was extremely powerful, discussing the issues that the #iwill campaign is addressing. 
Then, there was a series of speeches from younger ambassadors. First of all, Yetunde spoke about the project as a whole, introducing us to the aims and also the other people involved with it. Next up was Zach Haynes, who gave a great speech on why nature was important to the UK on a number of levels, and the importance the #iwill project may play in this. It was also great to hear that he'd given the People's Manifesto for Wildlife to Michael Gove earlier in the day (his blog post link is here!) The third speaker was Dara McAnulty who had travelled from Northern Ireland to be here. Having heard his poem at the People's Walk for Wildlife in 2018, I was expecting another amazing speech and it was even better than expected, explaining why it was so important to not only him but everybody, showing that we need nature. His passion was great to hear, and as another younger person I know that I would never have been able to present a speech even nearly as good his! To conclude talks from the ambassadors, Nayha spoke about the significance of the environment, and about why younger people need to get more involved with the hobby. All of these speeches were powerful and effectively conveyed why the younger generation would be crucial in deciding what happens to the natural world in the future. 
After a few more speeches from representatives from organisations such as the WWF, Yetunde wrapped it up to conclude all the speeches. 

Yetunde speaking

Zach H speaking

Dara M speaking

Nayha speaking

Hattie and I hung around for a little bit longer, having been live tweeting throughout the launch. We spoke to a few more organisations such as the RSPB (and it was great to see some familiar faces!) I also had the chance to have a quick chat with Dara, and it was great to talk to such an inspirational person that's of similar age to me - sadly, we had to leave shortly after 7pm so I couldn't talk to Zach or any other ambassador, but hopefully - if I do become an ambassador in the near future - I'll get the chance to meet some more people later on...
I'd like to give a massive thanks to Hattie for asking me to go with her to the launch, as it was a great night and an extremely enjoyable way to spend my 16th birthday. Hopefully, the next few years will be crucial in deciding the future for the environment! 


Saturday, 9 February 2019

RSPB Rainham Marshes - Young Birders Walk, 4th January 2019

In August last year Sam L and I organised a London Young birders walk at Rainham Marshes which was a good chance to meet new people and see some good birds, so after an extremely disappointing Christmas which involved Short-eared Owl dips and cancelled birding to Sheppey and the Sussex coast, my only birding of the holiday was to meet up with the others at Rainham again on the 4th. Fortunately I got a tiny bit of luck, in that the day dawned fairly clear although freezing. After leaving at around 9am, I arrived in the car park shortly after 10 where I walked down the river path to meet the others, who were watching Stonechats and Rock Pipits whilst waiting for me. Another piece of luck was that, this time, (especially gull) expert  Dante was joining the group, and it was nice to meet him for the first time. In advance apologies for the mostly poor pictures - I was testing out the new kit and fiddling with settings again, so most pictures were messed up but I'm getting used to the lens a bit more now...

Walking down the path resulted in several Rock joining the Mipits in the trees, as well as thrushes on berries. Waders were also present, with Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Snipe all seen. We decided to continue walking down the river towards an area called 'Stone barges' where there were gulls and a few Peregrine. We also had 2 Water Pipit, meaning we'd seen the 3 common British winter pipit sp. Then Dante pulled off his magic, finding a 1st-winter (2cy) Caspian Gull from a long way away, just from its back. It was a lifer for Kabir and only my 2nd, so was a pleasing bird to get. Although we got closer the pictures weren't much better, as I'd messed up the settings but I got a few pictures.
After another Water Pipit went up we started to head back towards the nature reserve, with Linnets, Skylarks, Sparrowhawks all stopping us. Once we'd reached the reserve, another Linnet flock was seen with one unusual call heard on Serin mound, that reminded me slightly of Twite. Dante then found a 2nd-winter (3cy) Yellow-legged Gull miles away while 2 Marsh Harrier were circling. 
As we approached the visitor centre we stopped to have a look at the river again briefly, with thrushes the only moving bird, and ducks and Reed Buntings for company.

We had a lunch break while waiting for Ben - who was coming after school - to join us. However, with no contact we headed off through the woodland, and then Ben had to meet us where the Barn Owl was. 
While Dante looked at gulls at over a km distance and Calum constantly argued with me, we hurried our pace as it got darker, reaching the Shooting Butts hide by about 15:30pm. Here we had Ruff, ducks, Snipe and news of a Short-eared Owl via my mum, seen by someone else. We paced towards the river front, where no owls were seen. I had to leave then as we were getting late back, but pipits kept me company walking back. 

It was another great meet-up with 73 species and plenty of year ticks (which I'm only doing to see how many species I can get with a year with little birding.)
Thanks to Sam L for leading once again with Dante S, and all the others (Calum M, Kabir K, Alex L and Ben.)

Fieldfare

Redwing u-turn 

Mipit - lots of these about

Mipit

Mipit

Mipit and Redwing

Gulls over the tip

Reed Bunting

Mipit

Rock Pipit - the first I've seen in London

Waders

Mipit

Marsh Harrier

Dunlin

Linnet

Stonechat guide

BTG

Peregrine

Gulls inc the Caspian

1w/2cy Caspian Gull

Gulls inc Caspian

Gulls inc Caspian
Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Morden Hall Park - December Birding

In September the Urban rangers and weekday volunteers helped created a marshland near the reedbeds at Morden Hall, which was previously sedge area. It was obviously targeting waders and marshland creatures, with the initial target birds Snipe, Jack Snipe, Green Sandpiper etc. By early November it was really looking good for these birds, as water was at a wading level suitable for these waders. It was still a surprise when the first Common Snipe was seen there by the nature group as I didn't expect them to find the marsh so soon. Then again what do I know!

A visit on the 2nd December had very little in store, but Nuthatches and Treecreepers were actively feeding by the boardwalk entrance, which was nice to see. There was also the pair of Peregrine circling the South Meadows and 3 Siskin, but all else was quiet. 

Peregrine

Nest - not sure what species but I'd hazard a risk and, since it was in a fairly low scrub area, say maybe a thrush or robin?

On the 8th December, I made another trip to Morden Hall earlier in the morning before meeting with friends having failed to see or find any Snipe for around 5 visits since their initial sighting. Typically the sun disappeared minutes after arriving, though it was nice to see the nature group who were doing surveys along the river. I then headed straight to the marsh area, and after 5 minutes I picked out a Snipe hunched up camouflaged on an area of sedge. I was pleased to finally get one at Morden, and was at the time as good as a rarity there for me. I then picked out another 2 wading further back, so I watched them for a bit before returning to the nature group so they could have a look as well. They showed well although distantly, and the zoom on my superzoom camera was tested up to the 1600x zoom or something. I did a patrol of the area, where a few Siskin flew over though I couldn't pin them down. There was a notable NW movement of Redwing, and I recorded 88 with just 2 Fieldfare. 2 Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher were also present, making it a great day birding on patch. I then watched a tired redpoll sp. fly in, immediately feeding and barely moving. It was poor light and very cloudy, so getting any views for ID was pretty difficult. It was a Lesser, and a nice way to end the successful visit. 


Grey Heron

first Common Snipe at Morden Hall Park for me - really tested my eyesight... (1/3)

Common Snipe (1/3)

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

Common Snipe (2/3) - this bird is probably a first-winter 

Common Snipe (2-3/3) - both as above. Both probably first winters

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

f Kestrel

I returned for the final Urban Rangers session of the year on the 16th December, where we did some work in the woodland and then made a fire with food (jacket potatoes, drinks, biscuits and more,) which was a great way to end a brilliant, successful year at the park. Afterwards I had a chance to walk around again and it was a success to get the highest count of Snipe for the year, with 6 seen at the back of the marsh in their preferred area of green grass. After another Kingfisher sighting near a Little Egret, as well as a ridiculously late brood of Blackbirds in the woodland, I then managed to pin down the Siskins and was surprised to get a total of 30-50 birds feeding in alders along a quieter area. They were mostly happy feeding, so I got some nice views despite the poor light again. I finished the day with a female Grey Wagtail, which showed extremely well on one of the waterfalls near the bridges. I crouched down on the mud and she just walked towards me, so I got some nicer photo opportunities :)


f Grey Wagtail flycatching

f Grey Wagtail flycatching

f Grey Wagtail flycatching

f Grey Wagtail 

f Grey Wagtail

f Grey Wagtail

f Grey Wagtail

f Grey Wagtail

f Grey Wagtail


BHGs and Morden Hall

4/6 Snipe

2/6 Snipe

Snipe and Mallard

Snipe and Mallard

f Siskin

f Siskin

f Siskin

f Siskin

f Siskin

f Siskin

f Siskin


On Christmas Eve, I had a very last minute decision to go to the park instead of lazing around at home (permitting I got back with enough time to help with the cooking!) I hadn't got my stuff out of my bag by the time the Kingfisher flew by and landed on its favourite tree, showing superbly. By the time I eventually got onto it with my binoculars, it had moved into a more covered tree, but views were still pretty good. I managed to get some decent pictures for once, and they were probably my best Kingfisher pictures so far. I went to the marsh after, and the Snipe were showing distantly again, with around 3 birds seen (more were probably present,) while a Reed Bunting called distantly. After failing to locate the Water Rails (heard only) and having a possible Cetti's Warbler, the female Kingfisher flew by while 2 Grey Wagtail were present along the river. I then made an attempt at finding the Siskin, with a group in the reedbeds and another in the usual alders, showing well in the rare, good light. To conclude an already great birding day for Morden Hall, a Little Egret was fishing and showing extremely well near the white bridges, catching several stickleback just before I left. One of the best days of 2018 I'd had at Morden, and I was even home before 2:30pm..!


m Kingfisher

m Kingfisher

m Kingfisher

m Kingfisher

m Kingfisher - post catch

m Kingfisher

m Kingfisher

m Kingfisher - nearly got it



m Kingfisher

3 Snipe

3 Snipe

3 Snipe

Robin

Little Egret

Little Egret

m Siskin

m Siskin

m Siskin

m Siskin

Siskins favoured tree

Grey Heron

Little Egret with stickleback

Little Egret with stickleback

I returned for a brief walk on the 27th December where 5 Snipe were elusive, frequently getting flushed by the woodpigeon and then a dog - no longer surprising sadly. I headed down a quieter path to try and find the previously reported Green Sandpiper and had no luck, although 7 Teal was notable for the park. A couple of Grey Wagtail and the m Kingfisher were also seen, as well as 3 Little Grebe, 78 BHGs, 5 Common Gull, 12 Herring Gull, the f Peregrine and finally 40 Siskin along the reedbed walk. (I used eBird for the first time as well.)


Snipe

Cormorant

Wren

Wren

On the 28th I got a new camera lens while in London, having saved up for it for pretty much a few years, and on the 30th December I tried to get used to it a little at Morden. I didn't take any satisfactory pictures really as I played with settings, getting them all wrong, but the m Kingfisher continued to fish at close range so I've used a few artistic effects on it, while several Snipe were present in their now usual place (please see map below.) 

m Kingfisher - poor light and struggled with settings

It was a great way to finish 2018 which was, on the whole, quite disappointing. Morden Hall, once quite a messy, suburban park, is now growing into an important nature reserve, so hopefully I can pull out something good there in the upcoming months. 

map