Self Isolation Projects

My idea of Easter holidays was to go around and show people the DNOMD (see: https://dnomd.com for info on project) project that I had helped set up. As a result from COVID-19 the project has been cancelled but there is a possibility it will start up again when safe to do so. It was through funding we managed to start it off and it was only meant to last a few months but with the feedback we got we felt it could be a permanent running project. The only barrier stopping us from doing that is time and enough volunteers to keep it going. The three project leaders (including myself) are all teenagers so with next years schoolwork we will be very busy and don’t know if we will be able too keep it going. We will keep everyone updated!

We have had to cancel nest monitoring at our local park to keep everyone safe. See https://friendsoflinnpark.com for more info on our nest monitoring. We do however have 15 boxes up in a housing estate which two residents are monitoring as the boxes are all in their grounds and they don’t make contact with people and can do it as part of their hours exercise so I’ll be busy uploading their records!

Anyway since self isolation started a few projects have risen. I’m going to redesign my garden a bit because there is too much cut grass and it’s not as wildlife friendly as it could be whilst still keeping my family happy. I’ll be doing a separate post with before and after images but i’ve already started working on the extension of the frog pond.

Just before Self Isolation started I managed to get 10 lengths of wood delivered which is enough to make about 40 bird boxes. In a few days I had it all cut and every box assembled. This time I sold boxes for £15 with £5 going towards the NHS to buy protective equipment. The way it worked was I would only deliver to people in my area so that I could leave a box at peoples front door (non contact) as part of my daily exercise. People would either do a bank transfer for money or leave an envelope out. Some people came past and picked up their own box.

More ideas will pop up but for now that’s what I have planned and have done!

Stay Safe

Mike

Climate Strike, Friday 14th

Friday 14th will be the next climate strike. In Glasgow this will be exactly a year since the first climate strike was held in the area. If you haven’t been before or have any questions then feel free to ask me and I’m sure most other climate strikers would be happy to help!

My Local Rewilding Journey

This is the first of two articles I’ve written about rewilding in my local area. Part 1 will concentrate on some projects in my garden, while part 2 will focus on my attempts to encourage my Local Council to embrace the rewilding agenda.

Part 1: My Garden

I’m 15 and have lived in the suburbs of Glasgow all my life. As my interest in the environment has grown over the years, I’ve become much more aware of the importance of doing everything I can to help wildlife flourish in the areas around me.

In my early years of primary school with the help of my brother and dad we built a pond in our garden (https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-build-pond).It was designed to be as natural as possible with various levels to support the growth of different pond plants. My grandparents gave us a selection of plants from their pond and a few buckets of water to help move things along.

Our Pond (Photo Credit: Kevin Sinclair)

As the pond matured, within a few years we had a thriving population of common frogs which were very vocal in the spring as the males were calling before mating took place.

Typically, in early April, we would wake up one morning to find clumps of spawn strategically laid in the same place every year to maximise the heat captured from the spring sunshine.  At that point our kitchen is turned into a tadpole nursery as we would retrieve some spawn and commandeer some plastic storage boxes as temporary amphibian nurseries! Why? Because it’s really interesting taking some spawn and watching it develop into tadpoles and froglets. It’s also a great talking point for friends visiting the house: those who are not too squeamish at the thought of sharing a kitchen with a few hundred tadpoles!!!  Due to the slightly higher temperature inside it takes about 3 – 4 weeks for the tadpoles become little froglets which are then released back into the pond to continue their development.

Of course, one pond led to two and we now have around 20 or so adult frogs each year! On mild evenings in late spring and early summer around midnight, the grass surrounding the pond is heaving with frogs on the hunt for slugs and worms. Many hours have been spent watching them hop round the lawn tracking down their prey. The spectacle has fascinated the neighbours so much that they’ve now built ponds too. The wider benefits? Fewer slugs, healthier plants, greater biodiversity and a garden ecosystem functioning as it should: chemical free, with wildlife doing what it does best. We’ve also had two hedgehogs which have also been regular visitors over the last 2 years.

Common Frog

With my ponds having been well-established for many years it was time to move on to plants and wildflowers. Wildflowers and wildflower-rich habitats provide pollinators (bees and other insects that pollinate plants) with food sources across the seasons.

In spring 2019 I embarked on a project to plant up my back garden with a range of plants designed to encourage a range of pollinators. In addition to natural wildflower seed mixes I also included some non-native plants from the Northern Hemisphere as recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society (https://wwwrhs.org.uk) to maximise the opportunities for pollinators. Plants that will flower at different times of the year were chosen. Now the hum of bees, wasps and hoverflies is a regular sound: indeed, we even have the odd damsel and dragonflies that stop off at the pond.

Garden with wildflowers up back left. I will be extending this area! (Photo Credit: Kevin Sinclair)

As a keen Moth’er (person who catches, studies and releases moths) I noticed a huge difference in the number and variety of moths caught in my garden.  For the first time in 2019 I caught species such as Swallow Prominent, Elephant and Poplar Hawk Moth which I’m sure were attracted by the greater variety of plants (https://ukmoths.org.uk).

Swallow-tailed Moth (Photo Credit: Michael Sinclair)
Elephant Hawk-moth (Photo Credit: Michael Sinclair)

The benefits of planning didn’t stop at summer! This winter has witnessed the largest flocks of goldfinch, (27) siskin (45) and lesser redpoll (16) visiting the garden to feed off the plant seed-heads.

There is still some cut grass in my back garden, but I’m working on a design that’s suitable for a family garden and one for nature to share. For example, the area around my pond isn’t cut to allow clover to flourish and also create a suitable hiding place for frogs leaving the pond. My garden isn’t huge, but with a bit of thought, planning and patience to let nature run its course it’s amazing what will appear!

Alex White – Guest Blog

Alex is a young naturalist from Oxfordshire, UK. He regularly takes photos and writes a blog. He is very active on social media and is a role model to many people. Alex has has multiple trail cameras which he sets up to see what wildlife is on his doorstep. He always seems to have badgers appearing on footage which I’m very jealous of. More information can be found on his website and social media platforms.
He even has his own book which is available to buy!


Fungi Forage

As the leaves drop and days get shorter, what better way to spend an autumn afternoon than looking for fantastic fungi in your local wood.

With names like Slippery Jack, Elf cup, Angel’s bonnet, Dead man’s fingers or Amethyst deceiver you would be forgiven for thinking you were looking for something out of a story book.

Angel’s Bonnet (Mycena arcangeliana)

According to the Woodland Trust there are over 15,000 types of fungi in the UK, these also include yeasts, moulds and even human infections such as athlete’s foot, but it is mushrooms or toadstools that come into their own in autumn woodlands or grassland.

With the recent wet weather there are many different species of fungi pushing up from the red, orange and brown leaves on the ground, growing out of dead bark or sprouting out at right angles from tree trunks.

Beefsteak Fungi (Fistulina hepatica)

Mushrooms (or toadstools) is a term given to the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bodies that certain fungi produce. These are linked underground by mycelia.

Fungi doesn’t use chlorophyll to convert the sun’s energy into food, it uses enzymes to dissolve plant and animal material.

Shaggy Scalycap (Pholiota squarrosa)

Fungi (mushrooms) come in all shapes, colours and sizes. Some are edible, some are poisonous, while the rest are inedible or tasteless.

The best way to learn about fungi is on an organised fungi forage, where an expert can show you where to look, how to identify them and which ones are edible.

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Take the time to look closely as many are tiny and difficult to spot, but once you start looking, you’ll notice that fungi pop up everywhere.

Dead man’s fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)

Just remember not to eat any that you are not 100% sure are not poisonous.

BTO Bird Camp 2019

The BTO Bird Camp Is a camp specifically run for young people who love nature and want to take a step further. It’s hosted by the British Trust for Ornithology and supported by the Cameron Bespolka Trust meaning it costs around £25-£30 per person for everything. Links to social media pages/ websites are included at the bottom of this blog to everyone that was there. Please do have a look at their links after reading this blog because they are honestly some of the most amazing people I’ve met! Also any questions you have, please contact me however works best for you! Most photos are my own but if they are not then I have credited the photographer in the caption (also made sure I had permission to post their photo)!

Friday 24th May

After a 12 hour long car journey with a few stops and a bit of traffic, I arrived at camp for 4:35pm. My parents and brother dropped me off at site, then left to go down to London where they saw a show and stayed overnight. They must have been glad to get rid of me for 2 nights.

When I first arrived, I hardly knew anyone which was kind of a good thing because it meant I talked to everyone but then a while later, people I knew started to turn up so we swiftly got the tent furthest away from camp hosts; Nick, Faye and Ben because we knew we were going to be a bit loud and we didn’t want to keep them awake. Our tent filled up very quickly. This meant we had the most people (7). 2 people I hadn’t met before called Alex and Wilum were in the tent and the others I knew already includes; Rowan Wakefield , Kabir Kaul, Calum McKellar, Sam and me. We only had the chance to unpack our stuff because we had to go and eat dinner. This was a great chance to speak with people and the pizza was pretty good.

The tents
The tents

We ate our food rapidly before heading off inside the BTO HQ for a bit of an introduction session. This involved a talk from Nick Moran about general stuff and plans for the next few days. Faye Vogely also did a talk and led a ‘careers in conservation’ workshop to help us decide and plan for the future when we get jobs. This was really helpful as she gave us a taste into the real world with her fantastic presentation about her job experiences. We were also introduced to Ben Porter who is very keen to get us involved and also an amazing photographer.

After all this, we went back into our tents. We somehow managed to speak all night and morning about random stuff. Our whole tent either had no sleep at all or very little. Personally I don’t think this is a bad thing as the camp only runs once a year and it just shows how well we all got on! Although we were like the walking dead the next day and fell asleep every time we stopped moving, it was well worth it.

Saturday 25th May

A few of us went out early at 4am the following day for a look around the grounds and see as many species as we could before we left for Lakenheath. We got a good breakfast before we left which was useful to boost us for the day ahead, especially since some of us didn’t sleep. Before we left, we checked the moth trap. We had a few like white point and small elephant hawkmoth which we got some decent photos of.

White-point (Mythimna albipuncta)
White-point (Mythimna albipuncta)

Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus)
Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus)

We then split ourselves into the two mini buses which were driven by Faye and Nick. We were also joined by David Walsh, Chris Mills and a few others who helped guide us around Lakenheath and help with anything. It was brilliant! When we arrived we were split into 3 groups and went around with our guides to see what we could. My group’s guides were Faye and David. Some of the bird highlights included: Bittern, Hobby and Marsh Harrier. We saw a range of other species like Scarce Chaser dragonfly. Just as well David was there as he is very enthusiastic about Dragonflies and Butterflies as well as making sure everyone was involved. We also had Faye helping our group. She was very good at speaking to people and making sure we all stayed safe.

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston
Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)

Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)
Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)

After our adventure around Lakenheath, we ate lunch and heard a talk by warden Dave Rogers who explained so much about the reserve. He is so passionate!

Afterwards we headed nearby to see some stone curlews and have a walk in some woods with a few open spaces within (I don’t know where because I’m not familiar with the area). This was us all in hope of seeing Firecrest, woodlark, tree pipit and some butterfly species! During this time, we were all together as a big group again which was nice because I could go about with different people than those from Lakenheath! We saw pretty much all target species. We heard Firecrest and caught a few quick glimpses of it. Some people even saw a Crossbill fly over! We also got decent Red Kite views.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

After our walk, we went back to HQ and got our dinner which was kindly made by Nick’s wife and their daughter. It was really good chilli and filled me up, preparing me mentally for seeing NIGHTJARS in the evening! Greg Conway came and talked to us about them before we went out with him and some others to see them up close! They ring the birds as part of a very valuable project that has been running for a while. At first we saw the cuckoos fly over the net but we didn’t catch them. Within no time we were amazed to catch two birds (a male and a female). This meant we could go back early and get some sleep.

Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)
Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)

Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Sunday 26th May

The next day came on us very quick because we actually got sleep this time. This day involved a Bird ringing demo, Nest finding and Territory mapping. There were 3 groups of about 8 in each. I was in a group with around 8 people. During our bus journey we saw stone curlew, red legged partridge and hares! We started off at the bird ringing demo where we got Reed Warbler, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Chiffchaff and Wren. We stayed at this station for a while because the other group got distracted with a Golden Plover. This gave us extra time to finish all the good breakfast. When they arrived back we moved onto territory mapping lead by Nick. Some highlights included Garden Warbler, Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker. Our final activity was nest recording with Lee Barber. We found plenty of pigeon nests without eggs and one Dunnock nest which appears to have been predated. As well as the activities we fitted in some birding (pics below)

Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston
Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) Photo Credit: Wilum Johnston

Dunnock (Prunella modularis) nest
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) nest

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

We the headed back to camp (seeing stone curlew again on the way) for the last time and summed up. We spent a while packing up, looking at the moth trap and lots of time sharing our ideas with the BTO on how we can help encourage more young people to get involved. Then finally we all got together with our family and sat in a room with a projector where we showed everyone some of the highlights from the camp!

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Stone Curlew (Burhinidae) Photo Credit: Jack Jones

Summing Up!

I have been to a few camps so far and it’s honestly so good! We saw a great amount of species over the time and met some amazing people. Everyone got on so well with one another which makes it even better. Something I admit I thought and first when I went to the camp back in 2017 was that there would be some weird people there who only cared about birds and wouldn’t shut up about them but that is far from what it is actually like. People were so chill and funny which was probably my favourite part of the camp.

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The Squad (Photo Credit: Ben Porter)

Rest of holiday!

Since my blog is so long I think I’ll do a separate blog about other stuff I did after camp. So keep an eye out for that!

Links related to camp:

British Trust for Ornithology – @_BTO https://bto.org

Cameron Bespolka Trust – @Cameron_B_Trust https://cameronbespolka.com

Volunteers

Nick Moran – @sconebirding

Faye Vogely – @FayeVogely

Ben Porter – @bardseyben

David Walsh – @DavidWalsh22

Chris Mills – @Norfolkbirding

Dave Rogers – @DaveRLakenheath

Greg Conway – @conway_greg

Justin Walker – @arcanelove

Dawn Balmer – @DEBALMER

Lee Barber – @lee00barber

Joe Myers – @joemyers2k

Karen Hunt – @HullabooHunt

People! (Most are twitter links)

Alex Liddle – @Alexbirder1

Alice Mortimer – @Adhelade_Nature

Ben Rumsby – @BRNature1

Calum Mckellar – @mckellar_calum

Jack Jones – @theriversidenaturalist

Josh Hill – @JoshHil34960913

Kabir Kaul – @Kaulofthewilduk

Luke Stoppard – @LukeStoppard

Sam Newcombe – @SamN92637877

Simon Ball – @SimonBallYVCP

Wilum Johnston – @JohnstonWilum