Saturday, 26 July 2014

Bugs and Birds in North Wales

Sorry I haven't been blogging for a bit, I have been at my Grandma's in North Wales, and as usual it turned out to be a brilliant week.

As it has been so hot, most of the time I have been out doors enjoying all the countryside and the wildlife. I took a main visit to somewhere called Bod Petrual  just on the edge of Clocaenog Forest. It was a great start to the trip, as as soon as we got out of the car, a family of Redstarts were squabbling and posing beside the car park in a Rowanberry.

Redstart picture I took there last year.

As we started the actual walk through the forest we came to a relatively large lake which was full of blue tailed and common blue Damselflies, hundreds of them danced across the water along with a variety of Dragonflies.

Four Spotter Chaser

The first species I came across was the Golden Ringed Dragonfly, I had never seen one before and yet they were so frequent, as we continued the walk around I saw a Common and Southern Hawker both of these were posed next to each other, but I could tell the difference due to the markings down the back.  I also a Four Spotted Chaser.

So a great day and part of a week, however I am going to be back in Wales on Sunday so more news to follow.

P.S. I never heard anything back from my letter to Elizabeth Truss in my last blog, but I will be sending it to her again.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Dear Mrs Truss (Environment Minister)......

Dear Mrs Truss

Congratulations on becoming the new Environment Minister.  I thought you might like to take a virtual walk with me and see our wonderful natural world through my eyes.  One of my favorite and maybe the most powerful way of passing this onto you is by an example of a local walk down by the River Weaver.

I have been involved with wildlife conservation for some time now, even though I'm only twelve, and the point I will be trying to put across is that you can now make a massive difference to other kids becoming conservationists of the future, and even you and your kids can encourage the next generation of wildlife protectors, because at the current moment, there's no where near enough...

And so to the walk.

Birds singing, the dawn chorus, foxes returning to there dens, night has become day, and the stirring wildlife of another day brings us to the start of our "virtual" walk. The start scene is a beautiful outspread of fields and marsh, but I look around, and I think where is everything, not the usual Blue Tits, Starlings, but the birds that used to be here i.e Turtle Doves.

As we continue to wander down the trail, with all the grass and pretty much everywhere moist with dew,  we start to come to part of a small wood stretched across the front of the river. Now there's a bit more life here, the dawn chorus is coming to a close and the freshness of an early morning starts to come to a close. I think very hard to myself, well all this conservation work I am doing, and even just taking my local walk, is it all really worth it, will the government (DEFRA) listen to all my and our fellow conservationists or will our struggling House Sparrow disappear, declining without any notice and will our subtle but magnificent Hen Harriers completely vanish from England (it being to late to save).

Now looking out over the river, it looks beautiful with Coots, Moorhen and Mallard ducks squabbling, it makes you think wow well all our rivers are really thriving. Well take a closer look and examine this particular area for a certain amount of time. On our river alone there was a leak from a chemical company last year which came flooding; every five minutes yet another dead fish floated lifelessly on the water. Now this tells us one thing, to even make a start on replenishing wildlife the state of everything at the moment must be sorted out, i.e. make rivers cleaner, put tighter controls in place. Now don't get me wrong there's lots of other rivers that are reasonable, but what I'm saying is that something must be done to save nature before it's to late.

You know when I'm an adult I might not even see a Hen Harrier, maybe not even a Turtle Dove, however the point of a conservationist is to manage and re-assemble the state of something; in my case wildlife, so what I am saying is start a fresh and don't leave wildlife to the side, don't let it turn into a last minute action plan, and most of all never let it go.

I hope you have understood and got a picture of my view of the environment and it's wildlife, and I hope you think through how your going to manage DEFRA, and of course what ever you do I can't change it on my own, but just think about what I have said before you make a decision. you are making decisions about my generation's future. And overall make the right choice.......

Yours Sincerely, Findlay Wilde (12 year old Wildlife Conservationist)

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A Victory for Hen Harrier Awareness

Sorry I haven't been blogging for a bit as I have been involved with my school residential (where I was swimming in the sea off Angelsey when a seal popped it's head up near me) and lots of school work as I'm about to finish for my six weeks holiday. So I am really glad to find time and share with you the Scarecrow results which were announced yesterday. My last blog was all about how we made the Hen Harrier.

As you know I've been waiting to see these results with lots of eager anticipation but not just for winning a trophy and money....

...but for the victory of the Hen Harrier itself. The main reason for putting all the effort into creating this stunning bird was to raise awareness about the worrying decline of the Hen Harrier in England. So by winning this competition, the trophy represents a place in the fight to save Hen Harriers. The £85 I won will be donated to RSPB Sky dancer, and the bird itself will be taken on the Hen Harrier demonstration with Mark Avery at the Peak District on 10th August.

After I claimed the reward I sat down listened to a bit of band music and just pondered on what more I can do to help make a difference in wildlife conservation.

With us all working together these birds won't disappear from our countryside and we won't be beaten by those who stand in the way. 

Finally, a big thank you to the organisers and sponsorsof the Scarecrow competition and for choosing the Hen Harrier as the winner.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Hen Harrier on the Roof

Our village has started a Scarecrow competition, with no theme and which anyone can take part in. So I decided to take part and make a male Hen Harrier to raise awareness of it's decline. I've been lucky enough to see Hen Harriers a few times, but maybe I won't in the future if something isn't done to halt this decline.

Hen Harriers (and other raptors) have been illegally shot, killed by traps or poisoned and their habitat is being destroyed. This is happening all over the UK and some people believe it is linked to driven Grouse shooting.  I don't want to use this blog post to blame anyone though, but I do want people to understand what a sad situation we are in with not a single pair of Hen Harriers breeding successfully in England last year.  The Hen Harrier is protected so how can this be happening.

 The Hen Harrier Scarecrow Project

The whole design started off as pieces of insulation board from my dad's work, which slowly turned into the finished design. A lot of hard hours were put into getting the right shape and colors, but to start with we (me and my dad) had to form the body structure and think about how we would attach wings and head.

This picture here shows the cut away section ready for the head, and the body is starting to take shape. It was quite tricky carving and shaping the insulation board.  At this point it was looking more like a Basking Shark.

The head was formed from separate pieces of board stuck together and here you can also see the slot which was to take the wings. At this point it was know to everyone as the mutant budgie!

A bit more carving and the head begins to take it's Hen Harrier form. This was the most difficult bit to carve to get it to look right and I had to keep checking my pictures to make sure I was still on track.

The model was covered in feathers cut out from old grey material (by mum) and coating in a litre of PVA glue before colour spraying to give the bird its real effect. I thought I would share with you here my list of components which created the bird:

Body, Head and Tail - made from insulation board
Eyes - polysterene balls cut in half
Beak - cut off end of a plastic coat hanger
Legs and feet - hollow plastic tube with electrical cable for the talons.
Feathers - piece of old material.
Wing tips and tail tips -  turkey quill feathers
Colours - spray paint.

Of course I wanted the Hen Harrier to be ringed (you never know we might re-trap it one day) and know they are colour ringed with 3 letters and 3 numbers - mine are FIN ( that's me ) and 132 which is a memorable date for me.

Here it is hovering above our porch roof held on by a sturdy piece of timber ( let's hope it doesn't get too windy, although I would sort of like to see it soaring over the village).

A close up picture of the finished Hen Harrier showing our number for the scarecrow competition. If I am lucky enough to win, there is prize money, and I will be donating this to RSPB Skydancer.

What Can We Do To Make A Difference?

Well, there are lots of amazing people really trying to make a difference, and there are ways in which we can all help.

Mark Avery is really doing a lot to raise awareness and make a difference. If you read through his blog you will learn lots about the decline of Hen Harriers in England. Mark is also organising a demonstration to raise awareness, so you could give up some time and attend Hen Harrier Day.

You can sign Mark Avery's petition to ban driven Grouse shooting and help let the Hen Harrier numbers recover.

You could also choose not to eat Grouse at home or in restaurants and even question the chefs on where their game comes from and if there are breeding Hen Harriers on the estate.

You can vote for RSPB Skydancers to receive funding from the National Lottery so they can continue to help the Hen Harriers.

You could even build a huge Hen Harrier and stick it on your roof, as this may soon be the only way many people will see one in England.

Have you ever seen one? They are the sort of bird that is once seen never forgotten, but I don't want these stunning birds to become just distant memories.

Please help.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Amazing Moths for National Insect Week

Of course as a young conservationist I don't just like birds (even-though they are my main passion); but I love all wildlife and this year aside from birds I have particularly been focusing on early and mid year moths (just about coming out now and the start of July).

All of these moths were recorded over the last 2 weeks in my garden and will be entered into a national survey. I wanted to share these stunning moths with you as part of National Insect Week

So here they are, a real mix of colours, shapes and sizes: 

Angle Shades

Birds Wing (local)

Buff Tip

Burnished Brass

Common Rustic

Lime Hawk Moth (my favorite of the year)

Large Emerald

Swallow Tail

Double Square Spot

Yellow Shell

Eyed Hawk Moth

Ghost Moth

Gold Spot

Pebble Hook-tip

Scorched Wing

Now of course there are about 2700 species of moth in the UK, these are just a select few from my garden that I thought you might enjoy. So why not get out there set a moth trap up and discover these night time wonders for yourself.

By the way take part in the annual moth night from 3rd - 5th July.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

WeBS Count - Red Necked Grebe & Lesser Scaup

Frodsham Marsh is a great place to be out birding so it's an a absolute honour to take part in the WeBS count, which takes place once a month.  We had been told and read that two rare birds had been spotted and were hanging around the place, one on the Weaver Bend and one on No6 tank. 

I have seen a lot of species of grebe when I have been birding, but never the Red Necked; this bird is rare for Cheshire and so it was really special to see.

Now please excuse my pictures, there wasn't much light, but I still think you can tell what it is.  I spotted it almost instantly when I arrived at the Weaver viewing point, but it was only later that I got a proper view through my telescope. I pointed it out to the rest of my family and they were amazed by the size and colors of the bird. 

Now I said before that I almost instantly spotted it, however at that point I was at a very good viewing area, however if you were walking along a trail always have a look out as you never know what might be out there, maybe even be a Red Necked Grebe.

This individual behaved as if it owned this stretch of water, as whenever a Great Crested Grebe came along, the Red Necked would always fend it off as if it was on territory.

As you can see in this picture it wasn't the happiest of birds, even when the Tufted Ducks came along.

As we were about to leave the Weaver Bend and head towards No6 Tank, the Red Necked Grebe swam right over to the bank, so we got a closer look.

Tufted Ducks are such a recognisable bird and always a joy to see, but are Lesser Scaups as easy to identify? This was the other rarer species of bird that was located on Frodsham Marsh. This bird seemed to like hanging about near an old dead tree piercing through the water, however even though it was reasonably close to our vantage point, it was still incredibly difficult for us to spot it.

We used our telescope, and eventually came across it; what a wonderful sight. It looked as if it was moulting. As you can see, from a distance, the Lesser Scaup looks quite similar to the Tufted Ducks. If you look closely though the Lesser Scaup is much greyer than the Tufties both on the sides and across it's back.  

Also whilst we were there we saw a pair of Avocets feeding along the water line on No6 Tank, these were lovely to see and later they took off and flew right over our heads.  With the help of a scope, we scanned the full tank and I came across a small wader feeding in a shallow pool, I zoomed in a little and realised it was a Ringed Plover.

The other highlights from the WeBS count included a flock of about 500 Black Tailed Godwits (with a few Shelduck mixed in) which kept circling round the Weaver Bend, but never settled.

Another great experience doing the WeBS count.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Fluff and Talons

It was great to be out ringing again on Saturday as I haven't been able to get out due to the weather over the last couple of weeks, this is frustrating,  but I put all that behind me when I finally got up at 2:30am to a great session (on the way we saw what looked like a female fox, which ran across the road in front of us). 

Before we started putting up the nets, we had to cut back all the net rides; brambles and nettles had totally overgrown the path and net rides themselves, so once all the nets were up we came out with a load of lumps and bumps (from the nettles) and lots of thorns and spikes (from the brambles).

There was a mix of birds early on and obviously at this time of year quite a reasonable amount of juvenile birds including Tits, Dunnocks, Robins, Blackbirds, and a number of Reed Warblers - these were  my first Reed Warblers of the year that I was able to ring.

This Reed Warbler in the picture above was ringed at this site four years ago - amazing. I wonder how many chicks it has helped to raise in this time?

After a few net rounds things started to slow down a bit, however a couple of Chiffchaff at the end of the day were nice to process.  Of course like I have said in other blog posts, when you are ringing you get to watch the birds/wildlife as well, and it was lovely to see a family of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and even saw a Six Spot Burnet Moth. 

After the first session of ringing we went to one of the local farms to ring some Kestrels.

 Only two Kestrel chicks had hatched and they were the perfect age for ringing. They are kind of a bit ugly and a bit cute at the same time, but just fascinating to study up close. You may remember earlier in the year we had caught an adult bird at a different site which had made its way into the bottom pocket of one of our nets and I thought I would share the photo again here so show the young chicks and a fully grown bird side by side.

 We also ring Swallows at this farm as we are carrying out a RAS project on this species so it was great to see some of the pulli being ringed today. 

Let's hope we see them when they come back next year.