Thursday, 27 November 2014

Animal Hero Awards 2014

A few weeks ago I was amazed and excited to be nominated for the Animal Hero Awards 2014 in the category Young Animal Enthusiast.

Now I'm sure many of you will have been to London before, however I have never been, so that made the journey to London for the awards even more exciting. We traveled down by train yesterday through lots of misty murk, but that didn't stop me seeing a massive flock of Fieldfare flitting across the fields. I also spotted a great looking wetland area just a bit north of Stafford. I need to find out where it is because there were a few hides on the site. Maybe one of you knows where this might be.

We arrived in London in plenty of time and enjoyed a taxi ride to the hotel. That London really is a big place, but our hotel was next to Hyde Park so I could still see lots of green and trees.

And then it was time to get ready for the big event. I couldn't just slip any old clothes on for the event, instead I was wearing a suit, a "lifer" for me. 

The awards were held at the Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel which is probably the poshest place I have ever been in. When we arrived there were police horses, people from the forces, stars, dogs and all sorts standing round a big red carpet.

When we got in there was a champagne reception which was great for mum and dad, but Harley and I had an orange juice reception.  I must mention a lovely couple called Mr & Mrs Boddie who we got talking to and who were very supportive. 

It was suddenly time to go in to the ballroom for dinner. The room was huge and shining a kingfisher blue colour.

Before the awards started, Harley decided to go and talk to Brian May about electric guitars. I went to join them and had a great conversation about badgers and Hen Harriers. I even ringed Brian with one of my WildeAboutBirds wrist bands!

After tea it was time for the main event and just enough time to check that there was no tomato soup on my shirt! I didn't know who else had been nominated in my group until we arrived at the event, but it was great to hear about them when Amanda Holden read out the information about why we had all been nominated. Eager anticipation was  building inside me, and of course even if I didn't win, it still felt great to be recognised alongside some amazing animal heros.  

It was then time to hear the words....and the winner is..........Dominik Reynolds.

And do you know what, I honestly didn't feel at all disappointed, I just felt really happy for Dominik, especially after hearing everything he has done. I also thought, I really need to meet him, so I went to find him after all the awards were announced to say well done.

On the way back we found out Dominik was staying at the same hotel as us, so when we all came back in from the coach we all had a drink together and talked about all our wildlife goings on. We swapped emails and stuff and it's great to have found another young wildlife enthusiast to talk to.

The morning after that brilliant evening, we all decided we needed to see more of London, so we decided to take a ride on the open top bus tour ride. Now I've got to be honest it was freezing up there, but we managed to see some beautiful landmarks. I did keep thinking though, how are we ever going to change things with all these people rushing around and chasing things that wont make them really properly happy. 

But back to landmarks, such a variety including The Shard, The Gerkin, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square (with a big blue chicken in the middle), Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament (no Elizabeth Truss sighted, no doubt hiding away preparing to cull something).

So overall a brilliant two days;  new scenery and new friends.

A massive thank you to the Kate Whitehead at the RSPB for nominating me. I really am grateful for even being considered for the awards.  And of course a massive thank you to the RSPCA and The Daily Mirror for putting on such a brilliant and inspiring event.

But I would like to finish with a thank you to Bill Oddie for the fabulous speech he made. He talked about the attacks that various NGOs were being faced with by people who support the shooting community. He asked everyone to continue to support the NGOs and recognise the positive difference they are trying to make. I like that Bill Oddie.


I will leave you with some famous faces:

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Wishing You A Harry Christmas

By the time you read this there will probably be just over a month left until Christmas. That’s not long. And it might not be long until Hen Harriers are extinct in England. So if you are thinking about Christmas shopping, you might think about one of these special Hen Harrier Christmas cards.

Now you might be wondering what a 6ft model Hen Harrier is doing on a Christmas card. Well I think Christmas is a time for hope and I have a lot of hope for our Hen Harriers and feel that a change is definitely in the air.

By having this card sent out far and wide, it increases public awareness towards the illegal persecution. Many people don’t even know what is happening and they are the people I want to reach and make aware of how bad the situation actually is.

The cards are left blank inside so you can write your very own Hen Harrier message when you send the card to a friend, family, MPs or land owners.

The money raised from the Christmas cards is going to RSPB Skydancers. The cards are £1.00 each and £0.50 postage (postage is 50p in total if you buy 1 or 100 cards, I hope you buy 100). If you would like some cards, you can pay by my Just Giving page (and then let me know you have done that) or you can buy them from Ebay.

So thank you for reading. Keep trying, keep hoping and keep talking to everyone you know (and even people you don’t know) about our wonderful Sky Dancers. And most importantly don’t lose heart and don’t let the fight for our birds and wildlife start to fade and drift away.

How Far Did Harry Reach

If you receive a Harry card it would be great of you could comment below and say that you received one and the town you live in. I can then update the Harry sightings maps and see how far the message has spread.

If you are on twitter, please tweet me @WildeAboutBirds a selfie with the card and use #HarrySelfie to keep Hen Harriers in everyone's minds over Christmas.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Good Question 22 - BTO Garden Birdwatch

It's Tuesday Night Quiz Night

At the weekend I was looking through my BTO Garden Birdwatch species list (which totals 33 species of bird). You can find out more about the BTO Garden Birdwatch here.

I have been doing the BTO Garden Birdwatch for over 2 years now and there are just 3 species that have appeared in every survey I have done.

So the question is, which 3 species have appeared in all my Garden Birdwatch Surveys.

And while you are thinking, I will leave you with a picture of a bird that hasn't made any of the official counts, but who was in the garden for quite a long time. #SaveOurHenHarriers.

I will post the answer tomorrow night. Good luck.The prize for this week's winner is a packet of "Wishing you a Harry Christmas" Christmas cards which will be ready very soon.

And the answer is:

Blue Tit
Great Tit

And the winner is Nick Moran who got the answer right on twitter. I will send you the cards as soon as they are ready.

Thank you to everyone who took part. The answer took me a bit by surprise when I was looking through my Garden Birdwatch surveys. I was sure House Sparrows would be in there.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Hen Harriers on Autumnwatch Extra

Sky Dancers on the Dee

Recently I've been doing lots of work to promote awareness about the illegal persecution of birds of prey, particularly Hen Harriers. I was lucky enough to have the chance last Sunday to volunteer with the RSPB at Parkgate on the Dee Estuary. This gave me the opportunity to talk to everyday people about how our Hen Harriers are in danger. The RSPB are doing monthly Sky Dancers on the Dee events at Parkgate, so try and get to one if you can.

 I spent the afternoon with  Dan Trotman (who works at RSPB Burton Mere) and Sheila (an RSPB volunteer). Dan is really enthusiastic about saving Hen Harriers and raising awareness and it was great to help him.  Each one of these events is the last Sunday of the month throughout the Winter (I'm hoping to attend all of them).

The whole point of these events is to get the public aware of what is actually happening out in the field and how they can report it, because persecution of raptors is illegal. Everything from suspicious behaviour to physical harm should be reported. 

In the end it was a brilliant day having at least 15 good proper engaging chats to people about Hen Harrier persecution. We even got a very brief glimpse of a Hen Harrier out over the marsh. I just hope that the long term effects of what we did help to change people's attitudes towards our wildlife.

Dusk on the Dee Estuary

Harry's Flight to BBC Autumnwatch

Following on from raising awareness for Hen Harriers at Parkgate, a few day later, after a 2 and a half hour journey (and hiring an Enterprise sprinter van just for Harry) we finally arrived at RSPB Leighten Moss so I could be interviewed for Autumnwatch Extra. My interview for Autumnwatch fits nicely in this blog because I was talking about being a young naturalist and more importantly about raising awareness about our of Hen Harriers.

So the day really started off a bit let's say chaotic, as firstly we had to find somewhere to park the huge sprinter van, thank goodness for a very understanding car park attendant! We found our contact from Autumnwatch and then I got introduced to Brett Westwood who would be interviewing me later. After getting Harry out of the van and set on his roosting perch, we got a bit of time to relax and have a wander around the spectacular (it really was an amazing) reserve; getting fantastic views of a female Marsh Harrier drifting over the reeds, memories you just can't forget.

Harry doing what he does best, engaging people

This day was just getting better and better, as after a drink or two I got to do some proper recorded filming with Brett, which was great because I got to talk about Hen Harriers and the project of creating Harry. I also had a great chat with Brett Westwood about all sorts of wildlife stuff, he is a really, really great person.

Talking about Hen Harriers with Brett

After the filming me and my dad went for a proper walk along the causeway trying to find the Bearded Tits, however as it was  mid afternoon our chances were quite slim, as they are normally out feeding in the morning. We only had a limited amount of time before I was live on air so we used the time wisely and did get a fleeting glimpse of a Water Rail.

So after another good walk around the reserve, we headed off towards Lilian's hide where Autumnwatch Extra was taking place and where I was going to be interviewed. We arrived a good ten minutes earlier before I was going to speak so I could think about what I was going to say (which is quite important as I didn't want it to go wrong live)! When Brett arrived I sat with him for a bit watching the Starlings coming into roost before it was time for me to go on air.

I walked into the production room a little anxiously before I sat down and the interview began, at first I was a little nervous however the words soon started to flow. It was so important to me to get things right and come across well for the sake of Hen Harrier awareness.

Brett was asking me questions about me as a naturalist, what  is happening to Hen Harriers and about a world without them. Brett also showed me some of the footage of the highlights of the day so I also commented on those images a bit as well. On my way out Iolo Williams was waiting to go on,; he made a really nice comment about what he had heard me saying. I'd love to go birding in Wales with him (just in case you read this Iolo).

It was also really nice to get in a chat with Chris Packham again who is always really inspiring and of  course very supportive and enthusiastic towards the next generation of conservationists.

I did also stay for Unsprung which was nice as I got chance to meet Nick Baker and had another chat with Iolo Williams. I had nothing to do with the power going off on Autumnwatch that night by the way!!!

Once again Harry was the real star of the show and a great talking point. It was great to see and talk to so many young people on the reserve, especially the lovely and friendly family I also met at bird fair last year.

With Jack and Lucy

I want to finish this post by asking you all to do something;  imagine a world without Hen Harriers, what would you miss?

The wondrous dives and angles the sky dancer shows us, effortlessly drifting ghost like over reeds or moorland. A serene master of the skies, showing us a glimpse of how beautiful nature can be.  

What right do we have to take this away. I think having a natural treasure like our Hen Harriers on the edge of extinction in England sadly tells us a lot about the attitude of too many people today.


I want to say a massive thank you to the BBC Autumnwatch team, RSPB Burton Mere and RSPB Leighton Moss for the opportunity to talk to so many people about Hen Harriers.

You can watch my Autumnwatch interview on the link below. The Hen Harrier part starts from about 2 hours and 6 minutes and 30 seconds in.

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday