Last weekend was the weekend I had been looking forward to all year - Birdfair! It was my 6th visit to the renowned event and it didn’t disappoint, however I could only go for 2 days this year, as on the Sunday I was off to Wales for the NGB Bardsey trip. I walked round the fair with fellow young wildlife lover Billy Stockwell (@StockwellBilly), we bumped into quite a few people I know from Twitter and Facebook but I haven’t met in person; other AFON members like James Common (@CommonbyNature), Ellen Marshall (@ellensophiem), Tiffany Imogen (@tiffins11), Beth Aucott (@BethAucott), Matt Adam Williams (@mattadamw), Megan Shersby (@MeganShersby) and many more. I spent a lot of time wandering around the Art Marquee, which is full of inspiration and I always leave Birdfair desperate to do more wildlife art.
I attended a varied selection of talks this year, covering other aspects of wildlife, such as moths, dragonflies, mammals and wildlife gardening. On Friday I went to the evening event; 'An Evening with Chris Packham, Simon King and Nick Baker’, to support my friend Josie Hewitt (@josiethebirder) and Georgia Locock (@GeorgiaLocock) who hosted the highly entertaining event. After the ‘Chris Packham and the Young Birders’ talk on Saturday (once again starring Josie Hewitt and Georgia Locock), I joined some other young naturalists on a short walk around part of the reserve. Toby Carter (@TobyWarbler), Sam Pitt Miller (@sampittmiller), Ben Moyes (@MoysieBirder), Noah Walker (@NoahWal91042363) , Zach (@nerdboy386), Abby Miller (@abby_millerx), Evie Miller (@ev1e_miller), Max Hellicar (@MaxHellicar1), Billy Stockwell and I enjoyed watching a few smart Green Sandpipers and a lovely Wood Sandpiper close in to the hide. Then on Saturday evening AFON-ers and NGBs gathered for a meet-up and group photo, before heading off to the pub. It was a fab weekend and great to meet so many other young birders and naturalists, I can’t wait till next year!
This June I was blogging every day or so for the Wildlife Trusts' 30 Days Wild campaign, and June 12th marked the start of my 12 week long summer holiday this year. Over the months of June and July I saw 113 bird species, with 4 lifers and 1 British tick. My lifers were Stone Curlew at Weeting Heath, Lesser Whitethroat at Attenborough Nature Reserve, Montagu's Harrier at RSPB Blacktoft Sands and Red-footed Falcon in Stoke, with my British tick being Black-necked Grebe. I also got 15 year ticks, including Black Redstart, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Flycatcher and Tree Pipit, bringing my year list to 147.
At the start of July I had my Duke of Edinburgh Silver qualifying expedition, which was 3 days walking and 2 nights camping in the glorious Peak District, for which we were fairly lucky with the weather. I saw 30 bird species, with the highlights being Curlew, Red Grouse, Snipe, Sparrowhawk, Wheatear and I year-ticked Redstart. At the first campsite we were next to a charming little stream, and as the light faded a handful of bats started foraging right above our tents, coming within a couple of metres of us! In the morning I was woken by the song of a Blackcap just next to my tent, and my first Hummingbird Hawkmoth hovered by some flowers for all of a few seconds. At the second campsite there was a Swallow nest on one of the buildings, and young Pied Wagtails being fed very close to us. At this campsite we had a lovely view over Ladybower Reservoir, there were quite a few bees around and this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was flying about. On our last day we encountered this tiny Bank Vole that sat in a field completely still for ages (it was alive though), we all had a quick look before letting it stop playing dead and carry on with its day!
In July I started a project with a former teacher to remove the litter from the River Leen in Nottingham and I was asked to photograph the extent of the litter and the wildlife, both of which there was a lot. We went out on the 23rd July to the river, and pulled out enough litter to fill over 2 shopping trolleys, and 2 shopping trolleys, in just a couple of hours. The amount of litter was truly disgusting, but it was highly rewarding to make such a difference in a short space of time. The wildlife on the river was amazing too, with lots of Banded Demoiselle damselflies and 12 species of butterfly.
There was a Grey Wagtail about too, however what was more amazing was that I found a Dipper, a very rare bird in Nottinghamshire, it was the first in the county for 3 years! The bird was found again on the same stretch of the Leen in Bulwell a couple of weeks later, and many Nottinghamshire life and year listers have been able to tick it. This juvenile bird has been found to be very confiding too, providing very close views for a few days - I didn't think I'd find a rare county bird that people are twitching!
We will have a blog up and running soon about the project, so please have a look at that when we've posted our first blog!
Last week my family and I spent a week on the Balearic Island of Menorca, it was our 10th visit to the island in 11 years! This year we stayed on the South East coast, at Binibequer, over the past 4 years we've stayed at this location I have learnt that unfortunately there isn't much wildlife in this area. We don't hire a car either, so I can't get to any good sites. But anyway it was a lovely relaxing holiday, and I did see a handful of good wildlife.
On the 20 minute taxi drive from Mahon airport to the apartment I kept my eyes peeled, but a single Kestrel and a couple of Swallows were the only birds of interest (in previous years, when we have stayed on the West coast, I've seen all sorts from the taxi whilst driving through the centre of the island, including Egyptian Vultures and Cattle Egrets, but sadly not this time). Around the apartment and on the walk to the beach I saw plenty of House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Spotted Flycatchers, and Sardinian Warblers often did their scratchy call from the scrubby vegetation in the area, occasionally providing close views. Smart Audouin's Gulls (probably my favourite out of the gulls I've seen) patrolled the beach with their long deep red bills snapping up scraps, and the odd Yellow-legged Gull flew overhead. A Peregrine powered over the beach one day, and on another day I had what was either a Peregrine or an Eleonora's Falcon saunter over the beach and circle up over the sea. Eleonora's would be a lifer for me, and I'm pretty sure that's what it was; it didn't seem as bulky as a Peregrine, and it's underparts seemed too dark, but as I have no experience whatsoever with Eleonora's I'm reluctant to tick it.
One day I decided to go for a little explore in what looked like some good scrubby habitat when I looked on Google Maps. I got some very close views of Sardinian Warblers, and a Red Kite glided overhead, I saw a couple of Blackbirds and a handful of House Martins too, and if I remember correctly then I've never seen those 2 species on the island before, which does seem rather odd! There was a warbler species singing a lot, which sounded like a Blackcap apart from the end notes to the song, they just didn't sound like any Blackcaps I've heard in England. Annoyingly the leaves prevented me from seeing the source of the song that day, but on another occasion I heard it again and found the bird - it was just a Blackcap! But again that was a 'Menorcan tick' for me. I found this small feather, which I thought might be interesting with the hint of yellow near the base (please comment if you know what it might be), and there were a few of these striking Ground Bugs Spilostethus pandurus.
We did lots of snorkelling, unfortunately not seeing any octopi this year (we saw 3 here last year), but there's always plenty of interesting fish to look at. Ornate Wrasses Thalassoma pavo are stunning little fish that we always see, they're so incredibly colourful, as well as lots of other fish I haven't identified yet. We saw a handful of Red Starfish Echinaster sepositus, I'm guessing that's what species they are, and a few small jellyfish of a couple of different species were spotted through our masks. One day we went to snorkel in a slightly different area, where a juvenile Shag was fishing, it wasn't bothered by us at all, and carried on fishing just a few metres from us whilst we snorkelled! I've never seen a bird from underwater like that before, it was an amazing experience.
On the beach there were these stunning White-banded Digger Bees Amegilla quadrifasciata and a couple of Common Blue butterflies, I also found this Painted Lady butterfly wing.
One day a Hummingbird Hawkmoth flew into our apartment for all of 10 seconds, landing on the curtains just long enough for me to identify it, but not long enough for a photo. We saw lots of lizards (however not when I had my camera) which were possibly Common and Italian Wall Lizards, and on the street lights there were a few Moorish Geckos, and some bats were flying around too.
It was a lovely holiday, and I didn't do too badly on the wildlife front, all things considered. Here's the stunning sunset we watched on our last night, and you could just see neighbouring island Majorca off in the distance.
I'm Sorrel, a young birder and wildlife artist based in the East Midlands - this is my blog all about my birding and wildlife adventures.