Friday, 6 December 2013

A Spark Ignited

March, and the excitement builds as spring ever nears. The birdwatching sites are scoured for the first sightings of the season. Then, after what seems like an eternity, the first Osprey returns to the UK from West Africa. The tension builds when you are waiting for the Osprey you follow to return. In my case, this is Monty: the male Osprey at the Dyfi Osprey Project. He is the ultimate bird; both fish-winner and nest-husband.

The orange orbs of Monty of Montgomeryshire
© 2013 Dyfi Osprey Project
7th April, 2013. I’m in the project office just staring at an empty nest on the screen, listening to the wind whistling through the microphone. Then, all of a sudden, ‘thud!’  I turn around to see an Osprey on the nest. ‘MONTY!’  He is back, and back with a bang! I am so excited to see his orange eyes looking into the camera, with almost an expression of relief on his face that he’d made it home.
When the public start arriving during the day, I am able to share the news. There are the ones who are keen birders and are glad to be able to see an Osprey, and then there are those old dears who love Monty and have grins as wide as the Dyfi estuary upon seeing him again.
Despite loving sharing this news, I am disappointed. I would love to be able to share this news with young people; children, teenagers and the like. However, I am very rarely meeting and greeting and sharing information with these people, and this is scary.
I have been volunteering at the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Dyfi Osprey Project since it begun in 2008. Looking back, I can probably count the number of really enthusiastic young visitors on one hand.
A recent report signalling the State of Nature in the UK makes distressing reading. 60% of species are declining, with 33% of these in danger of becoming extinct in the UK.
The majority of people related to the field of nature conservation are of an older generation. These people are becoming less and less able to help our wildlife who need help to protect them.
Something needs to change. Our wildlife needs us. Soon, the number of people to look after our wildlife in need will decline, and the number of species needing our help will increase. It is now time that our children get involved, and learn how important it is to help the wildlife in need of help.
I have been bird watching since I could walk. My first memories were travelling around in the car with my dad, eating sweets and drinking pop. This is how it all started for me. Going with my dad in the car and looking at a Kestrel hovering by a roadside, a Red Kite soaring above or a group of swans just loafing around. I knew I was going to get a packet of sweets if I went, and as I was threatened with not getting any sweets unless I went for a walk and found a bird, I started to learn more about birds.
The spark inside me had been ignited. I opened my first bird book, and was immediately hooked by Birds of Prey (excuse the pun!)  Many books later, I quickly learnt about all sorts of things about birds, and am still learning now.
Whether it’s taking your child to the local pond to feed the ducks, going down to your local nature reserve, or giving your child their first bird book, it’s extremely important to get children involved with their natural environment.
The natural world is in a fragile state right now, and it is now down to the next generation of the working force to look after it and try to recover from the wrong decisions some people have made.
I have no one of a similar age to talk to about all of the information and experiences I have got about nature, and it saddens me that no one seems to care. I do fear for the State of Nature in the UK in the imminent future and hope things can change for the better, but it is down to young people now.

These people need to get involved, and get informed of the natural environment they live in and what they can do to help save and conserve some of the UK’s most enigmatic, but endangered species.

-Justin Gillings
Justin is an 18 year old birder from south-west Wales. He is currently in his last year of A levels, studying Biology, Geography and Photography and looking to pursue a career in conservation. Justin has been birding since he can remember, and has been volunteering for the last 4-5 years, completing all sorts of surveys. Since the summer of 2009, he has been heavily involved with Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Dyfi Osprey Project. Despite being so involved with Ospreys, they have to share Justin’s  #1 bird spot with the Short-eared Owl.

1 comment:

  1. Well put Justin. It is young people like you who will inspire others. I 'bribe' my grandson with sweets if he can correctly identify a bird. Education is the key so more needs to be done in the schools to educate young people. Keep up the good work