Tuesday, 28 April 2015

NGB Introducing: Liz Clipson

Being born on the infamous north Norfolk coast, I guess it is in my blood to birdwatch, however it took until April 2013 until I really started to take note of this calling. My dad was also brought up in Norfolk and used to visit many of the reserves we all know and love, so I guess it was a given when one afternoon in the aforementioned April when I threw out the suggestion of going birdwatching.
As a youngster, I was fortunate enough to have a field to play in and Nature was just part of my everyday life, birds, insects, amphibians… even plants! I had an interest in it all. One of my earliest memories is my mom making nets for moth trapping which me and my dad used to do in the summer, and also being woken “late at night” aged about 5, to my dad showing me my first privet hawk moth which landed on my head. However, a visit to the local falconry centre stole my heart when I was allowed to hold a barn owl. He was called Oscar, and I remember being in awe and blown away from his beauty.

At age 10, we moved away from Norfolk and made home in Worcestershire. We always fed the birds and always kept a record of what came in to feed in the pokey 10mx15m garden. Highlights have including, siskins, goldcrests and hobby, and mammals including foxes and hedgehog.
Aged 18, I was fortunate enough to travel to Zakynthos, Greece to work with ARCHELON, to aid in the breeding season for the Loggerhead Turtles, which enabled me access onto protected sites, and have been fortunate enough to sit behind a female and watch her lay eggs… not a lot compares to that! However, whilst I was there, I was able to observe a pair of breeding Eleonora’s falcons, and also be literally surrounded by Barn Owls on a regular basis.

Now in the “real world”, I work in radiotherapy, and as well as working full time, I am studying for a graduate diploma and a masters… some say I am a glutton for punishment, however come September I should be free of academia and plan on pursuing my hobby further, hopefully find my own patch, and potentially get involved in ringing.

My Inspiration

I guess I can say that I have been inspired by the usual greats; David Attenborough, Steve Backshall, the team from the really wild show, Simon King and the team from Big Cat Diary….. Pretty much any TV show that had animals, birds, insects etc, I was sat in front of. As a physicist, I guess there has always been a lack of female inspiration in work and I guess nature isn’t much different so Michaela Strachan I guess was quite important and I am glad she is still on the TV for the next generation of girls!

Also my Dad is a pretty big inspiration as he was always very encouraging and since April 2013 we have learnt a lot together! And there is also another NGB member who I won’t embarrass too much, but he has really helped both my dad and I develop ours skills, but both of us wish we had his knowledge in the field!

Best Birding Experience

It is really hard to pick just one, so, I am going to choose a month of birding. October 2014. The first weekend of October, I was on a birding trip to north Norfolk, and we had an incredible weekend. The Friday night was pretty epic, sat in Burnham Overy overlooking a pool watching a Black Necked grebe as the sun went down, the starling roost and Chinese water deer. Then there was 2 barn owls hunting, followed by thousands and thousands of pink footed geese overhead, which was awe inspiring. The weekend was finished off with going out to Thornham point, after a black redstart, and strangely enough it seemed the only place I could get 3G phone signal to hear about the Steppe Grey Shrike…. The yomp back to the car included jumping down the dunes and walking very quickly through RSPB Titchwell telling people as we left.

Mid October we were back in North Norfolk, and again, an epic day. Started with sea watching for Skua, which we did eventually get, we decided to head home. Walking back through RSPB Titchwell, Craig Reed, stopped to look at a female stonechat and he called a Penduline Tit. I remember just thinking get the photos!!! Record shots were poor but enough to get the bird accepted by the BBRC and Craig spent most of the time getting others over to see the bird…. Causing a twitch in Norfolk is a funny experience really!

Favourite bird

This is a really tough one for me as I have a general love of a few. I have to say, I do like ducks. Strange really… it seems that it just happens that way, my teddy growing up was “quack quack” and you guessed it, it is a duck. I have also fallen in love with Eiders. I mean what’s not to love! I saw my first wild eider at Penmon Point, Anglesey, in April 2014, and close enough to hear them calling! I can often be found near the Eiders at WWT Slimbridge, and I will admit (and anyone that has been birding with me can vouch) my incoming text message alert in indeed an Eider!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

NGB Patchwork Challenge: March 2015 results

A new month for the NGB league and now there is the comparative score table to go alongside the points league. My own university patch tops the league with a comparative score of nearly 82%, however with the resident species all but mopped it it will prove difficult to stay ahead of the chasing pack. James Common's impressive run at Stobbswood sees him second in the comparative scores thanks to both Bewick's and Whooper Swans turning up on patch, the former a patch lifer. Another university patch rounds off the top 3, Jake Gearty at the classic birding university of UEA.

Onto the points league and it's the a repeat at the top where Anthony Bentley heads the table with Joe Stockwell still hot on his heels in second. Anthony added 10 points at Frampton including a Great Northern Diver whilst Joe faired slightly better with 13 additional points including the Bonaparte's Gull which he managed to get his girlfriend to drive him to after a heavy night out in town. Joe will have to watch his back as spring progresses as Jonathan Farooqi had a cracking month in the north-east adding 21 points to take the final podium position including two patch firsts in the form of Willow Tit and Red-legged Partridge.

Looking further down the league and it is good to see the return of Bardsey's Ben Porter after a few months abroad at the start of the year. Straight in at 12th I'm sure we will see him climb up the league as spring dawns. The highlights section of the score submissions held a classic sweep of late winter visitors such as Red-necked Grebe for Lee Fuller, Brambling for Rhys Chivers and Short-eared Owl for Daniel Gornall, mixed with the first returning migrants including a very early Little Ringed Plover for Matthew Bruce at The Puddle on the 9th.

April has seen the regular summer migrants appear in droves and a fair few scarcer species thrown into the mix, will any NGB's be able to capitalise on the migration?

Monday, 20 April 2015

What NGB Did For Me: Daniel Branch

I am not the most active member of NGB, but it’s safe to say I owe an awful lot the organisation. Upon the discovery of NGB I realised that I was quite a lazy birder and should probably get my act together, so it served as great motivation for my personal birding. Not only that but through NGB I landed the most fantastic summer job I could possibly imagine…

Picture the scene, the summer of 2014. Having just finished my first year at university I now have the daunting prospect of a long summer with nothing much planned except patching Soil Hill, the world’s worst patch imaginable. Watching the world cup one evening I spotted that Tim Jones, Spurns then resident NGB, had post on the Facebook group asking for someone to stand in as the Little Tern Warden at Beacon Ponds due to an unfortunate injury to the head warden. Not going to lie, I was very nervous about messaging Tim and applying, a guy I had never met, through an organisation that I had mainly spectated. However, I decided to give it a buzz and was overjoyed to hear that I had got the position and was now lined up to cover.

2 months down the line it all seemed a little surreal in hindsight, but it was without doubt the greatest job I could ever have imagined, whilst being at a fantastic location just doing what I love: birding. I could easily go on about it for hours! Through my time there I learned so much about birds, and saw some incredible things. And I was not the only one to benefit, as the Little Terns had a record year of 52 fledged chicks. That was pretty awesome to be a part of, especially when you have invested so much time, day and night into them.

While the job itself was amazing, its legacy for me were the people I got to meet, either in the local birding community or with NGB’s from further afield, as it was during my time there I got to meet my first other NGBs, who were all great guys and it was refreshing to be able to go birding around people my own age. I have met up with a few NGB’s since then, either to go twitching, whilst twitching or meet ups at Spurn, and on each occasion I have had a fantastic time and seen some pretty awesome birds.

So when asked, what has NGB done for me? The answer is an awful lot of stuff! Without it I would not be the birder I am now, I would lack the motivation to go to Soil Hill, the world’s worst patch, and see nothing and I would not have got the job at Spurn. NGB is a fantastic organisation for bringing young people with a common interest and passion together, and that should not be forgotten.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

NGB Introducing: Dan Rouse

Being dragged across Wales with my father and brother is what really kicked off my interest in birds, we would travel to different places to sit on top of the car to watch the Rally cars do their forest stages which meant a lot of sitting around doing nothing! Despite knowing the ins-and-outs of cars, I never took an interest so instead as a bribe to go with them I was bought my first Bird ID book and a pair of Bins to keep me occupied. I took an instant interest in Birds of Prey and would spend hours watching them especially the Red kites of Brecon. I'll risk sounding patriotic, but Wales is always where my heart will be.

Once I got older I realized that a career involving wildlife is what I wanted and this persuaded me to start volunteering for WWT Llanelli in December 2012, I would mainly do the Saturday activities which included things like Mini Beast hunts and Pond Dipping. Anyone that knows me, knows how obsessive I get over learning, hence why I can speak four languages.. But my need for learning has helped me a lot with my career because in October 2013, WWT offered me a job as a Learning Assistant which means I now teach schools, Universities and lead educational groups for events such as Bat Walks and Dawn Chorus. This year I have entered PWC and so far its proving challenging especially sharing a patch with Laurie who is a rare bird magnet! This is also driven me to learn more about my patch and what birds we get. My patch is WWT Llanelli so I mix birding with work, although all the good birds turn up on my day off. I have a slight obsession with feathers, I wouldn't say I'm into taxidermy for example I wouldn't have a stuffed bird in my house but I do have a few skulls and pellets. I have now started to cast bugs into resin (obviously I find them dead, not killing them!). 

My Inspiration:

David Attenborough has had a huge influence on the way I look at the world, but I grew up being obsessed with Steve Backshall's tv series and have now continued to read about him. But from a more local point of view, the guys of Gower Ornithology Society are absolutely amazing! They do so much for each other and are genuinely lovely people, myself and Emma were invited to do a talk to the society about how to encourage the younger generation of birders into the society and they were so open minded about it all. 

Best birding experience:

The memory that sticks with me was not actually that long ago, It was going to see the Great Northern Diver in summer plumage at mumbles. I had never met anyone from NGB before and decided the day before that I was going to go see it.  I woke up at 7am and got on the first bus into Swansea then to Mumbles where I met Emma-Louise Cole who was so lovely to me and from there we have become good friends, Literally cannot get rid of her.. NGB has provided me with the opportunity to meet some amazing people who share the same interests as me. I've started to bird outside of Wales now, passed my driving test in January and within a month or so I was driving myself, Emma and Espen down to Cornwall on a twitch (I won't mention the Eider incident). I have to mention every birding trip with Emma is an experience in itself mainly because of my near-death experiences in my car or the fact we always end up in a pub. 

Finally, Favourite Bird:

Easy, Black Winged Kite. My love for them is unreal, having these birds fly directly above your head in Portugal is surreal! Most people know my love for Wigeon but Monties, Eagle Owls and well, owls in general are right up there with my favourite birds. Raptors have always been in my life, be it watching them from a roof-rack to surveying them in the Gower."

Saturday, 18 April 2015

NGB Introducing: Amy Robjohns

I’m never quite sure how or why I first took an interest in nature. Most of my friends at school weren't at all interested. Then again, that never seemed to bother me – Classical music, brass bands and all things military aren't exactly what you’d expect a young girl growing up in the 90’s and 00’s to be interested in…

Still, by 2006 I was passionate about environmental issues and nature, with birds being the main topic. I can remember visiting the Lake District, having a wonderful time starting to get to grips with ID-ing everything, as well as the disappointment of not seeing eagles or red squirrels. This was then topped up with what can only be described as irregular trips to Titchfield Haven and other local sites. They may have been irregular, but were certainly enjoyable.

I finally started birding more regularly when I came to realize a career in music was only ever going to be a dream. My weekends, once filled with music were now empty but not for long. “Early” morning band practise was replaced by bird ringing and birding, and free time during the week allowed for volunteering. All these things massively improved my ID skills as I mingled with many an experienced naturalist. It was around this time that I discovered NGB as well and started meeting the local young birders. University also helped – finally an educational institute with more birders! (That said, I haven’t forgotten my year 11 tutor who was a keen birder too).

I’ve been on a few twitches since 2013 – my first being a Bluethroat, and the most recent a Greater Yellowlegs.  I’ve also has fun exploring parts of the UK I’d never been to before including Norfolk and Shetland (more on that later), but I think it’s my patch birding that I’m enjoying the most right now. That, and conservation (aka, watching Little Terns!). Ringing sessions have been pretty awesome too, though that’s not technically birding is it?

Now to attempt James’ challenging questions…

Who inspires me? I suppose when I first took an interest in nature, the Springwatch presenters, David Attenbourgh and Chris Packham were inspirational, and helped spark the birding bug. Now, I’d say I could add to that. I’ve met many older birders while volunteering and birding locally, including Bob Chapman and Pete Potts who seem to be able to DI almost anything, birds or otherwise. Definitely something to aim for in the future! All these birders have been great and encouraging to me and others. There are young birders too, such as Findley Wilde, who’s passionate about Hen Harriers. It’s great to see the future will be in safe hands. I only wish I’d been so keen back then.

Greatest birding experience? Hmm, such a touch one. I’ve loved spending time on my patch – seeing all the rarities found by other regulars and also enjoying the commoner species. My first Osprey justified not dashing 5 miles along the coast to see a Brown Shrike. Watching the Little Terns fledging after helping Wes Smith out last year was also a great experience. However, I’m going to choose Shetland.

Spending a week on Shetland (mostly Unst) thanks to AFON, Shetland Nature and their sponsors, was amazing. I’d never been so far north before either which added to the experience. The birds were great, the atmosphere was great and the people were lovely. It beats inner city Southampton any day! On arriving, our first bird on dry land was a Siberian Rubythroat, and the last an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler. The other 99 were brilliant too. 31 lifers in 1 week isn’t bad! Oh, and the great company, Seals and Otters – yeah. It was amazing! 

And finally, favourite bird. Umm, what? I’m not sure I have a firm favourite; too much to choose from. For the sake of answering the question, plus the fact I’ve become rather fond of them, I’m going to say Little Terns.

One of the few seabirds left in the Solent. There used to be Puffins ‘n all, but they’re long gone sadly. I volunteered with the RSPB last summer and shall be returning this year. Watching them, and thousands of gulls (Med & Black-headed) and the other 2 tern species, nearly every day for a month was fantastic. The chicks are rather cute and they fledged for the first time since 2010, which made the experience even better. With a helping hand from the RSPB, it’s great to see them cling on in the ever increasing urban sprawl that is the Solent. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

NGB: From The Horses Mouth.

The chances are,  if you are a  fellow feathered fanatic, spare time birdwatcher or dedicated naturalist and regularly  frequent social media you will have a heard of  Next Generation Birders or "NGB" as it so often referred. Formed in 2012 with the aim of promoting birdwatching among a younger generation NGB has carved out a name for itself; providing a safe, secure and above all else enjoyable place for young birdwatchers to social and revel in their chosen hobby. NGB has gone from strength to strength in recent years, securing partnerships with conservation organisations, attending international events and most recently raising a substantial amount of money to halt the slaughter of migratory birds in Cyprus. The later just the latest addition to a growing list of remarkable achievements ascertained by members and I for one am extremely proud of each and every one of those involved. Above all else however NGB has helped bring a voice to young birdwatchers across Britain, boosting their confidence and allowing them to hone their skills absent the stigma so often attached to young naturalists. The NGB concept truly is a great one and is something I feel incredibly passionate about having trundled through high school with next to no like minded friends. Since joining Next Generation Birders I feel truly liberated, free to discuss my chosen hobby without being scoffed at and dismissed as "weird".Truly in the two years I have been a member I have not looked back once and although I am relatively new to the group  I have seen some truly fantastic things and met some truly fantastic individuals, young people with an undying passion for the natural world, many of whom I can now proudly call my friends. Learning from some of the best young birders Britain has to offer my ID skills have improved ten fold since my time in the group. I am incredibly grateful to the various individuals who have managed the organisation over the years and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I predict extremely positive things to come in the days, months and years ahead.

NGB logo medium

At present Next Generation Birders is undergoing a restructure aimed  at bettering the group for current and future members alike. With this in mind I thought I would put together a blog post showcasing some "NGB success stories", pointing out just what can happen when a group of like minded youngsters get together a create something truly wonderful. Below I have included a number of testimonials from people like myself  who have found enjoyment, knowledge and comfort from their time in NGB. If anything I hope this post serves to drum up support for the network, highlighting that NGB is not entirely about twitchers, lengthy lists or half dead American rarities. All of these things of course play an important part within the network  but in reality NGB is about young people. Passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable young people and I sincerely hope anyone under the age of 25 with an interest in birds will consider joining the NGB community. If you need any more convincing, just read on..

"Despite being a relatively new member of NGB, the group has given me the confidence to talk openly about my hobby with friends outside of the birding community, and it has strengthened my desire to pursue a wildlife-related career. The knowledge I have gained from the group has improved my understanding of the birding world, and especially British birding. I have also made some great friends, and I look forward to making many more!" Sorrel Lyall, 16

"NGB provided me with the foundations to run a birding trip to Spain in April 2015. The great birds and scenery were a given but meeting and making some great new friends was the highlight of the trip. With a wide range of interests from birds of prey, reptiles, insects, migration, passerines, photography and artwork I feel everyone learned something during the week. The positive attitude and willingness to make the trip as rewarding as possible was evident from the first moment and 2 members especially showed great selflessness so that everyone else could enjoy the rest of the week, I am forever in debt to them. In all the times I’ve visited Spain in the last 5 years I can honestly say the trip with members of NGB was the most enjoyable and educational I’ve undertaken. I look forward to taking them and others back someday soon." - Oliver Reville, 26.

Next Generation Birders

"I’m a more recent member of NGB but have  greatly enjoyed being a part of a community of young birders. It’s been great getting to know other people of a similar age and also going on trips and meeting people. The quizzes have helped with ID, as well as mixing with more experienced birders. Though birding on my patch is great, spending some time with other like minded young birders is great too" - Amy Robjohns21

"NGB has provided me with a lot of great opportunities. I've made so many great friends and the group has given me confidence to talk more openly about my love for birds and allowing me to socialize more with like minded individuals. The group means a great deal to me and has brought individual birders together, allowing people to share their knowledge with one another and greatly improve their skills" - Dan Rouse, 19

"When I was a 15 year old wandering the valleys of East Sussex, Birding was rapidly losing interest for me. I still loved nature, but I just wasn't as keen on going out as often as I had done previously, partly through normal teenage angst, and partly because my favourite hobby lacked any real social aspect. If it wasn't for NGB, I'd probably only take my binoculars out for the odd country walk nowadays, I'd probably still be confusing the calls of Linnets and Greenfinches, and I'd most definitely have found far less fulfillment in birding. Man can't live on birds alone, try as we may, and finding brilliant people who shared this passion, so many of whom have become great friends I hope I'll keep for life, undoubtedly cemented my passion for the natural world as one of the most important things in my life" - Liam Curson, 19