Last year (2019) a cool and vibrant book became available to purchase from your favourite bookstore and for your Ebook devices, written by an inspirational social media friend and fellow naturalist, Alex White! Published by Dived Up.
First off, what I really like is howcolourfuland cleverly graphically designed it is. Alex’s pictures are great and used superbly throughout the publication. Each page grabs your attention; what is said / written and each animal featured is captioned / labelled with its scientific name.
The tone of the book is encouraging, it balances out negativity and positivity. It is realistic, well humoured and in no way are you patronised or made to feel bad. As Chris Packham says, it’s heartening.
It is packed full of tips and hints. There is a brilliant quote on page 20 and on page 41 Alex details a magical encounter. I must admit; I found it hard to put this book down, it’s a real page turner.
Wildlife on your doorstep, locally and further afield is promoted, plus it covers what to see each month (bang in the middle of the book) and discusses Social Media, Local Groups and Clubs, which is really good.
Throughout there are contributions from familiar faces, people on Social Media, TV, Radio and in Magazines. In the section entitled Next Generation, I have a few pages detailing my career path (page 130-132).
Alex’s writing style is engaging, insightful, honest and down to earth. Get Your Boots On is excellent! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
From Friday 18th to Sunday 20th I attended the 29th annual Birdfair – if you don’t know what that is and haven’t read my post from two years ago: click here!
Due to prior commitments I didn’t attended last year and this year I almost never went. If you remember my post about Birdfair two years ago, you may have worked out that this makes it my 6th year at this remarkable wildlife festival/convention! It has been a busy few months leading up to the fair, with my new conservation qualification – so it was somewhat a last minute decision to go. My three day e-tickets weren’t purchased until the beginning of the week! Missing another year would not sit right with me.
On the Friday I didn’t arrive until 2.30pm, happily receiving my yellow wristband, late, I know – which was due to finalising camping arrangements at Wing Hall. 😛 We never plan it, yet it always happens, every time I arrive the first person I bump into is Mike Dilger! Mike made me feel so welcome at my first ever Birdfair back in 2010 and he has been quite encouraging about my wildlife presenting career. For those that don’t know, I co-presented a 5 part series called The Wild Side on Cambridge TV. 🙂
Nowadays I have people to hold my coats / jackets for me. . . I’m kidding! 😉 Shortly afterwards, whilst making my way to Marquee 8, I saw my good friend and co-presenter, Jamie Wyver. 😀
Just as we were catching up and letting Gary know what to expect etc (as he had never been before), our friend Stephen Le Quesne plus our Twitter & Birdfair pals, Paula and Gail bumped into us! I had my picture taken with Stephen as we’ve not had one since 2011! (At the WWT London Wetland Centre!).
Mine and Stephen’s pals, Paula and Gail didn’t get in on the photo sadly. It was really nice seeing them since my absence! 🙂 Then it was off to Marquee 8, to pay a visit to the A Focus On Nature (AFON) stand to say hi and show my support for their new campaign Now for Nature, at the time the stand was manned by Ryan Clark and Andreas Fopp.
After a bit of a wander around the other marquees, I saw my first talk which was Brexit & the Environment: the way forward – chaired by Rob Lambert, it was really good. Everybody on the panel pretty much agreed with one another on the issues raised, and to summarise; they strongly believed that conservation NGOs have to work closely with farmers and DEFRA for a sustainable and environmentally friendly future. My sentiments exactly.
Before the fair I had came across some work by the Butterfly Brothers and saw that they were putting together the very first show garden at this years Birdfair, to go alongside their stand. So of course I had to pay them a visit. They were inundated with admirers and enquirers, understandably so. It was great meeting them and having a good old chin wag about wildlife gardening and how it is gradually becoming accepted as a ‘thing’ and how it’s fashionable now. It was fantastic to discover they won Best Stand in Show! 😀
Over the years, there has certainly been a shift in the way people garden, and this was very apparent at this year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Live. There were lots more naturalistic designs and wildlife-friendly show gardens, which is great inspiration to help people continue to think differently and take wildlife into consideration with their planting choices. For two years I have been advocating nature friendly gardening whilst I’m there and interviewing the garden designers, Editor of the magazine and the TV presenters. 🙂
You may not find my last photo of the day funny, but I do, it was taken at The Urban Birder stand (Marquee 8).
Just before I was leaving, I saw Lucy McRobert and it just seemed natural for us to embrace after a full on day, her’s more so than mine! ❤
The day before, I arrived late and broke with tradition – which is visiting and catching up with Kate MacRae first thing, on the Bushnell stand (before or after bumping into Mike, of course). So as soon as I arrived for day two, I sought out Wildlife Kate and we had our overdue catch up. I was hoping to get a photo with her, as like with Stephen, only one photo of us together existed. Before I could ask we noticed there were customers looking like they needed a hand, so like the professional Kate is, she went and helped them out and I left her to it. 🙂
Next stop was the Events Marquee to see Mike Dilger’s talk, So you want to be a wildlife presenter?! Everything he discussed I somewhat related to, and it was nice seeing clips from the packages he has done for the BBC’s The One Show – some of them I saw first on the show’s broadcasts. Sometime afterwards he and I had a wee catch up.
There were a few familiar faces in the audience. (Which you can’t see in the above photo). Megan and I had never met before, so I said hello to her after the talk and it was a must to get a picture together, wearing our fabulous animal themed clothing etc.
Gary and I wandered around the various marquees again, before it was my mate Jack Perks‘ talk – Freshwater Fishes of Britain, which honestly was very interesting! I had a wee catch up with Jack before hand. It was great seeing him and Josh Jaggard again, plus meeting Cain Scrimgeour. Straight after Jack’s talk, it was time for the annual A Focus On Nature (AFON) members photograph and the end of the day! Ben Eagle was kind enough to introduce himself to me after the photo was taken.
After the first two days, I needed a late start, so it was decided I wouldn’t arrive at the fair until a few minutes before a talk by the one and only Bill Oddie!
It isn’t just you, people often think the above is a family photo – as far as I know we’re not related, unfortunately. . . aha! It is Mr. Oddie who inspired me to get into wildlife film-making and presenting, with the various series he has presented, one of them being Springwatch. Bill Oddie is essentially the father of Springwatch, without him it would not exist today! Of course I love Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries, but it was Bill who felt more like an on screen grandfather to me, teaching me and maintaining my love of British wildlife. ❤
The last talk I saw was Simon King‘s and as ever, we heard about his recent wildlife film-making and he gave us a much needed reminder and awakening. In short, it was to get us to think about our shopping habits and how it is affecting the countryside – meaning our demand is influencing how the rural landscape is farmed, thus intensive farming is causing the loss of our wildlife through destruction of its habitat. Simon suggests we go back to eating seasonally and reduce the amount of dairy products we consume, this will lessen the pressure on farmers and in turn, the land!
I apologise for the quality of the photo, but you can just make out what the table is telling you.
For 2017, what I would like is Nature Conservation to be taken more seriously by Councils and the Government. They need to properly see it as a Universal Problem. It is not an issue only for a certain class system, region, gender, sexuality, age or level of education – we all share this country, and caring for nature and our natural environment is everybody’s responsibility. Hopefully Planet Earth II was a wake up call for those that work for a Town / City Council or as an MP who have not signed the Greener UK pledge.
I also hope it has encouraged people to support their local nature conservation charities.
Hearing about woodland / greenbelt being decimated for housing developments (or HS2) angers me – it is disgusting and very ill considered, as there are plenty of derelict buildings and brownfield sites that should be used instead! Urbanisation is not progression, it’s alienation. There is less crime in places with woodland / greenbelt and it reduces stress in people of all ages. They are great for escapism, as they’re somewhere to walk your dog or get fresh air alone or with your partner or friend(s). Such places boost children’s will to learn and they are often more imaginative and creative – it’s somewhere for these children to explore and find wildlife too! It also improves house sales – people want to live near areas surrounded by greenery, because, let’s face it, it is pleasant! Trees, hedgerows and grasses filter impurities from the air and also help lower temperatures during heat-waves. Trees reduce erosion of soil, which finds its way into our waterways during periods of heavy rainfall. This then has the knock on effect of creating flooding because of the build up of silt – due to the lack of trees in the first place. They are also a much needed habitat for nature; plants and animals need somewhere to live and have safe connecting passages between urban sprawls.
Re-wilding our Towns and Cities needs to happen, all over, they should be made greener than they already are, for example Birmingham, it is already a surprisingly green city, but being greener will make it better. I champion Matt Collis and the Avon Wildlife Trust for making Bristol even greener! As you know, more trees are needed to helping fight Climate Change, as they reduce the Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere. More trees will increase oxygen and with increased oxygen levels, the health of people and wildlife will benefit. More oxygen in the air can stabilise unknown and potential pulmonary hypertension (raised blood pressure within the pulmonary arteries) and irregular heart rhythms caused by the lack of oxygen in the air. Plus more oxygen to the brain relieves depression and fatigue. Many diseases including cancer, thrive in an oxygen depleted body.
What would I like for myself this New Year? Well, I am currently on a City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Conservation, Countryside & The Environment – ideally I would like to complete my qualification at overall Distinction and would then like to work for a NGO specialising in Re-wilding, therefore assisting in restoring Britain (in urban and rural places too) to its natural glory!
In the past I have achieved several Media Production qualifications, my highest being a Level 5 Higher National Diploma. I have considered a Masters, but Academia isn’t really for me, I would rather be out there getting on with it, or even teaching it! Around 6 years ago I combined my passion for wildlife and filmmaking, and have recently been co-presenting / co-producing a series with Jamie Wyver, about nature conservation for Cambridge TV (now called That’s Cambridge).
The series is entitled The Wild Side and it was broadcast to the city and has been put online for everyone to watch. It would be brilliant if I get the opportunity to present a series with another TV station or even for a channel that broadcasts nationally. I love how imaginative and creative ideas can come to life on screen, to entertain and inform an audience.
Wildlife Monthly – my seasonal video guide to British wildlife – is back! 😃
It has been 5 whole years since my first ever episode! There were two series in total, which Reader’s Digest Magazine featured on their website, with the last episodes being uploaded at the end of May 2012. Each month I produced 3 videos around a minute or more, detailing flora and fauna (mainly fauna) for you to look out for; be it in your garden, local park/reserve or further afield.
The idea this year, if all goes to plan, is to produce a single video per month, following that same criteria. Episode 1 of 2016’s Wildlife Monthly is in support of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, in which I made some pink bird food. It was filmed at Moseley Old Hall – National Trust, which is in located on the boarder of South Staffordshire and Wolverhampton – where for the day, I was Lord of the Manor. 😉
Red Fat Balls and Lard Cake Recipe:
250g Lard (I used dripping, it’s fine to use suet and vegetable fat)
150g Sunflower Hearts
100g Crushed Peanuts
50g Porridge Oats
1 Red Gel Food Colour (Dr. Oetker)
Doubtless you’ll be doing yours in a kitchen!
Crush the Peanuts with a pestle and mortar, or put them between a tea-towel and whack them with a rolling-pin.
You don’t want to deep-fry the food, so just melt your chosen fat on a low-to-medium heat/flame.
(Add everything to the lard and mix together) Turn your heat right down. When everything is mixed together, line a small cuboid container with either grease-proof paper or clingfilm, fill it with the mixture halfway and pop it into the fridge – to set for an hour – creating your Lard Cake.
Pop the rest of the mixture into the fridge for approx. 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes initially, so when it comes to making the mixture into balls it’s at the right consistency.
Roll the mixture into fatballs – you should get approx. 6 in total.
The rest is self-explantory/can be gathered from my video above…
The breeding population of Goldfinches has risen by approx. 91% in recent years, and in Ireland the increase was around 158%! The British Trust for Ornithology has launched a survey to determine what is attracting these fabulous finches to our gardens. — BTO.org/Goldfinch-Survey
It’s estimated that since the 70’s we have lost 6 million House Sparrows! However, I’m proud to write; in Birmingham they are in good numbers! Along with Devon and Dorset, bucking the trend. 😊
To catch up on pervious episodes of Wildlife Monthly, click here.
“The Annual Rutland Romp!” ?? I’m referring to the British Birdwatching Fair, the Birdfair of course! 🙂 Last week was my 5th time at the fair (I’ve been going every year since 2010). It’s on for 3 days over a weekend in mid August, and has been on every year for more than 25 years! I love that it’s not just people from all over Britain visiting Rutland Water, but people from all over the world that migrate to England’s smallest county for this annual and eventful occasion too!
Over the years – despite its name – Birdfair has evolved to not just be about birds and aiding their conservation, but wildlife and conservation overall. I often refer to it as a wildlife festival before telling people the name of it. It is an amazing place to meet and be surrounded by like-minded passionate people, and rub shoulders with TV personalities 😉 There are talks from wildlife TV presenters, naturalists, conservationists and filmmakers, as well as authors and photographers too. I could only do two days of the fair and arrived on Saturday, with my wildlife photographer friend, James Burman – who has taken some stunning pictures. We camped at Rutland Water Camping, on the lovely Hambleton Peninsula – where we saw Foxes and a Badger 🙂
Chris Packham’s talk was brilliant – in short; it was about cutting the crap regarding what dangers children might face outdoors, and to let them experience and enjoy nature in all its glory! Chris featured three young wildlife enthusiasts, who in turn talked about their experiences and passion for nature, and what they have been up to. I realised they each represented a region of England: Josie Hewitt – The South, Connor Coombes – The North and Georgia Locock – The Midlands. All of their talks were very good, and insightful 🙂 I’m hoping this is a progressive change, as it’s really nice hearing from a diverse range of people on stage in the Events Marquee. Connor with his Cumbrian accent and Georgia with her West Midlands accent (similar to my own), I couldn’t help but be moved, it was refreshing and humbling!
In various other marquees you can find hundreds of stands selling and promoting the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts – gadgets and clothing, scopes to sculptures, binoculars to bird food and eGuides to eco-holidays! 😀 I mainly go to the festival to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and to share it all with them! ❤
Since my 2nd time, I have met up with my friend Christine Hall, a great wildlife camerawoman, photographer and conservationist. It’s possible you’ve seen her video of a Red Squirrel on a previous series of Autumnwatch, it was slipping down a post whilst trying to get peanuts from a bird-feeder, and you may have recently seen her in the Springwatch Unsprung audience 😉
It was really good meeting Yusuf Akhtar, Victoria House and a mixture of AFON and NGB members (to name a few); Alexandra Hoadley, Ryan Clark, Susan Jones, Josie Hewitt, James Common, Georgia Locock, Drew Lyness, Billy Stockwell, Sorrel Lyall, Tom Mason and James O’Neill. Plus it was really nice catching up with Peter Cooper, Jack Perks, Josh Jaggard and Matt Collis 🙂
Every year at the Bushnell stand I chat to WildlifeKate quite a lot, we came to realise we’ve never had a photo taken together, so the picture above is the only one ever for now 😛
Mike Dilger and I chat quite a lot too, this year he bumped into me – in the Art Marquee – James and I happened to be getting to know the illustrator of his new book, Darren Woodhead – a wonderful artist. Mike’s new book is being released next year!
Simon King’s talk this year – as well as hearing about his recent wildlife filmmaking – contained a much needed reminder; a bit more needs to be done to conserve the natural world. We were made aware that nature is losing places in the dictionary! Words like Snowdrop are being taken out and replaced with the likes of “selfie” and “blog”. So I was pleased that towards the end of his talk we were informed about the Simon King Wildlife Project, which is a new charity assisting in the prevention of the degradation of the natural world, globally. The project intends to safeguard habitats, reclaim land for nature and engage people with wild creatures and wild places, which in turn will help keep the natural world intact! 🙂
Before my entry comes to an end – wildlife I observed around the reserve: