Sunday 23 December 2018

4th Trip to Norfolk

14th December 2018
My mum, dad, brother and I had arrived in Cley the previous night, and were staying in a little cottage. It was 5am, and I was heading off to RSPB Snettisham as usual. But this time it wasn't for the waders, but for the myriads of Pinkfeet that fly into Britain for the winter, from Scandinavian Countries such as Iceland. It was magical to see them in such vast numbers, flying to the nearby reservoirs at Snettisham to be fed. In one of the flocks my brother spotting an odd-looking goose, which turned out to be a Snow Goose! 

Pinkfeet flying at sunrise


More Pinkfeet

I then went to RSPB Titchwell Marsh, where after having breakfast in the cafe, walked hurriedly along the sea wall, desperate to seawatch. The main lake was unusually absent of its huge congregations of wildfowl, but fortunately there were plenty of waders.


Brent Geese in Thornham Marsh, opposite the reserve

A Redshank on the mudflats

Black-tailed Godwit

I seawatched from the beach at Titchwell, and there were quite a few Goldeneye, Golden Plover and Brent Geese, but I also saw three lifers: a Red-necked Grebe, male and female Red-breasted Merganser and a stunning male Eider!

A male Eider

Male Eider

Distant Goldeneye

Red-breasted Mergansers 


Water Rail!

I briefly visited Holkham, where there were very few Pinkfeet and only a few Wigeon grazing. Then the wind blew my scope over and it started pouring with rain, so I couldn't do any more birding that day!

Wigeon grazing

15th December 2018
Before heading back to London, I visited Cley Marshes, where on Cley Beach, I saw three Red-throated Divers (how many 'red-' species did I see??), plenty of Goldeneye and a lone Brent Goose. At the main reserve, I walked through the endless forests of reedbeds, and at the Bishop's Hide, there was ANOTHER WATER RAIL!

The beautiful reedbeds

A preening Shelduck

Water Rail

Flock of gulls


This has been an amazing trip, and I have found that seawtaching can be rewarding!

Sunday 2 December 2018

Patch Update

29th September 2018
Sorry about this late blog post- with so much else happening, I haven't been able to write about my patch!

On a Sunday afternoon, I visited Ruislip Woods with a local young birder, Alex Liddle, who I'd met a few times before, at Rainham Marshes, the People's Walk for Wildlife and at Spurn. We first walked through Poor's Field, an excellent spot for migrants, where in the past I'd seen Whitethroat. There were Blue Tits, a Robin and we heard a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. In a small wooded area full of brambles, a Fox dashed past us. 

We walked around the Lido, where Alex found some Grey Wagtails, and there were a few Herons, Pochard and the usual Tufted Ducks. We headed on a duckboard trail through Park Wood, and out of the reserve itself, where Alex showed me an area where Siskins often congregate each year, called King's College Playing Fields, which has since become part of my patch. A Blackcap zipped through the bushes, and we saw many Goldcrests, the most I've seen on patch.

Grey Wagtail and Moorhen 

We walked down the same route, watching hundreds of ducks, Mute Swans, Little Egrets and Herons coming into the Lido, close to dusk. Alex found petty much all the warblers and Goldcrests by their calls, something I really need to improve on! Hopefully I'll visit my new area of the patch more often, and find Siskins.

The Lido close to dusk 

Thursday 22 November 2018

Agenda for Change Reception

19th November 2018
Earlier this year, my dad and I had been invited to attend a Parliamentary reception at the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Young of Old Scone, with the British Trust for Ornithology, an organisation which I have been part of for just under a year, and have participated in a few of their events. This was so exciting!

It was a forty minute train ride to Westminster, where at Black Rod's Garden Entrance, had to pass through Border Force-style security, and made our way to the Cholmondeley Room (I think saying 'Chumley' is easier). There, I met many familiar faces, and at 8pm, Baroness Young welcomed us all to the event, all about change in the BTO's work, and how this impacts our society. This was elaborated on by speakers such as Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, who spoke about how the Party are helping the BTO, and Andy Clements, the CEO of the BTO, who delivered ten key points that will help put the Agenda into action. Hopefully these points will be made known widely, so everyone can deliver them in some way.

I met many new faces too, some of whom I'd recognised from throughout the world of conservation, such as Sir John Randall and Natalie Bennett, and Kevin and Corinne Bespolka, who I got to thank in person for the amazing opportunity they had given me in may, Birdcamp. I also met many BTO Council members, who were all very kind and friendly. In my opinion, the BTO are a brilliant organisation, and will eventually overcome the task of improving as a whole. I'd like to thank them and Baroness Young for giving me this amazing opportunity, and I'm sure the BTO will inspire for years to come!

Meeting Corinne Bespolka

Baroness Young of Old Scone, Zach Haynes and I

Young birders, Corinne Bespolka and Andy Clements

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Rutland Water with Calum

3rd November 2018
My mum and I woke up at 5am, and gathered our equipment to go to Rutland Water, where Birdfair is held annually. I met Calum at 6am, and we took the tube to Embankment, where a coach was waiting for us. We were going with the Central London Local RSPB Group, led by James Aylward, who were all very friendly.

Two hours later, we got to the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre, from where we headed to the Dunlin Hide, where Calum was finding everything for the group! I saw my first ever Scaup, a small diving duck with a brilliant dark green head, a Curlew, hundreds of Tufted Ducks, two Marsh Harriers and Dunlin. We then had lunch in the Shoveler Hide, where there were lots of Goldeneye, and hundreds more Tufted Ducks. Then, a huge bird walked majestically along the banks of an island, looking for prey- my first Great White Egret (in Britain)! 

Common Darter

Mute Swans

View from the Dunlin Hide

The Reservoir

Great White Egret!

After a brief visit to the Anglian Water Centre, we returned to the Dunlin Hide, not seeing much. We headed to the Snipe Hide (funnily enough finding Snipe feathers along the way) which faced a wet grazing meadow. There were Canada Geese grazing, and a few raptors. At another hide (which I've forgotten the name of) Calum spotted a Carrion Crow with an eggshell in its mouth. 

Mute Swans flying

Canada Geese grazing. The third from the left may be a hybrid or smaller race


At the 360 Hide, there were a few Stock Dove in the nearby fields, flocks of Wigeon and Teal on a small peninsula on the island, and lots more wildfowl. I had a wonderful time, and would like to thank all the RSPB Central London Group and James Aylward for organising this fabulous trip!

Sunday 28 October 2018

Rustic Bunting Twitch

20th October 2018
At around 2pm, Calum Mckellar and I travelled to Wanstead Flats, a vast area of scrubland in Redbridge, east London. The previous day, a Rustic Bunting from Siberia had been found by a local birder, so we were on the lookout for this lost bird, with high hopes of twitching it. At the car park, We met David Walsh and James, another young naturalist, and we walked for a few minutes to a large bush, where a small crowd had gathered with their scopes. I briefly met Dante Shepherd (another young birder), and we set up our scopes around the bush. The cacophonous sound of camera shutters filled the air, as a small bird appeared from behind a log underneath the bush- the Bunting! 

We got impressive views of it, and in the sunlight, it looked like a completely different bird. I don't know if any other birders noticed, but as well as the Bunting, there were superb views of London too. While the Bunting disappeared for a few minutes, large flocks of Parakeets flew over, causing much excitement. However, I wasn't, because they wake me up every morning (that's not to say I don't like them). When it reappeared for the last time in the sunlight, the Bunting looked like a completely different bird, showing its beautiful feathers, which were various shades of brown.

After a successful twitch, we headed back to the car park, where James' brother found a Stonechat- another lifer! 

The shy Rustic Bunting

Record shot of the Bunting 

Stonechat in a field next to the car park

Canary Wharf

Residential towers in Newham, with central London in the distance

Sunday 7 October 2018


26th September 2018
The day before, I was checking Twitter, and saw an unbelievable tweet from an ecologist in Gravesend, Kent, reading: 'BELUGA in the Thames!' I got very excited, and on the next day, my mum, brother and I headed to Gravesend in the evening, to see the whale for ourselves. We parked outside a pub called the Ship and Lobster, and it was a twenty-minute walk along the riverfront to three barges, the area in which the Beluga was last seen in. There was a huge crowd, made of mostly birders (yes, birders also appreciate other animals), who were all very friendly.

Suddenly, a small, white head rose calmly out of the Thames, looked round, shot water out of its blowhole and swiftly disappeared beneath the surface. I could not believe what I had just seen- my first whale, let alone a whale in the Thames- a Beluga, hundreds of miles off course from its home in the Arctic. I hope 'Benny' is healthy, and somehow manages to travel back to his natural habitat. Here are a few record shots of this stunning mammal:

'Benny' in the sunset
Just breaking the surface

Friday 28 September 2018

People's Walk for Wildlife

22nd September 2018
Hyde Park, central London- a huge crowd, ranging from butterfly conservationists to biologists, owl enthusiasts to hunt saboteurs, waits by a gargantuan stage, with a vast array of placards and their stalls- what could this all be for? This was two hours before Chris Packham's People's Walk for Wildlife, the first peaceful protest for Britain's wildlife. All ideas about the future of Britain's environment were met here with one common goal: to have a voice. When I got there, I met Arjun Dutta, Alex Liddle, and briefly spoke to James McCulloch and Mya Bambrick (both from Birdcamp) and Alex White. In the two hours before the infotainment, I caught up with Mark Avery and Stephen Moss, got my hands on the new London National Park City map (which will help me with my 2nd edition of my London nature reserves map) and had a quick glimpse of Bill Oddie!

Alex, Arjun, my brother Aryan and I with Bill Oddie

Shortly after, my brother and I were interviewed by zoologist Lucy Cooke, which was broadcast onto the large screen next to the stage. The interview was swift, so I had no idea what to say, but managed to talk a bit about the conservation of Bitterns, and giving advice on how to campaign for wildlife. If I had known what to say, I would have spoken a lot about natural history being taught in schools, and encouraging young people to create clubs or societies related to nature. At the infotainment, compelling speeches were made by young naturalists such as Mya-Rose Craig, Dara McAnulty, Bella Lack and Georgia Locock, followed by a powerful speech by Dominic Dyer. 

I then marched with Arjun and Alex to Downing Street, but unfortunately Arjun had to leave after we had crossed onto Pall Mall. For one hour, chants of 'keep the ban' and 'stop the cull' echoed through the streets of Westminster, and I saw a Peregrine fly over the Hilton Park Lane- a reminder that central London isn't all just pigeons. After an hour, Chris Packham, Mark Avery and the inspirational George Monbiot concluded the event with gripping speeches, and Chris Packham, along with six young naturalists (including Alex) went to Downing Street itself, to deliver the People's Manifesto for Wildlife. 

What an amazing event this was, getting to be amongst thousands of others campaigning for different aspects of wildlife. The outcome? I hope all our voices would have been heard on this day.

Monday 17 September 2018

Spurn Young Birder of the Year 2018

7th September 2018
At 11am, I went to King's Cross to travel on a two-hour journey to Hull, for my first trip to Spurn Bird Observatory. This was because I was a finalist for the Martin Garner Spurn Young Birder of the Year competition. I was so excited! When I reached Hull, I travelled to an apartment in Withernsea, twenty minutes from Spurn, unpacked my things, and set off for Spurn.

When I got to the famous Crown and Anchor pub, I met with David Walsh (who was at the BTO Birdcamp this year), and we decided to try and look for Pied Flycatchers in the 'triangle' of the reserve. There was also a Rosefinch that had been spotted on Beacon Road that morning, but had flown north. We heard one in the Cemetery, but unfortunately didn't see it. However, in the fields nearby, there were a few Roe Deer, House Sparrows, Swallows and Kestrels.

Roe Deer

After nearly seeing my first Pied Flycatcher, I headed down the road to Westmere Farm, where all of the Spurn Migration Festival, or MigFest events were being held. Richard Porter, a very respected naturalist who has worked in conservation in the Middle East for decades, gave a captivating talk on the challenges facing migrating birds throughout the Middle East, and how they are being dealt with.

With Richard Porter

8th September 2018
This was the day of the competition! At 9am, the finalists, Angus Jennings, Alex Liddle, George Rabin, Jack Bradbury, Rowan Wakefield and I met in the Observatory common room, where we were given an introduction to the competition by Nick Moran (who led the BTO Birdcamp this year). Straight after, Angus, Alex and George went to do seawatching and vizmig, while Jack, Rowan and I went to do the lab test, birding on the estuary and birding in the bushes. 

I started with the lab test, where I had to identify different calls and name different feathers on a stuffed Whimbrel. When I started walking to the next assessment, another birder told me there was a Pied Flycatcher in a tree nearby. As much as I wanted to see it, I knew I had to continue with the competition. The next assessment was looking for migrants in the bushes, but unfortunately there were only Robins and Blue Tits, and I was asked questions about migrating chats. 

I then went to a private hide in someone's back garden (wow!), which faced the Humber Estuary, for the next assessment. I was asked to identify different waders, and which of them had a white rump. The older finalists, then swapped assessments with the younger ones, and we were taken by van to a different part of the reserve. On both the seawatching and vizmig, it was pouring with rain, and unfortunately I didn't get to see much, apart from my first Sandwich Terns.

Back in the common room, Jack and Angus were announced as Spurn Young Birders of the Year, and Alex and I decided to find the Rosefinch, which had been seen that morning. When we got to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre, there was a huge crowd, but no Rosefinch. It started raining again, and Alex stayed in the area where the Rosefinch was last sighted, while I met with David Walsh and walked to the Seawatch Hide, where we saw a few seals. Suddenly, someone shouted 'Rosefinch!' over a walkie-talkie, and about twenty people (including David and I) burst out of the hide, and walked briskly to the site. David focused his scope on the bird, giving us amazing views:

Common Rosefinch

Common Rosefinch

We then found Jack and his mum, and we walked along the estuary, with hopes of Purple Sandpiper. There were none, but there were many Turnstone, Dunlin and Golden Plover feeding. 

The Estuary, with a few Dunlin

Find the Turnstone

On the way back to Westmere Farm, we tried to look for Pied Flycatchers, but there was no sign of them. When we got back to Westmere, Jack's mum kindly drove us to Easington, a nearby village, to look there. Unfortunately, they weren't there either. However, Jack found a Tree Sparrow, and there were many hirundines.

A hardly visible complete record shot of a Tree Sparrow

In the evening, the awards were presented at Westmere Farm by Richard Porter and Andy Clements, director of the BTO. We all received membership to Friends of Spurn, BTO and British Birds, as well as a trophy a Sound Approach guide to birding. The winners, Angus and Jack, received Swarovski and Opticron binoculars. This has been an incredible experience, going to an amazing place and meeting lots of like-minded people, and I would definitely go to Spurn again!

The finalists

Friday 31 August 2018

Trip to Richmond Park

29th August 2018
Today I had a peaceful walk around one of London's largest green spaces, Richmond Park, armed with my new Nikon D3400. After lunch, I walked through a Skylark-protection field, on my way to the Pen Ponds. Unfortunately, I didn't see any Skylarks- that would have been a lifer!



Record shot of a Kestrel chasing a Jackdaw

Mallard chicks

Female Mandarin

Great Crested Grebe

From the Pen Ponds, I walked to a nearby stream, where the famous herds of Red Deer were feeding.

A juvenile Common Frog!

Red Deer

Red Deer grazing

Stag feeding

I then headed up King Henry's Mound, a viewpoint I'd been wanting to see for ages! From the viewpoint, you can clearly see St Paul's Cathedral, as it is one of many protected 'sightlines of St Paul's' in London, which are protected, undisturbed views of the Cathedral. As there was a huge crowd, it was very difficult to get a clear shot!

A very faint view of St Paul's

A much better shot on my brother's Coolpix L340

I'd definitely come here again, especially to try and find a Dartford Warbler!