A trip to Springwatch at Minsmere

On Wednesday morning I was up very early as I had a five hour car journey ahead. I was off to RSPB Minsmere reserve which is along the Suffolk coast. But this wasn’t mainly for a trip to visit and explore the fantastic reserve, I was also going to the Springwatch HQ to feature on the 4.30 Extra show with Lindsay Chapman.

This was very exciting for me as I’d never been to Minsmere before but I’d heard about how much of a great reserve it is from Springwatch and online. I was also very excited as when I visited Leighton Moss back in Autumn for Autumnwatch I had a brilliant day and I was certain today wasn’t going to be anything less!

After leaving the house at 6.30 we eventually arrived at about 12.30, on the way we didn’t see much apart from a red kite along the A14 somewhere. When I got there I headed straight out to do some filming. I wasn’t too fussed though as we went out onto the reserve and explored a woodland area for any signs of varies species and to see where a good spot would be to put my trail camera up. Even though I didn’t actually leave a camera there it was still very exciting as there were plenty of signs about and the woodland was thriving with different species. As we were walking through we spotted a woodpecker nest and a male blackcap which was making a delightful racket. Once I’d met back with my family again we went off to observe the reserve even more.

Our first stop was Bittern Hide. As soon as we got there and looked out over the reed beds I saw a marsh harrier flying and hovering about and two hobbies which put on a fantastic display for us. As we only had a couple of hours we carried on our way and bumped into a friend of mine, Jason Alexander (Wildlife Gadget Man) who was with another man from the Suffolk Amphibian and Reptile Group. They were walking around with a special piece of kit which they were using to track down the adders they’d radio tagged. For a while we joined them to see how it works and what they were actually doing. It was very interesting to see how it works and how they use the data to discover new things about the adders on the Minsmere reserve. I even got to have a go myself and a bit later on we went along with them to watch an adder they’d caught be radio tagged which was later released on the programme. It was really fascinating to see how it works and how they put the tags on – real life science!

snake tracking

When heading back to the Springwatch HQ before I featured on Extra we also heard a bittern booming. In the past I’ve seen a bittern but I’ve never actually heard one booming. It was a really fascinating sound and quite odd. We weren’t too far from the bird and it actually felt like my body was shaking because of how low pitch it was.

Once back at the HQ I waited patiently for my cue to go onto the show. When I was on I spoke about a variety of things. This included trail cameras and a bit of science behind the species I film, urban wildlife including the pied wagtails in my local city centre, the BBC Wildlife Magazines Top 50 Conservation Heroes list, and some things about young peoples attitudes to nature and what studies show about how many children are engaged with it. I have attached the clip for Extra below. I had a really great chat with Lindsay, she was very welcoming and friendly along with everyone else on the Springwatch Crew and who work at the Minsmere reserve. I managed to have a good chat with a few familiar faces and met some new people too.


Once my time on Extra was over I managed to spend some more time on the reserve, have a chat with a few more people and get ready to appear in the Unsprung audience. When I got back last night I read some comments on social media about Unsprung as it has caused a bit of a stir. However I thought it was great, very funny! It isn’t as serious as the main show and they still spoke about some interesting topics. It was also fantastic to see Vic Reeves as one of the guests. They spoke about his hidden passion for wildlife which was something different for the show. I was a massive fan of his latest series that he featured in, House of Fools and think that he’s really funny so I enjoyed the show a lot! In fact I don’t think I could of chosen a better Unsprung to have been in the audience of!

Overall it was a very action packed day and I really enjoyed myself. I had a lovely walk around the reserve and it was also very exciting to spend time within the Springwatch HQ and studios. On the way back home, yesterday morning, we popped into see Jason Alexander (Wildlife Gadget Man) who if you didn’t see on The Great British Garden Watch has a superb garden with cameras set up at every corner filming a variety of species from blackcaps to hedgehogs. You can see more of what he does here.

Here is a link to Springwatch Extra which I appear on, if you skip to the 40 minute mark you can watch me there – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05xwdnq/springwatch-extra-2015-9-afternoon-27052015

You can also watch Unsprung by clicking here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05x6gm8/springwatch-unsprung-2015-episode-3

I’d also like to share some exciting news which is that myself and another young naturalist, Josie Hewitt, will be taking part in one of the Special Evening Events at the Rutland Birdfair this year, on Friday 21st August. We’ll be guiding three well-known conservationists, Chris Packham, Nick Baker and Simon King, through a series of questions in front of an audience of about 500+ people. The reason why I’m sharing this now is because tickets have just become available. You can buy them and find out more about the event by clicking here.


The New Arrivals

As you may have seen from my latest blog last Friday night I filmed some badger cubs at a local sett for the first time this year. The Saturday before I had set my cameras up and there was no sign of any cubs so when I filmed them on the following Friday night that was obviously one of the first times they’d emerged from the sett this year.

I was very pleased with the footage as not only is it extremely cute but it shows a variety of behaviour. From the cubs playing and fighting with each other to a few clips of the adult badgers having a comical scratch. As I didn’t get back from the Badger Trust Seminar until late on Saturday I put my trail camera back up on Sunday evening then collected it before school the next morning. It was great to collect it before school as it was a fantastic start to the day due to it being a beautiful morning, there were swallows about and I was really excited to see what I got on my trail camera!

Once again it was good stuff. This time I’d put the camera lower down so the cubs were much more curious and I managed to get some great footage.

It’s also really interesting to compare my footage to that I got this time last year. A year ago, almost to the day, I filmed three cubs at the same sett so they were a bit later then this year but not much. You can see last years footage by clicking here.

Here’s some of my favourite clips from last weekend –

SHOUT! (Malta’s Referendum)

Yesterday was a strange day. When I went to bed on Saturday night, I was very pleased after watching some badgers at a local sett, wondering what I’d get on my trail camera and curious into what the result of the vote in Malta about spring hunting would be. For some reason it seemed obvious to me that they’d vote ‘NO’ for many different reasons. For example the terrible consequences it has on the decline of many birds, whether it’s in Malta or wherever the bird is migrating to, the other wildlife affected, the fact that forests have been wiped out or maybe the fact that Malta seems to be referred to as the place with this disgusting slaughter of birds. The list of reasons voting ‘NO’ is endless.

I was up nice and early yesterday morning to collect my camera, eager to see what I had filmed and wandering if the cubs had appeared yet. I was very pleased with the footage. Unfortunately no cubs just yet but they shouldn’t be long now.

After looking through all my footage I refused to get ready to go out before I found out the result of the vote for the spring hunting in Malta. I sat patiently at my laptop screen. Refreshing every minute or so on Twitter and reading through all the articles that were published. It was very tense as I think, along with many others, that ending the slaughter of birds in Malta is essential.

Malta is a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the natural place for exhausted birds to rest as they make their long migrations between Africa and Europe. These birds are an easy target for the 10,000 bird hunters that occupy the countryside of Malta and each year countless birds are shot out of the sky in spring and autumn. Spring hunting is especially damaging to wild birds because these are the birds which have survived the winter in Africa and are flying back to Europe to nest and provide the next generation of birds.

The spring hunting of quail and turtle dove is an activity which is banned across Europe but still remains in Malta.  According to the hunter’s own report, 4,131 turtle dove and 637 quail were shot during the spring season of 2014.

The turtle dove has become increasingly rare following rapid population declines. The species is now included on the Red List of conservation concern meaning there are concerns that the species could become extinct in the UK within a decade. That’s just in the UK. There has been a 70% decline of these birds since the 1970s. One of the reasons because of this is due to hunting. They also hunt the birds during the Autumn but this doesn’t have as much impact as during the spring as then they are travelling to breed. Hunting these birds on their way to breeding grounds results in not only one bird dying but their offspring too.

Furthermore, a bird will reproduce every year, say for at least five years and hence the number of unborn chicks is multiplied. This results in the destruction of a whole generation. For example, if 4,131 birds were shot dead last Spring alone.  So, say each bird raised five young over five years, excluding the fact the birds will be male and female and turtle doves also have  problems with breeding due to habitat and food loss, that’s 20,655 unborn chicks over five years just from the birds shot in the 2014 spring hunting season. It is estimated that only 14,000 pairs breed in the UK every year. Now if you compare them figures it’s pretty obvious that the Spring hunting is having a massive impact on the decline of turtle doves, not just in the UK but for the species as a whole.

Then when the birds are travelling back for the Winter, away from Europe, the birds that did survive and their offspring could be shot anyway. They have no chance.

But turtle doves aren’t the only species that’s suffering. As I stated before, the spring hunting is targeted at turtle doves and quail. Common quail are also in decline. But, as well as shooting these birds, many Maltese hunters also use the spring hunting as an opportunity to target rare and protected species of birds that breed in Europe, such as Pallid Harriers, Cuckoos and Bee-eaters. The hunters like to pretend that the problems with shooting birds is only affecting Malta but this isn’t the case. Many of the birds targeted by hunters are the subject of big international conservation projects to increase their numbers where they breed. Other bird species are in fact not breeding in Malta simply because they are either being killed or because they are scared away by the continuous shooting.  Along with this, sound pollution also disturbs other animal species that breed in the spring.

I hope you can see that the spring slaughter of thousands of migrating birds is disgusting. How hunters can go out and shoot down migrating birds, which don’t even belong to Malta, and get pleasure from that along with knowing that not only turtle doves and quail are in rapid decline but so are many of the other birds they shoot which fly over. If this doesn’t stop then we will see birds becoming extinct.

Malta made the wrong decision yesterday morning. The spring hunting will go on. The persecution of birds which are becoming missing from European countries will continue. For me, along with many others, this was terrible news. The hunters really have no idea. When will they realise what they are doing and stop. I hope that this happens before it becomes too late. I’ve never seen a turtle dove yet the hunters in Malta may see a flock go over during the spring hunting season and shoot them all dead with no guilt or understanding whatsoever.

However it isn’t all bad news. People in Malta do want this slaughter to end. The margin of victory was tiny – 50.44% to 49.56%.

This isn’t the end though. Fantastic charities and organisations made this referendum happen and they won’t give up. They’ve got this far and we won’t give up either. Two of these charities are SHout and BirdLife Malta.

If you would like to help or get involved you can

  • Write to your local MEP and ask them to support this urgent call for action to stop spring hunting in Malta – click here
  • Share the word about the campaigns of SHout and BirdLife Malta. Perhaps on Facebook or Twitter, with the hash tag #stopspringhunting
  • Join BirdLife Malta and support their work for birds and nature in the Maltese Islands.

Whilst on Twitter and reading the articles about the referendum in Malta yesterday morning it was fantastic to see so much support, especially from fellow young people. However I did see some comments about boycotting Malta. I don’t think boycotting Malta is the answer. Yes we are angry, so am I but we need to use our anger wisely and turn it into a positive energy. As you can see a lot of people in Malta are against the spring hunting and they have some fantastic charities against it too. It doesn’t help that the Government in Malta are pro the hunting. I think the best option is to work with them and help where we can. By making ourselves heard, shouting above the noise and not giving up, we will win.

Signs of Spring: Part Two

This afternoon I decided to take a well earned break from my revision and go to the RSPB reserve, Middleton Lakes.

The sun was shining, it was turning out to be a brilliant afternoon and Spring was definitely in the air! At the first pond we came to there was about ten different toads. They were all swimming about and enjoying the sunshine. This was the first time I’ve seen a toad this year and it got better as we then saw a common and a great crested newt!

Common newts, also known as smooth newts, are the most common newt of the three species which we get in the UK. Whereas the Great Crested newt is far more rare and localised. During the breeding season males develop a large, jagged crest, giving the species its name. All of the UK newts are protected but the crested newt is heavily protected as they are categorised as ‘lower risk’. In all three species declines have been observed, the reason for this is most likely to do the loss of many ponds across the UK.

Whilst walking round I also heard some woodpeckers drumming, plenty of butterflies including brimstone and peacock, and I saw some more Spring flowers, including crocuses and my first bluebell of the year!

Here are some photos that I took.



heronryA Heronry





IMG_5390King Alfred’s Cake Fungus – perhaps not a typical sign of Spring!