Green revision

I got home from school after my history exam yesterday morning and I felt pretty down. I’d spent all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday revising none stop and I was just about to start again in preparation for two exams the next day.

There’s no doubt about it that anyone studying any type of exam during their school years or beyond find it tough and difficult to revise. Whether it be SATs, Mock exams, GCSEs, AS, A2 or so on. It’s a stressful time and we all long for a technique which will help us revise and get those vital facts and figures screwed into our heads. There’s a lot of pressure put on us and as someone studying their GCSEs at the moment I find it extremely overwhelming. If it’s not the teachers nagging and moaning that if we don’t do this or this then we won’t get our target grade then it’s the worry of have I done enough revision. Along with the constant worry of have I done well enough to get the grades I need to go on to do what I want to do next year. That’s without a doubt the most worrying, I’m always thinking have I done enough and what will happen if I haven’t. There’s a lot of competition nowadays for places in colleges, sixth forms, jobs and so on.

Obviously revising has a major part to play in the grades we get. You revisit what you’ve already done and try to make sure everything you need for the exam has been absorbed. At school I had a week of assemblies about revision techniques, all of which I found completely useless. If anything it was just over thinking what we should be doing and trying to make it seem something that it isn’t. Along with this there’s all talk about we need to relax and take regular breaks. This could include going to get a drink or perhaps a quick snack. Or perhaps intervals and spending time watching TV or perhaps spending time with your friends at the weekend. As I mentioned before, to me it’s all over done and it’s far from relaxed and helping. Most of the time we know these techniques. Relaxing isn’t going to happen by popping for a snack or watching TV every few hours, in my opinion it’s a massive distraction and fires you up more about the revision you’re about the go and do again. When doing things like this you block it out and don’t look forward to going back to it, your mind sees the short term and the fact that the rest of your day will be boring and not the fact that if you do well in revision you’ll do well in the exam and therefore get the grades you need. In the heat of revising you forget this. Then when you have short, block outs from it this doesn’t help either. You seem to force yourself to forget.

In our homes we’re surrounded by hustle and bustle, whether we see it or not. It might be the TV on downstairs or a car driving past. One thing I worried about when my exams approached, like many others, was will I have time to myself? Will I have time to meet with my friends or go out on a walk? Wildlife and being outdoors is my method of relaxing anyway as it’s my passion. However when I think about it, it’s much more then that. As soon as I hit the overgrown pass on my local patch everything zones out. I forget about the hustle and bustle and the traffic noise. The greenery takes me away, it’s pure. Once I’ve walked along into the wilderness more, the actual sound of traffic does go and in every direction there is nothing but nature.  When this surrounds me I can’t help but relax and completely forget about everything, including my exams. When I return home I sometimes feel like I’ve been in some sort of comma as I feel revitalised again. I’m away from all man-made things like my laptop, the TV as well as my revision and the exams. I wonder to myself what if (what if) other people in the same position as me would get the same effect, I immediately think no. The reason why I find it as a good break is because it’s something I love and other kids my age have different interests again. However I then begin to think about all the studies which show how a trip out within nature should be something a doctor should prescribe and how studies do show it reduces stress levels.

When I return home, how destressed I feel is pretty amazing. I know how much I love being out in the wilderness but surely others would feel this to a certain extent too. It really is away from EVERYTHING. Nothing in sight, nothing can be heard therefore nothing in mind. As well as this as I observe what is going on around me, I see the world around me from a different angle, an angle where everything is natural and my brain seems to switch to a different mode. A mode where I can think and see clearly. I do think about my exams but not like I would if I was sitting in front of a TV screen, I think about them from a different angle and most of all when I do so I don’t feel stressed. I’ve spoken to many people recently, my age and older, and they have said that when they feel stressed or tense they’ll go out for a walk in the countryside and this has an impact on them. When they return home they feel much better and their mind has been cleared.

Anyway, my point is going out for a walk in the countryside is something simple and easy. It’s not over thinking anything like when I’ll go and get the next chocolate bar or when I’ll watch TV or how long I’ll spend on a break. It’s simple and completely relaxing. Another example is at a school, of which I know one of the teachers. The school is a school for students with Autism. One of the things they will do most days is go out into the woodland. I’m told that these students are often tense and stressed but when they’re out surrounded by nature everything drops and it’s as though they’re reformed for a short while.

Imagine if something like this, the idea of just going out when things got stressful with exams within younger people did happen. They could go with their friends and it could become something ‘cool’. Along with this there’s no doubt that they would get to know the true feel and understanding of nature. This could be a precious thing as it would be something they may teach to their own children and something they’d do when they experience everyday stress when they’re older.

Overall it could be a win win situation. Children and young people would be taught to connect with nature as an effective way to relax, especially with the pressure of schools, then they’d grow with this and nature could be valued more throughout more young people. One of the reasons why I decided to write this post is because I’m pretty positive exploring the countryside to get away from exam pressure would be very effective for ANY young person but would they give it a go? Give it a chance and open their minds to it? Just think, how often do you go out on a walk in the countryside and see someone who’s got a sad face or look unhappy, unless it’s a farmer telling you to get off their land, it’s not very often.

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.

extra

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.

Urging your MP to stop the slaughter of wildlife

Now the general election is all over and done with and local MPs are settling in, either new ones or re-elected ones, it’s very important that we let them know how we feel about policies and issues. With the Tories running the country on their own now it’s even more worrying for our wildlife. Two main issues include the on going badger cull, which will resume in the summer, and their promise to give MPs a free vote on whether the Hunting Act should be repealed. It is rumoured that this vote could happen in a number of weeks. Obviously there are other issues facing our wildlife which we need to contact our local MPs about but these two are amongst the most worrying at this exact moment in time.

Just before the general election I did a blog post as part of A Focus on Nature’s Vision for Nature blog series. My blog was all about inspiring the next generation (click here to read it) and I emailed it round to all of my local party candidates. I was pretty pleased with the response. The response I got back from my Tory candidate was that if he got re-elected, which he was, that I should get back in touch and we could meet to discus the issues further. At that point I knew it was very obvious that he would be re-elected so when I replied I said that if we do meet I would like to discuss other issues which face our wildlife too. This should be very interesting as after doing a bit of research I discovered that he was FOR the badger cull and FOR the repeal of the Hunting Act. When the Conservatives got in I was quite reluctant to meet him as I didn’t really like the idea of meeting a Tory MP so I got in touch with the League Against Cruel Sports and they reassured me that the best way to get my opinion and concerns across was to meet with him. Due to this I got back in touch this week about it. When I do meet with him I’ll be doing plenty of blogging about how it goes.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in touch with my MP, I’ve been in touch with him and many others lots of times. I’m regularly sending emails or letters to MPs. It is really easy to do so and only ever takes a few minutes to write and send it, either by post or email. Obviously one letter or email isn’t going to make the world of difference but if we all bombard our local MPs with our views and concerns on issues like the badger cull and the Hunting Act then it WILL make a difference. After speaking to people in the past they’ve said that they don’t contact their local MP for many reasons like they don’t know what to say, it’s a waste of time, they simply can’t be bothered and many other reasons. At this time when a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act could be weeks away and the badger cull is certain to go ahead later on in the year it’s vital that we get in touch with our local MPs to get the message across and make them listen. For those who aren’t sure what to say, think it’s a waste of time, simply don’t have time or for whatever other reason I have put together a template below for you to copy and forward to your local MP. It will take a matter of minutes to do and it could make a difference so what’s to loose?! I’ve put this together for the benefit of helping to get a message across to help our wildlife so feel free to copy it or edit it to suit you but please make an effort and help make a difference, it is worth it.

Dear ——

As the MP for my constituency I am writing to you today expressing my concerns on some important issues. The natural world is important to every single one of us here in the UK and all around the world. Not only is it the fact that without it we wouldn’t be here but many of us enjoy every moment we spend when it surrounds us and find the disgusting acts of cruelty and disrespect against it very upsetting. There are many wrong doings against wildlife but today I will be writing about two main ones which I would like you to consider and speak out about as big decisions are being made about them which is very worrying. One is the repeal of the Hunting Act and the other is the badger cull which is planned to be rolled out again this year and possibly in more areas of the South West.

Men wearing red jackets, on the back of a horse, riding through the countryside blowing horns in big groups with a massive pack of dogs in the hope of ripping an innocent mammal such as a fox or hare in the most disgraceful way possible can not be classed as a ‘sport’ or ‘fun’, so definitely not legal. These are innocent creatures which deserve a place in our countryside more then anything else. They were here a lot longer before us and part of the natural world and ecosystems which help us survive. How can anyone think it is acceptable to destroy these mammals in a horrific way. We should be embracing these species for their beauty not discriminating them in the worst way possible.

There are many arguments that the Act has ‘done nothing for animal welfare’ and that it is a ‘humane method to control fox numbers’ but this is far from the truth. It’s just an excuse that the hunters can give when all they want to do is shred an innocent mammal to pieces. It’s not just myself who has this opinion, 80% of the British Public are in favour of the Hunting Act along with 86% who are against deer hunting and  88% are against hare hunting and coursing. How much more obvious could it be that the British public want this ban to be kept. Therefore if a free vote for MPs on repealing the Hunting Act does go ahead, as promised by the Prime Minister and could take place in the next few weeks, I urge you to vote to keep the Hunting Act.

As mentioned another issue which I am writing to you about today is the badger cull. Yet another summer and more innocent badgers are being killed in the unsuccessful attempt to eradicate Bovine TB. However it is most likely that this year and over the next few years that the cull will expand more and more in the South West. As the cull is going to be rolled out in a matter of months I am writing to you with my concerns about it.

It’s obvious that Bovine TB in cattle is a problem and it needs to be sorted. However culling badgers isn’t the answer, it doesn’t take a genius to work that out. Badgers are being blamed and hold responsible far too much. There are many scientific studies that tell us the cull won’t work. One study example is the Randomised Badger Cull Trial undertaken by the last government between 1997 and 2007. The results of this study concluded that “Given its high costs and low benefits, badger culling is unlikely to contribute usefully to the control of cattle TB in Britain and we recommend that TB control efforts focus on measures other than badger culling.”

Along with this a poll has revealed that the cull is the fifth most common complaint to MPs. So if scientific studies and the public don’t want it then why is it still planned to go ahead? There are better alternatives to the cull so why aren’t they being used. As well as this the cull has caused many badgers to be killed in horrific ways. This includes them taking up to ten minutes to die when they are shot free running and also wildlife criminals given the ‘green light’ for badger persecution. There’s no doubt that since the cull has began badger persecution has risen and this is due to the cull. Badgers are killed in some of the most disgusting ways you could possibly imagine. They are one of the most protected species in the UK yet they are the most persecuted.

I hope you can take into consideration what I have said and my concerns on some animal welfare issues. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,

——

To make it even easier for you here’s where you can find who your local MP is – http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

Urban Peregrine Excitement!

Over the past few weeks and months I have been observing and watching a peregrine falcon in my city centre. The bird has made its home at the Cathedral in my city centre which overlooks the city. Every evening when I have some time spare or whenever I’m making a trip down into town I’ll take my binoculars with me and take a look to see if I can spot it.

The peregrine here isn’t publicised very much but all the local people and the people that work in the area know about it. In past years they haven’t been very successful when breeding. Last year the birds were reported to have had one chick but unfortunately they found a dead bird around the grounds a few weeks after. Up until last week I only ever spotted one bird but when I visited last Sunday it was an absolute delight to see two birds!

I managed to have a chat with one of the people who work on the grounds of the cathedral and they said they found an egg shell just a few days ago which is very exciting! Unfortunately there isn’t a platform up but that hasn’t stopped them.

On Sunday, whilst walking round the cathedral, I couldn’t see it in the places where I normally see it but then I heard an awful screeching noise. As I searched the cathedral with my binoculars I found two birds. One was sitting on a ledge above the other one. This was fantastic to see and a real pleasure. As everyone down in the town got on with their shopping these two birds were presenting a different kind of drama.

I look forward to observing these birds and seeing how they get on in the next few weeks. Here’s a clip that I got.