Tuesday, 22 July 2014

BTO Conference

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ringing Demonstration by Jez Blackburn
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

At the end of April, I attended a Conference at the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) in Norfolk with A Focus on Nature (AFON).  They had planned birding workshops and I was giving a presentation.  The BTO is a charity dedicated to researching British birds (including Ringing Scheme) and AFON is a network supporting young nature conservationists.

When I am nervous, I find it hard to write to deadlines.  I kept putting off writing my talk and wrote about two paragraphs on the plane back from Jamaica.  We were driving straight to Norfolk from the airport, so I wrote frantically in the car, trying to get it finished, which I managed to do by the time we got there.  There were a few other young birders and their families staying at the same bed and breakfast as us, so it gave us all a chance to chat before the conference itself.

The next morning, breakfast was pretty relaxed and we were joined by a few more people.  When we arrived at the BTO Head Quarters, I met their Director, Dr Andy Clements.  That was really exciting as he is one of the most influential people in birding and conservation in the World.  Lots of the BTO staff introduced themselves and it was really inspiring that there were so many young women who were working as researchers. 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at ringing demo by Jez Blackburn
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

We spent the morning attending workshops on ringing, surveys, nest recording and improving bird identification skills.  That was really interesting and I learned a lot.  After lunch, there were seven people talking about “what birding means to me”.  I was the youngest along with another girl who was talking about ringing.

During the morning, I felt like I was on the edge of a panic attack; what if everybody else had memorised their talks?  What if the power point malfunctioned?  What if people didn’t laugh at my jokes?  I managed to think of everything that could go wrong, plus another hundred.  There were fifty people in the audience from the BTO and AFON, including Andy Clements.  By the time I had to go and sit at the front with the other six people, I wanted to run away and hide.  The only reason I didn’t do just that was because I was sitting next to Matt Bruce, from Next Generation Birders, a group for young birders. Matt was the oldest speaker and in his early twenties.  He was giving his talk after me and was still writing his talk whilst waiting.  He was asking me for my thoughts and opinion, which gave me a lot of confidence.

The young people up before me talked about birding, ringing and bird photography. They were all great but I didn’t think any of them had any jokes…had I got the tone of the talk wrong?

When it was my turn, I walked up to the front and realised the microphone was too tall.  There was nothing I could do now.  Also, I was standing behind a lectern and you could hardly see me over the top!  I started talking about myself, birding and World birding.  I talked about some the things that have happened along the way, which will be a whole new blog.  People were laughing at my jokes and seemed to like my funny slides, which made me feel more confident.  After a while, although I was still feeling nervous, I got into the flow of things and felt much better.

Despite feeling so nervous, I would really like to give a talk again soon.  The conference was a really good experience for me and I loved meeting so many young birders like me.  Hopefully, I can stay in contact with some of them.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at the ringing demo by Jez Blackburn
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Chasing Geese

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Chew Valley Lake
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

On the 24th June, the Chew Valley Ringing Station did their yearly roundup of Canada Geese to ring them.  My Dad, Chris Craig, went much earlier than me to help with the setting up and rounding up of the geese with boats.  Some people had been there all day, getting set up.  It's a huge operation, with all the kit being brought from the Ringing Station to the banks of the lake.

My Mum and I got there at 6.00 pm and still had to wait an hour at least before the ringing began.  Our job was to hold and carry the birds for the ringers.  First we had to go where the birds were kept. It was here that the birds were being sexed, once we were told the birds gender, the carrier had to take them to the ringers. At the ringing table, we had to say the sex and whether or not they needed a ring. As they were being ringed, we had to hold the birds tight. I can tell you from experience that they are ferocious little beasts. People SAY that you hold them with their heads behind your back is so they're easier to ring, but in reality, we all know its so the people carrying don't get permanently damaged.  All they can bite or peck is your back, though as the geese are really flexible, it might be able to reach your neck (though their favourite was to pull my hair). But if their head was at the front of your body, they would probably peck out your eyes or maul your stomach or something.  So any way, after they bird is ringed (which can take a good 5 minutes), you go to they weighing area. Here they write down the ring number and the birds weight before letting them go. Then I had to go back and repeat the process. By the time we finished at 8.00 pm, my arms were aching and I had a scratch and lots of bites. I then had to go home to do some homework, whilst Dad didn't get home until almost 10.00 pm.

Really, it was loads of fun.  I mean, how cool is holding a goose?

Chris Craig and Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Chew Valley Lake
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

The ringers and helpers at Chew Valley Lake
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

The boats used to round up the Canada Geese at Chew Valley Lake
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

The Canada Geese ready to be sexed and ringed
Photograph taken by Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Some of the ringers at Chew Valley Lake
Photograph taken by Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig holding a feisty Canada Goose whilst Chris Craig rings it
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Meadow on the banks of Chew Valley Lake
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

You can see from the photographs that the location on the bank of Chew Valley Lake was really beautiful, with the most amazing wildflower meadow that we were careful not to walk in.