First of all, I would like to apologise for the lack of posts recently. I will try my best to start blogging more often!
Last year I joined the wonderful East Riding RSPB Phoenix Group. It is an environmental and wildlife group for youths aged 12 to 19 years old. It is run by the East Riding's Countryside Access Team, and members of the group can simply turn up on the activities they like. I had been wanting to join for a while, so I was happy when I finally turned 12 and I was old enough! Since then I have attended many of the activities, and enjoyed absolutely all of them! They are very hands-on (exactly what I love!) and most of the time we are doing important conservation work. I always come home feeling that I have made a difference to the local wildlife.
Here's a summary of some of my favourite Phoenix activities to date:
Coastal Migration Weekend:
Every year the Phoenix group does a weekend away wildlife watching, and in 2014 we were looking at coastal migration. We learned about bird ringing, and even got to have a go at it ourselves. I loved getting up close with a great-spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), watch it being ringed, then released! As well as seeing some species that I hadn't seen before, I also got the opportunity to fully appreciate the beauty of common garden birds. It is easy to take these species for granted, but when you see them up close, even hold them, you realise what wonderful little animals they are. I particularly liked the goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) that we saw being released.
My favourite part of the whole weekend was when we were stood beside the sea, watching two amazing animals. Looking out to sea we spotted several harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) splashing about in the waves, but looking behind us to the cliffs a pair of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) could be seen!
Walking along Filey Brigg, we found several rare black oil beetles (Meloe proscarabeus), which I was particularly pleased about.
All in all, it was a lovely weekend away - perhaps my favourite Phoenix activity yet!
Wild In The Woods:
On this day we went to Millington Wood (in Pocklington) and learned how to manage an ancient woodland and also make charcoal! I learned how to use an axe to chop pieces of wood, which are then arranged in the charcoal burner. When it is lit, it starts smoking so much that it is quite difficult to go near it! We only saw a small part of the process of charcoal-making, since we were there for a day, and it takes several to get the charcoal just right. The charcoal burners can tell when it is ready just by the colour of the smoke rising out of the kiln! This was certainly a fun, educational day that I won't forget!
Winter Wildlife Day:
For this activity we went to Blacktoft Sands RSPB Nature Reserve, a wonderful place that I would highly recommend. We went right into the reed beds to do some hands-on conservation work, which was great fun! We learned how different animals depend upon reeds of different ages and sizes, so areas of the habitat are cut and burnt to allow for new growth. This makes it a very varied mosaic of reeds in various stages of growth, making habitats for many species. We had the opportunity to help out with this process, moving some of the cut reeds into piles and burning them (safely, of course!). While we were doing this we heard a bearded tit (Panurus biarmicus) making its distinctive 'TEEP . . . TEEP!' call. The winter of 2014 has been a good one for this species at Blacktoft Sands, because in this area we had little ice and snow. This means that the reed seed that the bearded tits feed on during the winter did not freeze and become difficult to get to.
In the afternoon we retreated to the bird hides to relax and watch some fascinating species. I saw over 100 widgeon (Anas penelope), as well as 2 of my favourite duck species: pintail (Anas acuta) and shoveler (Anas clypeata). I also saw a first for me, goldeneye ducks (Bucephala clangula).
We also spotted 1 kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), 1 sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), 1 hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), and 6 marsh harriers (Circus aeruginosus). The marsh harriers provided us with some interesting behaviour to observe, including one individual attempting to catch a coot (Fulica atra) paddling in one of the lagoons. We also saw a male displaying to a female in the air, doing complex loop-the-loops, to 'Wow!'s of amazement from myself and the other Phoenix members.
As you can see, I have a great time when I attend these activities, enjoying myself and often doing useful conservation work at the same time. We have cleared areas of invasive Himalayan balsam, cleaned ponds of litter, and helped coppice woodlands. If you are aged between 12-19, then I would highly recommend joining the Phoenix Group!
Until next time, keep on the wild side!