Wildlife Resolutions of 2016

Completed

  • Take part in BSBI’s New Year Plant Hunt
  • Explore NT Wimpole Estate
    • Definitely managed that, although I still didn’t get to visit everywhere on the estate – but that is because it is ridiculously huge
  • Visit NT Wicken Fen
    • I went a bit further than expected – I visited and I got a job there as an assistant in the education team! I ended up working part-time at Wimpole and part-time at Wicken Fen between May – September 2017. Suffice to say I had an wonderful time because I love teaching children about nature, and I also saw lots of amazing wildlife!
  • Organise an event for AFON
    • In the summer I ran an ‘introduction to insects’ workshop for AFON members at WT BCN’s Ring Haw field station. I definitely did *not* run said workshop for my own interests … In all honesty, it was a great couple of days, and we all learnt a lot!

Kind of completed

  • Submit application to give a talk(s) at BirdFair 2016.
    • I didn’t submit an application in the end (I just missed the deadline, d’oh!). However, I did manage to end up on the main stage at BirdFair twice! First, when invited by Jess French to talk about AFON, and second, to play a mouse during the play of ‘The Jungle Book’.
  • Publish an article in a major wildlife magazine.
    • Kind of done in two ways – I have an article on moths in the Spring 2017 issue of Wildlife Watch, and I also now work at a major wildlife magazine.
  • Visit RSPB Minsmere.
    • I visited, but incredibly briefly at dusk so I don’t feel I can count this as completed!
  • Start my own collection of pinned insects.
    • Yes, in that I have two pinned insects … and then I stopped because I moved house twice and started a new job.

Not at all in any way completed

  • See 4 new species of butterfly, including Swallowtail & Black Hairstreak.
  • See and identify 5 new species of hoverfly.
  • Reach 200 on my bird life list (161 at the end of 2015).
  • Reach 500 on my moth life list (209 at the end of 2015) by BirdFair 2016 – as challenged by Dominic Couzens at BirdFair 2015.
  • Reach 1500 on my pan-species list (769 at the end of 2015).
  • Get at least one of the birds in my freezer taxidermied.
  • Sort and submit all my 2015 wildlife records.
  • Dissect and identify the dead moths in my freezer / dead insect pots.

Lucy McRobert to NowforNature

This post originally appeared on the A Focus On Nature blog on 24th December 2016.

Welcome to our 2016 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! This year, our theme is “The Gift of Inspiration”. For each day, one of our members has written a blog post about someone who has inspired them, and how that inspiration has lead to them being where they are today. Each member is a shining example of a young person who is acting Now for Nature. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I hadn’t realised what a difficult challenge I had set the writers in this Advent series until it came to writing my own post. Should I opt for my parents, as they brought me up as an outdoors child – kayaking, hiking, watching birds? Or the legendary David Attenborough for all the reasons ever? What about colleagues from my career so far? I have certainly been inspired by them!

I needed to be logical about this and follow the the Now for Nature theme. What am I doing right now for wildlife and the natural environment that has been inspired by a particular person? And then there was only one choice, and you all know who she is – AFON’s founder and former Creative Director, Lucy McRobert.

lucy-twitter-profile-pic

I first met Lucy at the AFON conference in 2014 and I was immediately impressed by her energy, enthusiasm and drive. Here was someone that was truly making a difference. Through her work, AFON has grown to be the largest youth nature network in the UK, with members invited to the launches of reports, to give presentations at conferences (including Susan Jones speaking as the support act to David Attenborough) and consulted by conservation organisations on how best to engage young people.

Members of AFON are part of a special community and network, providing support and enabling confidence. I don’t just say all this for the sake of it – I speak from personal experience. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today without being part of AFON.

Some of the AFON members, at Birdfair 2016. (c) Stephen Moss

It isn’t just Lucy’s AFON work that inspires me. In her employment as Communications Manager for the Wildlife Trusts, she has run the inspirational 30 Days Wild campaign, brightened up the social media accounts of the Wildlife Trusts (including “salacious live tweets during Springwatch and Autumnwatch” – Adam Cormack’s words, not mine), been a key part in the campaign to protect the Nature Directives, written a range of fabulous articles, and generally been an inspiration and a supportive colleague to those she works with.

On a personal level, Lucy has been an inspiration as well. I am thrilled and honoured to count as her one of my close friends. She is an excellent and no-nonsense birder. Her unbridled passion for wildlife, exemplified by having her hen do on the Isles of Scilly, has reminded me that it is ok to let my own passion shine through.

Lucy’s hens on the Bryher, twitching a Snowy Owl which is theoretically in the photo as well (c) Megan Shersby

Prior to the Snowy Owl, we also twitched an Iberian Chiffchaff on Tresco (c) Megan Shersby

Lucy McRobert’s inspiring influence has led me to pursue a career in communications. This career path was first prompted my Skills for the Future traineeship with Dorset Wildlife Trust (funded by the Heritage Lottery), and it has been a growing part of my life as I have tried to include it as much as possible within each successive employment role.

In August 2015, I became the Online & Social Media Manager for A Focus On Nature – a role that has been thrilling and challenging in equal respects. From planning the launch of the Vision for Nature report (FYI, the hashtag trended on Twitter, one of my proudest achievements), to acquiring review copies of books for our members to review, through to co-ordinating the Advent Calendars – this role has kept me incredibly busy and I have gained so much from it.

As a committee member, I am also involved with the running of AFON which has included sourcing different opportunities for our members, organising the occasional event, representing AFON at workshops and conferences, and generally trying to help with the exponential growth and wonderfulness (yes that isn’t a word, but I’m using it) of the group.

And now, I’m moving into the next stage of my communications career as an assistant at a wildlife magazine!

Megan Shersby at RSPB Ham Wall (c) Andrew Kerwick-Chrisp

I truly believe that if it hadn’t been for Lucy McRobert’s influence within my life, both professionally and personally, I wouldn’t be embarking down this wonderful road. So I have one thing left to say – thank you Lucy.

Lucy at Birdfair 2016, apparently working? (c) Zoe Broughton

Book Review: Winter – an anthology for the seasons

*This post originally appeared on the A Focus On Nature blog*


Thus far the Season anthologies from E&T and The Wildlife Trusts have been wonderful reads, and when Winter alighted on my doormat, I had my fingers crossed for more literary delights.

I always struggle with winter as a season. Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder for years, and more recently, year-round depression, winter is a difficult time. The light is minimal, the temperature bitter and there are no insects to cheer me up. I was hoping that the Winter book would help to remind me of why this frosty season is actually worth appreciating, and perhaps even worth looking forward to.

Winter cover.indd

I am sure that the editor, Melissa Harrison, spent a long time deciding which order to put the chapters in. However, as with the previous books, I couldn’t resist dipping into a random chapter within the book each time I picked it up. Each chapter is an aforementioned literary delight, and there are different styles throughout the book – diary entries, letters, poetry and prose.

“The wind made whips of the dwarf willows … The spines of the marram grasses scratched wildly at the rushing air, which passed over the hollows where larks and linnets crouched with puffed feathers”

Reading through the chapters, there were sentences that struck a chord. Be it amusing, or philosophical in tone, each of these phrases resonated within me. Some brought memories to the fore – when reading the passage featured above by Henry Williamson (Tarka the Ottter), I was transported back to exploring the sand dunes of Kenfig NNR in south Wales, hearing the wind whistling through the grass and the dunes. In contrast, Richard Adams’ phrase about wild flowers made me smile and almost laugh out loud, even though I was on public transport at the time. And how true his words are, I remember taking part in BSBI’s New Year Plant Hunt and the pleasant surprise of flowers in bloom despite the frosty cold spread across the landscape.

“Wild flowers are like pubs. There are generally one or two open somewhere, if only you look hard enough.”

One particular sentence that resonated was this by Elizabeth Guntrip; “In nature, in solitude, I find an inner strength.” With recent turnabouts in my own life, I was struck by how true this sentence was for me, and how often I have turned to nature in the past few months for that strong feeling of connection that grounds me and firms my resolve.

One of the most enthralling delights of this book (and those before it), was discovering the creative talents of friends. I read with intrigue and suspense as Lucy McRobert (Founder and former Creative Director of AFON) writes “Then, without pomp or fanfare, the spectre appears unannounced, materialising from the marsh”. A few pages before, I had giggled to myself trying to imagine the self-described “pimply over-excited teenage naturalist in the summer of 1985” of her husband, Rob Lambert, when meeting Sir Peter Scott. In other chapters, I stepped beneath the boughs and met woodland creatures accompanied by Tiffany Francis, and felt warmed by a mug of soup and the marine treasures with Sophie Bagshaw.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I have vastly enjoyed reading Winter and in doing so, I have been reminded that this season of cold sunlight and long nights is actually a beautiful season in its own right. I look forward to going into this coming winter now, in the knowledge that there is interesting wildlife and stunning landscapes to find and appreciate – as long as I remember to wrap up warm!

A look back at all four books

Suffice to say, the Seasons anthologies are different amongst my favourite books and not just because I have chapters in two of them. Each one is a world to enter and explore, to read about familiar and unfamiliar experiences.

I can’t help but compare the chapters within these anthologies to wine tasting. The initial opening of the book to a chapter, is that swirl of the wine in the glass, odd words catching the light within the depths of the text. Your eyes settle on the first paragraph, and you visually drink in the words, discovering the aroma of the particular chapter chosen. The following paragraphs are the sips, where you swirl the words around in your mouth, certain phrases seemingly like the deep fruity notes of wine. Here the analogy falls down slightly, because you don’t spit out the final part of the chapters as in wine tasting. However, I dislike spitting out wine anyway so on a personal note, this analogy still works for me with the final paragraphs swallowed enthusiastically, leaving the aftertaste on your tongue. You long for more, perhaps going back to try out that chapter again, or moving on to something with a different flavour.

When reading these books, especially if I’m in the city at the time, I ache to be outside somewhere wild and glorious – be it running through wildflower meadows or dipping my toes in the sea. Reading other reviews, and discussing the anthologies with friends, I know that I’m not the only one to feel this way and I am thoroughly impressed by everyone involved for creating such wonderful books. And I am grateful to them for doing so.

Megan Shersby is a naturalist, blogger and (amateur) pan-species lister. She is a committee member of A Focus On Nature, working as their Online & Social Media Manager. She is currently living in London, but will soon be moving to Bristol to start a new and exciting job. She is passionate about inspiring others to explore the natural world. You can follow her on Twitter at: @MeganShersby, or via her blog at: mshersby.wordpress.com

Life goes on

I haven’t managed to write a blog post for three months now, which is just crazy. Due to a combination of being incredibly busy at work, very busy with A Focus On Nature work and some not-so-great stuff happening in my personal life, I haven’t had the time to write. And when I have, the latter has meant that I am not feeling particularly inspired either.

I hope that everything will calm down and sort itself out soon, and that I can return to writing. If so, it is likely that posts will be sporadic for a while before I manage to make a regular posts again. Until then, you can see what I have been up to in the past few months below (most recent first). I haven’t managed to include anywhere near everything I have been up to, but it will give you a flavour of how busy I have been!

 

#30DaysWild – Days 24 – 30

I had a manic few days to finish off the month of June and thus 30 Days Wild – pond dipping, moth trapping, butterfly chasing … the usual stuff really. Rather than go through all 6 days, I have included the highlights below.

Day 24

Day 25

Day 28

Day 30

#30DaysWild – Day 23

Another day at Wicken Fen today with another school group. I was leading two of their activities today: pond dipping and a guided walk on the Fen.

However in other news, this week is National Insect Week and today I published my post for the A Focus On Nature blog about NIW and how AFON members can get more involved with this fascinating group. Read the my post here.

#30DaysWild – Days 15 – 22

Ok, so I fell behind somewhat on my #30DaysWild blogging – oops! Not to worry though, I have been connecting with nature every day despite being busy with work, AFON bits and pieces, and general life stuff. I won’t go into every single wild act that happened every day, so here is a summary, shown through my tweets.

Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera)! ❤ ❤ ❤

Somehow, and after quite a bit of searching, I found the Bee Orchid from last week again. And in fact, I found a further 6 plants! Then later that day, I was informed of two more locations of Bee Orchids on the estate, which is fantastic news indeed.

 

I was able to put the moth trap out at Wimpole for the first time in ages (since I need to be there two days in a row to run the trap). There wasn’t much, but I did catch this beautiful Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda).