Wednesday, 4 February 2015

WWT Slimbridge - Festival of Birds 2015 Part 1



The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) Slimbridge - A Young Birder's Day at The Festival of Birds 2015




Nigel Jarrett, Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Helena Craig and
Sayam U Chowdhury (Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Project) Oct 2012

Photograph taken at WWT Slimbridge by and copyright Chris Craig


WWT Slimbridge has been holding a Festival of Birds for four years and we have been each year.  It’s been great to have such a brilliant event so close to us (just over an hour away).  There have been speakers, celebrities, stands, workshops (like drawing and photography), displays like ringing and lots of activities for younger children.



Sign at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig




This year the programme looked great, but extra special for me, because I was giving my talk as a young birder, Born to Bird. The description for my talk is:


"12 year old Mya-Rose Craig AKA Birdgirl is an avid birder, blogger and storyteller. Listen to her tales of being born into a birding family and finding her own path to becoming a world birder. Mya will recount some of her experiences and birds seen around the world, as she became the youngest person to see 3,500. She will also talk about her birding in Britain and of her desire to inspire young people to become interested in birds, wildlife and conservation."


A review from my first full length talk in September 2015 was:

"We sat through Mya-Rose's talk 'Born to Bird' at the AWT [Avon Wildlife Trust] meeting in Chew Magna this evening. Mya-Rose is absolutely mint! Not so much a breath of fresh air...more like 2 lungs full of pure oxygen! She's a natural for the speaker's circuit; bird clubs should form an orderly queue to sign her up."


I have given my talk to local groups, getting amazing reviews, but the length was fluid so could vary from 1 hour 10 minutes  to 1 hour 25 minutes.  As there were tea breaks in the middle, it was fine for me to tell my tales without worrying about timing too much.  This talk was different and I had exactly 55 minutes including questions.  With Mike Dilger from the One Show immediately before me and James Lees from WWT straight afterwards, there was no scope for over-running.  So after re-writing my talk several times, I had to practice lots of time, to make sure I was ok on the length.



Simon King with Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at WWT Festival of BIrds 2012
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


Another reason for practicing was that the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol was coming to watch me in action and film my talk.  It was just for their internal use, so I tried not to think about it!



Saturday 31st January 2015


On the day I was talking at WWT Slimbridge, I got up really early to practice and I was a little panicky because the talk was ten minutes too short.  So I wrote out a list of a few things I could add back in if the talk was getting ahead of itself.

When we arrived at Slimbridge, there were lots of people around.  We went straight outside birding, into the wild area of the reserve.  We saw waders including Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit, ducks including Teal and Pintail.  Slimbridge would be a perfect destination for birding on World Wader Day in September, Which I am Ambassador for.

I then came back inside, had a look around some stands and settled for dissecting an owl pellet.  My pellet had bones and other bits inside, which I took home.





Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig cutting owl pellets at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig cutting owl pellets at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig's owl pellet contents, at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

We then met up with the three people from the BBC who had come to see me, Aaron Sandhu, Dannie Godwin and Annie Laurie as well as Dannie’s partner Nick.  They were all really friendly and made me feel relaxed about them watching and filming me.  I loved talking to Aaron because he’s a birder but also he’s Asian and it’s rare to meet other Asian birders.



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Dannie Godwin, BBC Natural History Unit at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


As we were waiting outside the auditorium for Mike Dilger’s talk to end, he came out and immediately said hello to me and said he would catch up with me later or the next day, when I was planning to see his talk.  That was so amazing….For a big nature celebrity to know who I was!


For my talk, there were quite a few families in the audience including a few teenage girls, which was brilliant.  As a young birder, they were exactly the people I wanted to talk to about nature and my passion.



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and Copyright WWT, Sam Stafford 
with Baz Scampion's photograph of Spoon-biled Sandpiper in the background


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and Copyright WWT, Sam Stafford
with Baz Scampion's photograph of Spoon-biled Sandpiper in the background



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and Copyright Helena Craig



Although my talk seemed to me to be going really well, it is always hard to tell, as not that many people were laughing out loud.  It turned out that my talk went amazingly well and it was really cool as I had lots and lots of great positive feedback, like Slimbridge tweeted that my it was a "Truly inspiring talk". Also the teenage girls came over to tell me how much they enjoyed my talk and some younger girls wanting my autograph, which was a bit surreal.



Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and Copyright WWT, Sam Stafford
 



WWT’s CEO, Martin Spray CBE came across to me, introduced himself and took a photograph with me.  That was one of the highlights of the day, as I am sure he is ridiculously busy.



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Martin Spray CBE, WWT CEO, at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and Copyright WWT, Sam Stafford
 



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Martin Spray, WWT CEO, at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and Copyright WWT, Sam Stafford

with Baz Scampion's photograph of Spoon-biled Sandpiper in the background 



During my talk, I spoke about my love of Antarctica and about Doug Allen, an award winning and fantastic cameraman who works in the Arctic and Antarctica. After my talk I was selling some of his fantastic books, Freeze Frame. Have a look on his website dougallen.com and buy his book whilst you still can.




Doug Allan Cameraman with huskies in Greenland
Copyright Doug Allan


I was buzzing after my talk, so we went to have lunch and enjoy the high.  Slimbridge has a beautiful cafĂ© with massive windows overlooking the Flamingos, which is stunning. 


We then went out birding for bit, catching up with Golden Plover, Wigeon and Shoveler.


We came back in at 3.30 pm to hear the results of the Bird Race.  I would have loved to take part, but did not have time with my talk in the middle of the day.  There were two competitions, one for adults with a £200 first prize and one for children with a prize of lots of books, feeders and nest boxes worth £60.00. 


The winner of the children’s competition was Robert Lewis, the son of my Dad’s university friend Liz.  He’s 14 years old and was really competitive.  He has seen 72 birds (and was obviously far too busy to come and watch my talk!).  That was a fantastic result and he won the assortment of prizes which he shared with his little bro Bryn.




Bird race winners Robert Lewis and younger brother Bryn with Mike Dilger
Photograph taken by and Copyright Helena Craig


Then the winner of the adult competition was announced, Dean Reeves, who won the first prize of £200, seeing exactly the same number as Robert, 72 species.  


Mike Dilger announced the winners and took lots of photographs with them all.  He was pleased that his count of 75 birds, with James Lees during the week was not beaten. 


I then headed up to the tower at this point and saw seven cranes, as well as lots of Mallard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan and Greylag Geese and lots of other birds. We then went outside onto the reserve, as there were lots of common birds to see. We also looked for a Ferruginous Duck that had strangely been seen in the Baer’s Pochard pen.  Baer’s Pochard has become critically endangered with the wintering birds in Bangladesh now disappearing.  Something has to be done to save them from extinction.  No such luck for us, as there was no sign at all.  We did see a couple of Common Crane close up though.  We then went to South Lake and saw lots of Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Moorhen, Coot and other birds.


It was getting dark when we finally left the reserve at 5.00 pm, planning to return the next day.  As soon as I got home, I crashed into bed, exhausted from my busy day!


Sign at WWT Slimbridge
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Read WWT Slimbridge Part 2 http://bit.ly/1KsDZhN



About the writer



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on The Isles of Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig


Mya-Rose Craig is a 12 year old young birder, conservationist, writer and speaker.    She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world.  She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people.  Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter













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