California, USA – Week 2 (1 August – 8 August 2016)

California, USA – Week 2 (1 August – 8 August 2016)

Before we arrived in California, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After spending two weeks here, so far, it had been amazing for birds though a little bit tough to find them in this quiet period after breeding when many birds stop singing and disburse from their breeding sites. The views have also been really amazing especially in Yosemite NP.

On Tuesday 2 August 2016 we spent our second day at the stunning Yosemite NP. The park was the first one set up in the USA 150 years ago. This time we took the higher road stopping at Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, which were stunning. We had the added bonus that there were a lot fewer people in this area and loads more birds. The best bird of the day was Mountain Bluebird, which was scarce after they had finished breeding and feeding young.


Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Mountain Bluebird at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Mountain Bluebird at Yosemite NP, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Although there were very few African American people at this park (maybe because it was midweek and it has a relatively high entrance fee of $30) we met a lovely young African American Ranger, who was really inspiring.

That day, in the late afternoon, we left Yosemite NP on the northeastern road and dropped into Lee Vining in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, with its surrounding canyons and the huge Lake Mono. We had very little knowledge about the birds in this area but went into a tourist information shop where we met staff who were very knowledgeable on local birds and so left with a plan for the following day.

On Wednesday 3 August 2016 we set out early. Our first stop was Bodie, now a ghost town, but in the time of the gold rush a huge town. On the way, we saw a stunning Pinyon Jay.  We saw our target birds, 5 Sage Grouse which were hiding under a building, as well as having a look around this interesting place.


Greater Sage Grouse at Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Pinyon Jay on dirt road to Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Chris Craig at Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Clark’s Nutcracker at Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Sage Thrasher at  Bodie, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Next was Mono Lake where we finally caught up with American Avocet but several hundred of them. It was another hot day but we still spent the afternoons at some small pools, which were like a little oasis with lots of fabulous birds including Yellow-headed Blackbird and Virginia Rail.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


American Avocet at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Bewick’s Wren at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Northern ‘Red-shafted’ Flicker at Mono Lake, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Thursday 4 August 2016 in the morning we visited Lundy Lake and Canyon which were stunning. We were still in the eastern Sierra Nevada and it was great to see the Beaver dams along the river. There was still no sign of American Dipper but we saw lots of fantastic birds including Townsend’s Solitare.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lundy Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lundy Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lundy Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Then in the afternoon, we birded at Lee Vining Canyon where we did see a gorgeous Red-breasted Sapsucker.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Red-breasted sapsucker at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Red-breasted sapsucker at Lee Vining Canyon, California
Photography copyright Mya-Rose Craig

From here we drove south to stay the night in Lone Vining, famous for the concentration camp that Japanese Americans were kept during WW2 and for Hollywood westerns being filmed nearby.

On Friday 5 August 2016 in the morning, we woke up in the little town of Lone Pine in the Southern Sierra Nevada. We visited a local overgrown field as we had heard of a couple of birds seen from there. There, we bumped into a local birder, Russell Kokx, who was a biologist. He was really kind and friendly, showing us the birds on his local patch, around town and two new hummingbirds for us on his feeders at home. It was an amazing morning to have seen these birds and met Russell and so a big thank you.


Russell Kokx, Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Helena Craig at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Anna’s Hummingbird  at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Anna’s Hummingbird at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Black-chinned Hummingbird at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

From Lone Pine, you could see the view to Mount Whitney, which is around 4,300 meters and is the highest peak in the lower 48 (states).


Mount Whitney from Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Lone Vining, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

We then spent the afternoon birding en-route south, in the heat. One stop was at Cactus Flats with lots of Joshua Trees, where we saw Cactus Wren

We also stopped at Diaz Lake and then Isabella Lake where we saw Tri-coloured Blackbird.


Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet at Diaz Lake, California
Photography copyright Mya-Rose Craig

The last stop was Sequoia National Forest South of Lone Pine, which was absolutely beautiful and this was where we finally saw an American Dipper. It was another hot day and so it was great to celebrate our newest bird by hanging our legs in the cool water.


Sequoia National Forest , California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Sequoia National Forest, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Sequoia National Forest, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Friday night we stayed in the town of Bakersville. After 10 days in California, we had seen 178 birds and 103 of them have been new for me, taking my world list to 4,342.

On Saturday 6 August 2016 in the morning, we left Bakersville and stopped west of Mount Piños. Here we saw a Horned Lark as well as lots of oil derricks. It was really hot, so there was virtually no bird activity.


Derricks. West of Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Derricks. West of Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Horned Lark West of Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

We then headed up to the top of Mount Piños, seeing 7 Californian Condor on the way. The best bird of the day was definitely White-headed Woodpecker.

On Sunday 7 August 2016, we spend our second day at Mount Piños, which was an excellent day of birding. The best bird of the day was Mountain Quail.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Mount Pinos, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Next, we drove to Ventura on the coast, West of LA, where we stayed the night. We were in planning to get a boat the next morning from Ventura to the tiny island of Santa Cruz for a very special bird.

We started the day on Monday 8 August 2016 by birding on the beach at Ventura before visiting the Settling Pools. These were great and we saw birds like Wood Duck there.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Saline Pools, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Wood Duck at Ventura Saline Pools, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Saline Pools, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

We then got a boat to Santa Cruz Island where we saw the best bird of the day, the endemic Island Scrub-jay.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Santa Cruz Island, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Santa Cruz Island, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Island Scrub-jay at Santa Cruz Island, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

That evening we walked along the beach at Ventura and caught this stunning sunset. We also saw and photographed Snowy Plover, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs and Elegant Tern. It would be amazing if one of these turned up on my local patch at home.


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Snowy Plover at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Willet and Marbled Godwit at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Lesser Yellowlegs at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig


Elegant Tern at Ventura Beach, California
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

About The Author

Hi, I’m Dr. Mya-Rose Craig. I am a 19-year-old prominent British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, diversity activist as well as an author, speaker and broadcaster. At age 11 I started the popular blog Birdgirl, and at age 17 I became the youngest person to see half of the birds in the world.

Buy My Book

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Find Out More

To find out more about working with me or to buy my book, please use the links below.

Work With MeBuy Book

California, USA – Week 1 (26 Jul-1 Aug 2016)

California, USA – Week 1 (26 Jul-1 Aug 2016)

Before our trip, I was really looking forward to birding in the USA over summer, across California, Arizona and New York City.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on flight to San Francisco

At age 14, my world list is 4232 and I was hoping to see at least a couple of hundred new bird species in our month away. It would be fantastic to see a few new hummingbirds as well, as I am trying to see all the hummingbirds of the bird. I am also hoping to add a load more flags for the USA onto my wall world map.

We flew from London Heathrow direct to San Francisco with United Airlines on Tuesday 26 July 2016 on a day flight. Usually, we tend to fly on night flights and so it was was great to watch 6 films without hassle from my parents.

We arrived in San Francisco the same day on Tuesday 26 July 2016 and travelled across to stay with our friends in Oakland, California. Our friends, Dave and Daphne and their lovely girls were great hosts. On Wednesday 27 July 2016, we collected our hire care and then had our first full day birding around Oakland which is across the Bay from San Francisco. First, we birded along The Bay and then into the mountains behind Oakland. We saw lots of new birds including Wilson’s Warbler one of the birds I really wanted to see.  What more can you ask than a bird with Wilson in the name?

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, San Leandro Bay Regional Shoreline, California

 

Jack-tailed Jackrabbit, Hayward, California

The next day, Thursday 28 July 2016, we birded back up in the hills above Oakland before having a fantastic day visiting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco with lots more birding in that area. The best bird of the day was Hammond’s Flycatcher. From here, we travelled to Monterey Bay, where we were doing a boat trip the next day.

Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco Bay, California

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

 

Red-tailed Hawk, Lands End, San Francisco

American Coot, Lands End, San Francisco

 

American Coot, Lands End, San Francisco

Hermann’s Gull, Lands End, San Francisco

 

Lighthouse, Pigeon Point, California

 

Seal, Pigeon Point

 

Brandt’s Cormorant, Pigeon Point

 

Friday 29 July 2016 was an unforgettable day on one of the famous Debi Shearwater’s Californian Pelagics out of Monterey Bay. It was interesting to meet Debi, who was Annie Auklet in my favourite film, They Big Year with Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson. Debi has been running pelagics (boat trips to open seas looking for birds) from the coast of California for over 40 years (http://shearwaterjourneys.com/). The best birds from the trip were Scripp’s Murrelet and Black-footed Albatross with my first two huge Blue Whales and also Fin and Humpback Whales.

 

Male and Female Sea Otter,  Monterey Bay, California

 

Male and Female Sea Otter mating, Monterey Bay, California

 

Pigeon Guillemot, Monterey Bay

 

Californian Sealion, Monterey Bay, California

 

Black Oystercatcher, Monterey Bay, California

 

Sun Fish, Monterey Bay, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Debi Shearwater on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Blue Whale on Pelagic from Monterey Bay, California

 

Blue Whale, apparently it is rare to see them fluke with their tale
on Pelagic from Monterey Bay, California

 

Black-footed Albatross on Californian Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Black-footed Albatross on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Pink-footed Shearwater on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Pink-footed Shearwater on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

Rhinoceros Auklet on Pelagic
from Monterey Bay, California

 

We were planning to travel south from Monterey Bay to The Big Sur, for Californian Condor but there was a huge forest fire out of control and blocking the road and reserves. Debi suggested that we go to The Pinnacles National Monument instead, but warned us it would be hot into the day.

Saturday 30 July 2016 we were up early and birded at The Pinnacles National Monument in California. The highlight was 3+ Californian Condor. It was fantastic to see these birds after recovery from extinction in the wild. Today was my Dad, Chris Craig’s birthday and so the Condor’s were a great birthday present. In the evening it was 90 degrees at 7.30 pm, so it was a balmy night for us.

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at The Pinnacles National Monument

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig watching 3 Californian Condor
at The Pinnacles National Monument

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at The Pinnacles National Monument

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Chris Craig at The Pinnacles National Monument

 

The Pinnacles National Monument, California

 

First of many Stellar’s Jay during the trip, Pinnacles National Monument

 

Temperature at The Pinnacles National Monument

 

The morning of Sunday 31 July 2016, we started our day birding at Lake Luis, Basalt Camp. The campsite had sections of trees, amongst the desert about it.  Here we found our target, a Californian endemic, Yellow-billed Magpie.

It was interesting for birds here as we flushed birds from the small woods, which held over twenty Barn Owl as well as other birds of prey.  We searched for other owls in the heat of the day with no luck.

It was also really uplifting to bird in a campsite where virtually all the families were African Americans. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see this in the UK one day?

We then spent the rest of the day birding in this central Californian area seeing some specialised birds.

 

Yellow-billed Magpie at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Yellow-billed Magpie at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Barn Owl at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Swainson’s Hawk at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Red-tailed Hawk at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Western Yellow-bellied Racer snake at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Western Yellow-bellied Racer snake at Lake Luis, Basalt Campsite, California

 

Osprey, Lake Luis, California

 

Great Blue Heron, Los Banos Wildlife Centre, California

 

On Monday 1 August 2016, we spent the day birding on the southern end of Yosemite (pronounced U-cem-eti) NP, which is east of San Francisco. It was difficult birding as the park had lots of people in it and birds seemed quiet post-breeding. We birded up the road to Glacier Point, seeing a handful of new species by the end of the day. A common but great looking bird for the day was Audubon’s Warbler.

Then something amazing happened; as we were waiting in the shop, my old teacher from primary school (with only 70 pupils) Mrs Jo Brady came up to us with her children. A fantastic coincidence!

After catching up, we went for a walk on the highest path. We were pishing as we birded (though mainly Dad). That’s when you make a p’shing noise that birds hopefully come out to investigate. However, here Dad got more than he bargained for when a ground squirrel came close to him, sat on a rock and started shouting at him. Not a good plan with some carrying fleas infected with the plague.

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Yosemite NP, California

 

Yosemite NP, California

 

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Chris Craig at Yosemite NP, California

 

Audubon Warbler, Yosemite NP, California

 

Ground Squirrel at Yosemite NP, California

 

Ground Squirrel at Yosemite NP, California

 

It was a really wonderful first week of our trip. I had only spent a day birding in Atlanta, Georgia in 2012 on our way from South America when I saw 64 bird species and 60 new birds. The trip has started well with 136 birds seen and I’m really hoping to see 200 new species on this trip.

 

A great road trip, California

 

About The Author

Hi, I’m Dr. Mya-Rose Craig. I am a 19-year-old prominent British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, diversity activist as well as an author, speaker and broadcaster. At age 11 I started the popular blog Birdgirl, and at age 17 I became the youngest person to see half of the birds in the world.

Buy My Book

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Find Out More

To find out more about working with me or to buy my book, please use the links below.

Work With MeBuy Book

Interview for Indiana Young Birder’s Club

Interview for Indiana Young Birder’s Club

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Queensland, Australia

Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

 

 

At the end of last year I gave an interview to Indiana Young Birders’ Club for their magazine, The Warbler which was published in their Fall Edition, http://bit.ly/23kiPBa

 

It was really interesting talking to young birder, Mathias Benko and hearing about the birding he gets up to.  The young birder scene is so much bigger and more developed in the USA, we have a lot we can learn over here where things are only just taking off.  I suppose the USA is so much bigger, it’s understandable.  Looking at the state of Indiana, it is exactly the same size as the whole of the UK, including all four countries.

 

Maybe, so that our young birders have similar opportunities, we should start looking at young birders groups within Europe rather than just here in the UK.

 

So, Mya-Rose, where are you from and how old are you?

My name is Mya-Rose Craig (a.k.a. Birdgirl), and I’m 13 years old. I live in the countryside near Bath and Bristol, Somerset in the South West of the UK.

 

How did you first become interested in birds?

My Mom and Dad were birders as well as my big sis Ayesha. They carried on birding after I was born, just taking me with them everywhere they went. So, birding was something that I grew up with. When I was four, it was time for me to decide for myself. At that stage, my sister was a really cool sixteen-year-old, and I wanted to do everything she wanted to do. That was when I decided that nature and birds were what I cared about and what I wanted to do. I became obsessed pretty quickly after that.

 

I was four when I went on my first world birding trip, which was to South Africa for four weeks. That was an awesome trip. As well as seeing birds like African Penguin and Ostrich, I was stalked by a lioness and her cubs in Kruger National Park, charged by a hippo when we got between it and water in Ndumo National Park, and almost fell into the high Sani Pass when we skidded towards a precipice on the way to Lesotho.

 

Do you have a favorite bird? Or birds? Why?

My favourite bird in the world is Southern Cassowary, which we saw in Queensland, Australia. They are blue and red on the head, can get to 6 feet tall, and are closely related to dinosaurs. They have a sharp hook on each foot that with one kick could kill you. We saw five in all, including 2 young birds being looked after by their dad.

 

What do your friends and family think about your love of birds and birding?

My immediate family shares my passion for birds, so we can do everything together. We go away for the summer trying to see as many of the birds in that country as possible. It is really hard work, as we often bird 6 AM to 6 PM and also sometimes go night birding in the evening, but I love it.

 

My wider family tries to be a bit supportive especially since I’ve been writings blogs, though not many of them read what I write. In the end though, they don’t like it if we prioritise birding above seeing them.

 

My close friends have been at school with me since I was four years old. I was in a 2010 BBC documentary called Twitchers: A Very British Obsession, which my teacher showed everyone at school. My close friends watched that, so they know I’m a birder, but they don’t show any interest in what I get up to. A couple of months ago, I was interviewed on BBC Springwatch, but even though I told them, none of them watched it. When another friend was on Junior Bake Off, everyone watched it and made a fuss of her. It might just be that because I’ve been on TV and Radio a few times already, so it’s nothing special any more.

 

I don’t really talk about birding to other people at school or my after school clubs like dance and scouts as they would think it’s nerdy. As I appear in the local papers, some people still know I’m into birds. So, sometimes, if I’m being teased, I’ll say “Well, I’ve earnt £250 for writing an article that only took half a day to write. What have you earnt?” That shuts them up!

 

I have heard that your life list is quite impressive. Exactly how many species of birds have you seen?

Some people think that if you keep a bird list, you somehow don’t care about the birds or conservation. I think that when you tell someone your list, what you are really doing is encapsulating in a number how many years of birding you have done and how hard you have birded.

 

So, on that basis, my British List is 450. 400 used to be the number people tried to get to but now it’s 500. I reached 400 when I was 9 years old, beating my sister’s record of 12 years old. I saw my 450th bird recently when I was 13 years old, which was a Black Stork.

 

I got to 3000 when I was 11 years old in Queensland, Australia with Regent Bowerbird a beautiful black and yellow bird. Bowerbirds make bowers or displays to attract the female and are often plain looking. This is one of the exceptions as it is really beautiful and builds a wooden structure out of sticks. The photograph of me feeding Crimson Rosella was taken straight afterwards.

 

Then, I saw my 4000th bird this summer in East Africa. We visited Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. My 4,000th bird was Red-throated Tit, which I saw on my first morning of birding in Kenya. I think I’m the youngest person to see 4,000 birds but if it’s you, let me know.

 

I’d like to see 5,400 birds before I’m 18 years old, just because it would be amazing to see half the birds of the world by then.

 

I also fell in love with hummingbirds on my first trip to South America when we went to Ecuador in 2010. I saw a Sword-billed Hummingbird on my second day there, and I was like “OMG, that is cool, I want to see all of them!” I have now seen exactly half of all the hummingbirds of the world, 170 out of 340. Some are very rare and endangered, so seeing them all will take a lot of dedication and focus and is still likely to be impossible.

 

What is the coolest bird you’ve ever seen?

That is so hard! Probably Sword-billed Hummingbird. Its bill is longer than its body, and when it’s hovering and feeding on nectar, it looks impossible. I have made some hand printed Birdgirl T-shirts that have a Sword-billed Hummingbird on the front. So, it is the bird that represents me.

 

Who is someone in the birding or environmental world you would consider to be your mentor?

Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone who is a mentor to me, apart from my parents and sister who are very supportive and also care a lot about the world. We talk a lot about birds, animals, conservation, environmental issues, and human rights (which are often linked to environmental issues. For example, the rights of indigenous people.) Birding around the world, I have witnessed environmental disasters as well as successful conservation projects. Seeing this kind of thing first-hand has made me want to do and say what I can, and I strive to be a real activist.

 

In terms of being inspired, there are quite a few people who have inspired me: Sir Peter Scott (who set up WWT and WWF and son of the Antarctic explorer Captain Scott), Sir David Attenborough (for bringing wildlife and conservation to the masses), Bill Oddie (a 1970’s comedian and birder who brought birding and live nature programmes to our screens), and Steve Backshall (presenter of CBBC’s Deadly 60, which introduced my generation to special animals). He has also been on expeditions to remote places, looking for new species.

 

I’m lucky because the BBC Natural History Unit, which makes all of these programmes, is based in Bristol where I live. A lot of people who work there live in my area, the Chew Valley.

 

Where is your favorite place to bird?

I actually love birding at my local patch, Chew Valley Lake, where I also go bird banding at a banding station. I like seeing the changes over the year and the excitement of scarce birds, including American shorebirds like Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher.

 

I write a monthly column for my local paper, The Chew Valley Gazette, where I suggest birds for people to look out for at the lake that month. Lots of people at the BBC read my column, which is amazing.

 

The favourite place I’ve birded is Bolivia. The altiplano is on a huge scale, the habitats are varied, the area has been not been as affected by habitat destruction, and the people are genuine and welcoming. Our guide, Sandro, was from an indigenous tribe deep in the Amazon, and only ten years ago used to be a hunter wearing a loincloth.

 

The birds were also brilliant and beautiful, although purely on bird numbers, you can see more in neighbouring Peru.

 

Do you have a bird you would like to see as soon as possible?

The bird I would like to see most in the world is a Harpy Eagle. It’s one of the biggest eagles in the world and lives in South America. I think we’d have to make a special trip in the spring to Venezuela or Brazil whilst a chick is still on the nest to see one, though.

 

What is your favourite field guide?

The best field guide for Britain is the Collins Guide. It’s actually a fantastic field guide with amazing illustrations by Lars Johnson.

 

I also use the Sibley North America field guide, which is useful for the regular North American rarities that we get in the UK.

 

Do you like to take pictures or draw sketches of the birds you see?

I try and take photographs of birds I see. I either use a bridge camera or digiscope using my iPhone. I’d like a better camera to use when I’m world birding, but anything decent is too heavy for me to carry all day everyday. Also, when we are birding abroad, we are usually on a tight schedule, so there isn’t time to spend ages getting good shots.

 

I would like to draw birds better and went to a sketching workshop at Camp Avalon, a young birders’ camp that I arranged in June. Hopefully, this has improved my technique.

 

How many continents and countries have you been to?

I have been to six continents but will be going to Antarctica, my seventh continent, at Christmas.

I have been to 29 countries, but I will have been to 33 by the end of the year.

I would really like to do more birding in North America as I have only spent a day there.

 

Tell us about what you have done to promote conservation efforts.

Talking about conservation projects is really important to me. I try and highlight these projects through my blog, giving talks, and publicising them in the media.

 

One of these projects is protecting shorebirds (especially the Spoon-billed Sandpiper), particularly in Bangladesh where my Mom’s family is from. I travelled there earlier this year to survey them, give a talk, and do interviews on TV, Radio and national papers.

 

I have also promoted shorebird conservation through Wader Quest, and by being Ambassador of the Global Conservation Initiative, World Shorebirds Day.

 

Last year, following an oil spill in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh (the world’s largest mangrove and home of the rare Masked Finfoot and Bengal Tiger), I worked hard to promote the disaster, writing about it in the ABA Blog, and raising approximately $30,000.

 

I write regular blog posts about conservation issues on subjects like palm oil, GMOs, the decline of bees, and fox hunting. I am also addressing a climate change rally on 29th November 2015, which is one of many rallies around the world in the lead up to the UN Climate Change talks in Paris. It would be great if as many people as possible attended a rally.

 

What do you think is the most important thing we can do to protect the environment?

 

There are so many issues going on in the world, but if I had to choose one to stop completely, it would be habitat destruction on land and sea. I have seen the impact of logging, cattle farming, palm oil, and fishing globally.

 

However, in Europe, lots of terrible things are happening that will remove the protection of habitat in place now. Bigger than that is the proposed TTIP trade agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America. This will allow American companies to sue our governments directly if, for example, they don’t like an environmental law put in place that reduces their profits. This is what companies can do in America already, and the same tactics have been used by chemical companies to stop the States from bringing in legislation for GMO labelling of food.

 

Do you want to make conservation your life?

I would like to carry on birding but as well as that, yes, I would like to concentrate on conservation. At the moment, I hope to study Zoology at University and then go on expeditions to remote countries, looking for rare species and how they are doing, and then working out what conservation plan is needed to save them and how that can be implemented. If this is filmed along the way to raise awareness, that would be great.

 

Is there a certain environmentalist that you look up to?

I think that U.S. Actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Mark Ruffallo are really important for publicising environmental issues. The recent Vivienne Westwood project by actors to save the Arctic was inspiring.

 

In the UK, I respect Tony Juniper (former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth UK) and George Monbiot (a writer and columnist for leftwing Guardian Newspaper).

 

Do you have any advice for the young birders reading this?

I would just say follow your passion. Nothing in birding or conservation is fair, and people will tell you along the way what you should or shouldn’t do. Hear what they say, but do what you want. Being a young birder is the time to enjoy yourself. It’s not a competition; it is meant to be fun.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Just thanks for asking to interview me, and I hope to make it over to your conference next year.

About The Author

Hi, I’m Dr. Mya-Rose Craig. I am a 19-year-old prominent British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, diversity activist as well as an author, speaker and broadcaster. At age 11 I started the popular blog Birdgirl, and at age 17 I became the youngest person to see half of the birds in the world.

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Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

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