Sexism in nature

Sexism in nature

I wrote this post last September after Chris Packham published his fantastic People’s Manifesto for Wildlife and the people’s Walk for Wildlife that followed.

It was the time that I thought female naturalists should have stood up together against sexism and so I felt it was a good day to re-post my previous two blog posts about sexism in birding, nature and conservation.

The posts are from Nov 2015 and Jan 2016, but nothing has really changed since the time I wrote them, except I have now organised eight nature camps for Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) children & teenagers as well as those interested in nature, a conference about how to engage VME people with nature called Race Equality in Nature and set up Black2Nature.

This is what I wrote back then bit.ly/2jCGf13 and http://bit.ly/2kdjI9X.

In the last six months, I have had lots of criticism aimed at me for daring to say that face-to-face competitions tend to be avoided by lots of girls and some boys. This was in response to the fact that no girls had entered the Young Birder of the Year Competition at Migfest for the last two years in a row.

I was told by the organisers that it was my fault that I didn’t like competitions and that I was just afraid of losing. I explained that I had entered the American Birding Association Young Birder of the Year and had no problems with competitions, just this kind of competition which also takes place at the BTO young birders camp.

Birding and twitching in the UK are highly competitive with people keeping lists of their birds and hoping to beat others. Young birders can not help but be impacted by this macho culture. Lots of girls have stood up to tell me that they haven’t had any problems with sexism, implying it must be my problem or imagination. Why might their experience be different to mine?

Some reasons:
I stand out as competition.
I was in a BBC TV documentary as a child twitcher, from which some concluded that I wasn’t interested in birding. This made me fair game for people to “prove” this;
I was the youngest person to see 400 birds in the UK and have seen 485 birds. Young birders my age can’t beat this, but they can set out to beat me in a skills competition;
I have seen over 5000 birds in the world, with lots of adult male birders commenting on social media that they bet my skills are rubbish, whilst others feel it is their duty to demonstrate that I am a poorly skilled birder.
I am vocal with opinions.

When I have talked about sexism in conservation recently on social media, a number of White middle-class women told me how their employers were amazing. Maybe they are TO THEM, however, it is important to look at the total experience and not just a few individuals. There is lots of evidence of sexism within nature, conservation and the environmental sector. Just a quick look at the top male

What can I do to change this?

A couple of years ago, a young birder in his early twenties gave me the most honest advice. He said that if I wanted to fit in with other young male birders, I had to do the following:
Shut down my Birdgirl blog
Shut down by Birdgirl FB Page and Twitter
Stop using the name Birdgirl
Delete my BUBO birding lists
NEVER refer to how many birds I’ve seen
Set up a new twitter account, only follow birders and only RT UK bird news
Stop posting photos from birding trips abroad
Stop my diversity campaigning and shut down Black2Nature
Stop talking to any kind of media – no TV, no articles, no talks
Stop holding my Camp Avalon nature weekends
Go to the BTO young birders camp and act dumb
Chat to other young birders on social media & act dumb I know he was totally right, but I don’t want to fit in that much.  It was too much to sacrifice and I would hate myself for doing it. So instead, I stay away from young birders. I stay away from “competitions” and I stay away from the BTO camp.

 

Camp Avalon

 

Camp Avalon

I have lots of stories and examples but I don’t want to upset anyone.
So, you see, I am not afraid of losing, I am afraid of winning.
Person by person, let’s change this world of objectification and misogyny.

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Interview on ITV West News – age 11 year old

Interview on ITV West News – age 11 year old

When I was 11 years old, I saw my 3000th bird species in the world. It was a stunning Regent Bowerbird which I saw on my second day in Queensland, Australia at Lamington National Park in July 2013.

I had spent 6 months in South America in 2012 on during the last few days in Peru, our guide Gunnar desperately tried to find me the last few bird species to get me to 3000, but it just wasnt to be.

In January 2014, a blog appeared about the birds I had seen. This led to some articles locally and in the national press.

 

http://www.bathmercury.com/chew-valley-school-pupil-hits-3000-twitches/

That, in turn, led to an invite on ITV local news, to be interviewed about my birding. At the time, I felt really calm and not nervous at all. Looking back now, it is incredible how calm I appear. We had arrived really late,  just mum as usual. She has thought it was a recorded interview for the following evening and told me that if I went wrong, I should just say could I do that again. Apparently, as soon as we were ushered into the studio, mum realised it was a live interview but did not have the opportunity to tell me. That might have been the reason why I was so relaxed on live TV!

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An art project that directly greenifies the planet by artist Margarita Mitrovic

An art project that directly greenifies the planet by artist Margarita Mitrovic

Make 100 Trees is the latest project by London-based designer-artist Margarita Mitrovic. The concept of the project is to make 100 artworks of trees, which will directly fund the planting of 100 real trees. By depicting each tree in a different style and technique, the artist aims to demonstrate their uniqueness, individuality and most importantly their value to our lives and planet. The artist explains: “There is superfluous to say that each tree is unique. In my eyes trees are live magic creatures which have their hands – branches, legs – roots, skin – bark and hair – leaves, but they also have a soul. In my career I have mainly focused on human portraits as a means to represent individual personalities through simple brushstrokes, colour and medium. In this project, I am creating “portraits” of trees through which I want to demonstrate their uniqueness and remind people how beautiful those enormous giants are! I use pens, pencils and markers to show the shape of branches and the incredible surface and texture of tree bark. On the other hand I use paint, ink and brushes to represent their density and volume when they are blooming and blossoming.”

The project joins two of Margarita’s greatest passions – Art and Nature, as her favourite activities include creating artworks in her London studio and going for long walks and hikes around the UK and beyond. “Trees are super important for our health and well-being and are vital for the environment and wildlife, but as our planet becomes more urbanised, we are losing forests and trees every day. This is a global issue and I want to use art as a tool to make a positive impact on nature.” – explains Margarita.

Each artwork will be unique and original, created by the artist in a different style and technique on a standard format of 15×15 cm. A hundred works of art (made using pencils, pens, markers, ink, paint, charcoal, fabrics, thread, cardboard, photography, laser cutters, 3D printers and much more) all showing a tree, but all of them individual, just like each tree is. Margarita is launching this project through Kickstarter – a crowdfunding platform, which allows people to gather funds for their creative work. The crowdfunding will run for a limited period of 35 days (Jan 31st – March 8th), during which people can order an original artwork for £25, an artwork print for £10 or even book an art masterclass with Margarita in her studio. Once the project is complete, an art exhibition of the 100 artworks will be organised in a London gallery, showcasing them to the public before they are sent off to their new owners. Part of the sales profits will be used to plant 100 real trees, thanks to a collaboration with Trees for Cities, a UK charity that is on a mission to plant 1 million trees in UK cities by 2020.

You can see the project and support it via this kickstarter link:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/764720081/100-artworks-of-trees-100-planted-trees?ref=user_menu

About the artist

Margarita Mitrovic is a multi-award-winning London-based designer and visual artist. She applies her creative skills in a wide variety of projects, including interior design, branding, graphics and illustration. She began her career path after graduating in Interior & Spatial Design at the University of Hertfordshire branch in Moscow, Russia, and since then her experience spans from working in small interior design studios to large architecture practices in Moscow and London, as well as independent and client work in illustration, graphics and art.

High resolution images available here:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ry09w6axr0h9nlm/AAAqct4WqSirRZpyxuV0Dzs4a?dl=0

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Ringing a Wood Pigeon – my first adult ringed

Ringing a Wood Pigeon – my first adult ringed

Last Saturday, 10th February 2018, I was busy revising for my GCSE exams. The weather was pretty bad and so Dad and I had not gone to the ringing station.

Dad had put some foods out in a trap, as usual, to see if he could catch something. I hadn’t been hopeful.

At 11 am, Dad ran into the house and straight up the stairs to my room. He was really excited and told me that he had caught a Wood Pigeon.

I had ringed a young bird in the nest before at Chew Valley Lake but never ringed an adult.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig ringing a Wood Pigeon on 10 February 2018
Photograph copyright Mya-Rose Craig

Once I had it in a tight grip, it was really calm and so a lovely bird to ring. It was also actually really beautiful.

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Arctic Warbler twitch – Kilnsea 14 October 2017

Arctic Warbler twitch – Kilnsea 14 October 2017

Having got back from an after school twitch to see a Rock Thrush the day before at 9 pm, I was straight to bed.  The next day was a Saturday and I had another bird to see!

Arctic Warbler is a non-rarity in the UK but is one of only 3 non-rarity birds that I have not seen. They all tend to occur on the east coast of England, which is across the country to where I live, as we are based on the South West coast.
We were up very early (meaning the middle of the night!) again on Saturday 14th October 2017, the first day of my half-term holiday.    There was an Artic Warbler at Kilnsea in East Yorkshire which is next to Spurn a huge birding hotspot.  I slept whilst Dad drove us to the bird and we arrived at about 8.30am. The Artic Warbler was being seen in the pub car park and so we joined about another 30 birders to look for it. 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Arctic Warbler twitch, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire 14 October 2017
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

It wasn’t long before we saw the Arctic Warbler, showing high in the trees about the car park, getting really great views. We watched it off for another couple of hours before we headed off. It was really flighty so, despite my best efforts, I didn’t get a photograph of it. It was really amazing to see this bird. It wasn’t the rarest but it was special. Now only two non-rarities to see in the UK, Little Auk and Icterine Warbler which are both also east coast birds. It was also a new world for me, number 4725, not that I’m counting.

We then drove down the road to Easington, to see a Rose-coloured Starling which was in someone’s front garden and actually managed to get some photographs of it.

Rose-coloured Starling, Easington, East Yorkshire 14 October 2017
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Rose-coloured Starling, Easington, East Yorkshire 14 October 2017
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

I had revision to do on the way home and Dad drove me home as quick as he could, as I had a party and sleepover with friends at 3 pm. As usual, I didn’t mention what I had been doing…all my friends had been sleeping in all morning in preparation for the party.

It was my 3rd new bird of the season and I was hopeful that there would be more to come.

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