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Reflecting on 2020 – what a year!

What a year it’s been! Who would have imagined, months stuck at home, only being allowed to go out once a day for a walk. Shops shut, no school, and not seeing friends and family. It’s been a tough one, but I’m very lucky compared to what others have experienced.

Lockdown ended up being important for me to grow as a person and really connect with nature in general. I branched off into learning about plants and insects, which I used to overlook completely. Spending many sunny mornings in the garden, I started to thoroughly appreciate the wildlife on my doorstep, despite how common it was. It enabled me to discover new walks and areas good for wildlife in my town. No doubt it was and still is a stressful time; the rising number of cases, tiers, more lockdowns, but I know just what to do now when I’m feeling anxious. And that’s to immerse myself in nature.

Back in the first lockdown I began creating wildlife vlogs, thanks to Sam Levy’s #thevlogdown challenge. Now I’ve filmed over 40, about topics including walks around my favourite nature reserves, to going on fungi hunts. I’ve never been a particularly confident person, so I believe speaking in front of a camera and sharing my passion on social media has massively helped with my self-confidence. This in turn, has helped me with my anxiety and IBS, so I’m looking forward to carrying these on in the new year.

So, here’s a little write up about what I’ve been up to this year, month by month. Before I do, I must say a big thank you to all of those who have supported me this year, it means the absolute world!


When everything was normal, I started 2020 off with lots of birding as usual. On New Years Day (as we do every year) we went out for the day to RSPB Pulborough Brooks for a walk. I saw over 40 species, including snipe, barnacle goose, black-tailed godwit and got super-close views of goldcrest.

Very flooded!

A few days later, I was very pleased to go to RSPB Rainham Marshes for the first time for a Young Birders walk. It was so great to meet up with everyone and see lots of brilliant wildlife including a hunting kestrel, water and rock pipit, white-fronted goose, and marsh harrier.

Kestrel and vole

A bit later on in the month, I went to Widewater Lagoon. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies, and even better still I saw a red-breasted merganser relatively close-up. Whilst getting lunch in Shoreham town, I had an encounter with a pied wagtail, who was looking for crumbs. It posed very well for the camera!

Blue skies at Widewater
Pied wagtail

January marks the time for the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch and this year I decided to get my school involved. After putting out feeders in the school courtyard (kindly provided by CJ wildlife) I got some pupils together to do some birdwatching and created our very own bird feeders. I also attended the Sussex Ornithological Society’s conference and enjoyed hearing talks including about the White Stork reintroduction project and seabirds in decline.


I didn’t get out very much in February as I had lots of A-level work to do and I started research for my EPQ about red-listed birds and their decline. However, I was excited to do a little film for BBC South East at my local park, about my love for birding and why other teenagers should get involved. You can see it here:


Earlier in the month, I visited Warnham Local Nature Reserve, the first reserve I ever visited at the age of eight, and where my passion for wildlife began. It was lovely to see tufted duck on the lake, kingfisher, pochard, and marsh tit. I also managed to photograph reed bunting and nuthatch.

Reed bunting

I loved seeing the great crested grebes at Ifield Millpond, Crawley this year. It was so fascinating to see their courtship behaviour, copying each others movements and doing their classic and dramatic courtship dance. On that day I also heard my first chiffchaff, a welcome sign Spring was coming!

And then the lockdown happened…

The next couple of months were spent connecting with nature in a way which was new to me. I had time to stop, observe and appreciate what surrounded my house, and the wildlife which inhabited my local area. It was a way of forgetting about the horrible virus which was debilitating our lives. I owe so much to the garden birds which visited my feeders, the wildflowers which appeared on my street, and the badger which popped up on my trail camera. It made me even more driven to do all I can in my lifetime to protect and raise awareness of the beautiful natural world.

I decided to put up a trail camera in my garden (next to a suet block feeder) to see what was turning up when I wasn’t looking. After a couple of days, I was delighted to find out that nuthatch, coal tit, and marsh tit were visiting.


A time of flowers blooming, new life, and warm days.

On the 10th I saw my first swallow which flew over the garden whilst I was out sun-bathing. I visited my local park very frequently, and enjoyed views of buzzards, goldfinch, goldcrest, and roe deer.

I featured on the BTO’s social media as part of them sharing stories about their Garden Birdwatch (citizen science survey) ambassadors.

Unrelated to wildlife, I was pleased to have an article in ‘Your Dog’ magazine about my dog, Willow and her breed, she was very happy about it too!

I created my first ever vlog about a wildlife walk to Tilgate, which was the start of something that would keep me busy throughout the lockdown. I also kept a lockdown bird list, which got up to over 40 species in the end.

In the garden, I was so excited to see a bird that’s never visited my garden before, the starling. At the start, it was just one individual until it brought seven friends!


I continued to discover plants on my doorstep and used the brilliant ‘seek’ inaturalist app to help me identify them. May is the best time to listen to the dawn chorus, which was even louder due to there being hardly any traffic noise. I woke up early and filmed a video on it for #internationaldawnchorusday, even if I was half-asleep!

Whilst on a walk around a local playing fields, I discovered a passion for bees. I learnt a few different species and loved watching them go about their business, often buzzing around the rhododendrons. Wildflowers were at their best, and due to the roadside verges being left to grow, they were in abundance.

Cuckoo Flower


June is the month of #30dayswild, an annual event to get people to engage with nature and take part in random acts of wildness each day. This year’s one was particularly special because it emphasised the importance of understanding there is wildlife all around you, no matter where you live.

I vlogged most days about my nature walks and what I was seeing. All of these can be found on my Youtube channel here:


After a lightbulb moment, I thought of creating a wildlife quiz hosted by the ambassadors of the Cameron Bespolka Trust ( It ended up being very successful and it was so fabulous to see (virtually) so many young naturalists together!

And I finally changed my Twitter profile picture (featuring my favourite wildlife shirt) after a couple of years…

Most importantly, I spoke about how important nature is for mental health and general wellbeing. I’m so pleased that it reached so many people on twitter with nearly 13.5K views.

At the end of the month, I was so pleased to finally be able to visit Knepp Wildland for the first time this year. After seeing the news of the White stork chicks hatching for the first time in six hundred years in the UK, I got to observe them in real life. I also heard the brilliant sound of their bills clattering.

White stork

Lastly, I was very happy to have an article about the fantastic Cameron Bespolka Trust in the RSPB’s Wingbeat Magazine, about their work with getting the next generation interested in nature.


In July, I visited Knepp once again and started to properly plan the design of the wildlife garden I was creating at my school.

In the garden, I had my first ever visit from two goldfinches. I had put a niger seed feeder out especially for them, so I was SO excited when I saw them using it. Later on, I was privileged to see them bring their chicks into the garden too.

I was so lucky to help with doing some barn owl monitoring and saw these cute balls of fluff being ringed. (Photographed and monitored under schedule 1 license)

An afternoon was spent picking apart their pellets, thoroughly enjoyable!

Despite not having a macro lens, I was delighted to get some decent shots of insects, including gatekeeper butterfly, red-tailed bumblebee and honeybee.

Work finally started on my school wildlife garden and at long last I got to visit RSPB Pulborough Brooks, one of my favourite nature reserves.

Also, I spoke to Sussex Wildlife Trust about my experience of lockdown:


After months of wanted to invest in a moth trap, I was kindly given one and spent my first night moth trapping (moths released once identified and recorded). It was very exciting to see what turned up.

Along with a few good friends and fellow birders, I contributed to a blog post for the BTO. We discussed the issue of ‘where are the young women in birding?’ It’s a topic particularly important to me and it was really interesting to read the responses we received. Find it here:

It was a relief to get back down to the coast for the first time since the outbreak of Corona. The morning spent there was made even better by seeing a beautiful little egret hunting for its lunch.

This year Birdfair (the Glastonbury for birders) went virtual. I was excited to help out with its social media, which involved letting people know about events, talks and live-tweeting too.

I was honoured to feature on one of Chris Packham’s and Megan McCubbin’s brilliant ‘Self-isolating Bird Club’ broadcasts, these had been keeping me thoroughly entertained, so it was a pleasure to appear on there talking about mental health and nature. I’m excited to see what they will be doing in 2021!

Lastly, I had the honour of meeting David Lindo (the Urban Birder) for a day of birding at RSPB Pagham Harbour. It was brilliant and I saw my first ever cattle egret.


Now a yearly tradition, I spent the night camping at Knepp Wildland. It was lovely to see little owl, rutting fallow deer, hunting bats, and more white storks.

Red deer stag
White stork in flight

On a brilliant sunny day, I enjoyed watching some common darter dragonflies and attempted to photograph them at Old Lodge Nature Reserve at Ashdown Forest.

For my 18th birthday, I set up a fundraising wildlife walk for the Cameron Bespolka Trust at RSPB Pulborugh Brooks. I saw over 72 species and raised over £800 for the trust. A round-up of my walk also featured on a SIBC broadcast:

Arjun Dutta, Samuel Levy, James McCulloch, and me


Into Autumn I became obsessed with the weird and wonderful world of fungi. There’s still some lurking around, so why don’t you go and look in your local wood or grassland? Here’s just some of what I found:

Excitingly, I was picked to speak at Zurich’s ‘Youth Against Carbon Conference.’ This was live streamed on their social media and I spoke about the importance of including the biodiversity loss crisis when talking about climate change. Check it out here:

I was also delighted to be on a fantastic youth panel for the Chilterns Champions conference about citizen science, talking about my experience of being involved with nature and bird surveys:

Later on in the month, I was very happy to have a short break to Weymouth with my boyfriend. We walked miles and saw amazing wildlife, like bittern and marsh harrier, and nearly got blown away by the wind at Portland Bill. I vlogged about it here:


More fungi hunting.

On social media, Leica Nature and Birding released that I was one of their new ambassadors. I am delighted to be able to represent them and the fantastic work they do to support conservation organisations. More recently, I wrote a small piece about one of my favourite nature walks for them:

I was honoured and incredibly grateful to receive the David Streeter Award from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, for work in the natural history of Sussex. For winning the award I received vouchers for NHBS, which I spent on a tripod, bat detector, and books. More here:

It was nice to visit Pulborough Brooks and for the first time I got a decent photo of a beautiful kestrel. And even more excitingly, I had my first EVER great spotted woodpecker in my garden!


I’m very passionate about rewilding and giving back to nature so it was lovely to write a blog post for the wonderful new charity, Heal rewilding:

I was very excited to speak on BBC Radio Sussex with David Streeter and Sarah Gorrell about the award I received and about wildlife in general. It was a great experience as I had never spoken on radio before. Catch up here (three hours and ten minutes in):

And lastly, I was also honoured to have a photo in the SIBC calendar, alongside so many other fantastic images.

So, that was my year. Sorry if this post has been a bit long, I wanted to be able to read it back in years to come and see what a mad time we were living in!

I wish you all a very merry and safe Christmas, and here’s to a much better 2021!

My vision for school wildlife gardens and how far I’ve got with my own…

Over the past year or so, I’ve been working on a project at my school. My school is quite big with around 1200 pupils.

When I first began sixth form, it dawned on me how the courtyard space I pass every day down the main atrium could be turned into something quite special. An area which could host a hotspot of biodiversity, engage pupils with nature, and offer a space of relaxation and escape.

The Courtyard area

My school is in an urban area in Crawley, West Sussex, a town near Gatwick Airport.

As I started doing my BTO garden birdwatch survey there most weeks, I noticed how devoid it was of life and how much potential it had. So, I set on the mission of creating our very own school wildlife garden.

I first created a rough plan of what I wanted in the garden and took this to my headteacher. I must thank my headteacher Mr Smith for his support on this project and on the whole too! After a few discussions, I was given the go ahead and responsibility to begin turning this area to a haven for wildlife.

Funding is often a problem for many projects like this, but with the help of the fantastic Cameron Bespolka Trust, I secured some money to help me buy plants, equipment, and wildlife plants. As a young ambassador for the Cameron Bespolka Trust, I have also been lucky enough to have lots of help from CJ wildlife. You can also sign up to the RHS school gardening scheme which has many resources and benefits which I have done too: You could try fundraising by doing a bake sale for example, or ask garden centres if they could donate plants or seeds!

Over these past few weeks, my friends (who I am very grateful to for their brilliant help!) and I have been going in to school and starting the practical side of the project. We have started by cutting down the shrubs to create space for the pollinator beds, herb garden and flowers. This has proved hard work in this heat and we are about three quarters through!

I aim to get this done by September, then put up the insect house and bird feeders, followed by then planting the established plants and sowing the mini wildflower meadow.

So, that’s it’s progress so far…

During this time, I’ve been thinking of how amazing it would be if we could create a national campaign or scheme, in collaboration with wildlife organisations, to encourage and empower young people and schools to create their very own school or college wildlife gardens.

It would offer many areas of biodiversity, which we are in desperate need of with the decline of our nature. Also, it would support children with their wellbeing and mental health.

Imagine if every school had their very own wildlife garden or area? It wouldn’t need to be big, perhaps just a pollinator bed or a few bird feeders? I put this suggestion out on Twitter and many people agreed with me, with some saying a wildlife garden in their school inspired them to take an interest in and care for our natural world.

I do understand there are great schemes like Eco-schools and RHS school gardening, but I’m not aware of one which particularly champions and focuses on wildlife gardens.

In the near future, I would like to develop this campaign in order to create a scheme with backing from the government. We need a green recovery after COVID and with mental health issues being worsened by these stressful few months, wouldn’t this be a great way of engaging and helping our young people?

I’d be interested to hear your feedback and if you can offer help or advice to set up this campaign, feel free to contact me.

An update on what I’ve been up to!

I must admit I have neglected this blog over the last year or so. To be honest I lost the motivation to write as well as suffering with some health issues and not doing a lot of birding! However, I would like to update you on what I’ve been up to and bring this blog back to life once again.

Last September I started my first year of a-levels – I took biology, geography, chemistry and an EPQ (on red-listed birds and their decline). At the start they were quite daunting (and still are!) as the jump up from GCSEs is quite significant in difficulty. I’ve enjoyed my time in sixth form so far however, around 4 months ago that all came to a halt!

What a strange few months, if anyone told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be basically stuck at home for 2 months and the majority of my plans for this year would be cancelled I would’ve thought you were mad! The Coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in different ways. I’m lucky that I haven’t directly been affected like so many.

Keeping busy was the main way that I kept myself happy as well as making the most of daily exercise walks out in nature and my small, but wildlife-friendly garden. Adapting to online learning has been stressful and it still is with the anticipation of what will happen to our a-level exams next year and the hours of lesson time we’ve lost and will have to catch up on.

I don’t know what I would have done without nature and wildlife to distract me – my connection with nature as a whole has grown significantly. For me, without lockdown, I wouldn’t have had the time and motivation to learn more about wildlife. I started to teach myself the different wildflowers, bee species, butterflies, and more with the help of books, youtube videos, the Inaturalist seek app (I would highly recommend this) and social media. Now, when I go out looking for wildlife I’m not only looking up to the sky and trees for birds, but down at the ground for insects and plants too!

My friend and fellow birder, Sam Levy (@FinchleyBirder) began a challenge called the #thevlogdown, where every Wednesday and Sunday myself and others would post a vlog on a wildlife topic. A couple of years ago now, I thought about starting a youtube channel on birds and wildlife, but I decided against it in the fear that I would be teased about it at school. So, this challenge was a good push to get me vlogging, which I thoroughly enjoy. I’ve carried this on – making videos on the wildlife I see on my walks, citizen science surveys, identifying bee species, the Big Butterfly count, and the importance of nature to mental health. I hope these can help interest others in nature and show young people that there are other teenagers their age who love wildlife too! Keep an eye out on my social media for more vlogs – @Myabambrick1 on twitter and @myabambrickphotography on instagram.

I also came up with the idea to create a virtual wildlife quiz, hosted on zoom, for other young people in conjunction with the Cameron Bespolka Trust. Each ambassador came up with a round of questions on different wildlife topics – some were very challenging! This was a success – it was a great way to have a chat with some old friends and meet new ones too.

I’ve also had time to properly plan my wildlife garden which I am setting up at my school. When it is finished, it will include pollinator beds, a bug hotel, a log pile, bird feeding station, and a herb garden. I’ve already started creating this garden by cutting down the shrubs in order to have a clear base. Once completed, I really hope it will help engage other pupils with nature and offer an escape from the hectic school day.

Staying local has also meant that I’ve found some new areas in my town which are great for walking and wildlife too. I’ve particularly enjoyed visiting an area called Ifield brook where I’ve seen green woodpecker, mistle thrush, chiffchaff, buzzard, and seen many butterflies and bees including gatekeeper, meadow brown, small skipper, large and small white, and red admiral. Here’s a few photos I took the other day.

I must also say how brilliant the self-isolating bird club broadcasts by Chris Packham, Megan McCubbin, and guests have been and how they brightened my mornings (and still do every Friday!). I’ve also enjoyed joining David Lindo’s ‘In Conservation with..’ series on zoom with many inspiration people in world of wildlife and conservation including Stephen Moss, Nick Baker, and Gillian Burke.

Overall, so far this year has been pretty strange, however for many its reignited a new or previous connection with nature and for me personally, its gained a newfound importance. Hopefully, this won’t be temporary and this passion can be turned into action for wildlife and the environment in order for it to be conserved. I will keep doing what I can and continue to enjoy and find inspiration in the natural world around me.

Waders Galore!

On Saturday, for the first time in a long while, I visited Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve and Church Norton in West Sussex. After parking up, we walked down to Ferry Pool. From the relatively refurbished hide I looked over the water. There were lots of Shelduck, a few teal, and flying overhead a flock of crow, with a few rook among them. I carried onto the start of the harbour where the waterways and mudflats were covered in whistling wigeon, teal and foraging redshank. In the distance, lapwing were acrobatically tumbling in the sky; I could faintly hear their ‘pee-wit’ call.

Before heading down to Church Norton, I had a quick look at the feeders in front of the reserve’s visitor centre. There were mainly house sparrows, blue tit, great tit, goldfinch and a single greenfinch. At Church Norton, after having some lunch on the beach despite it being freezing cold, I scanned across the beach and sea with my binoculars. Surprisingly well-camouflaged, a couple of turnstones scuttled across the pebbles, turning some over in search of tasty morsels as their name suggests. The sea was rather choppy, which made it even harder to look out for any grebes or divers. To my surprise, just as I was about to leave the beach, a diver species appeared relatively close to the coast – it was a red-throated diver.

Walking back to the harbour, the tide was flowing in. A female reed bunting perched at the top of a shrub behind me, just as a young mute swan flew close overhead, so close in fact you could hear the flapping of its wings.

Suddenly a curlew flew up into the sky, its bubbling call echoing across the vast, now rather dull surroundings.

I then sat on a bench that overlooks the harbour, the mudflats now immersed in water. Hundreds of grey plover and dunlin lined up on the remaining dry bits of land, squabbling and restlessly flitting around. On another small island around 25 cormorants were lined up, trying to keep dry, with a great black-backed gull among them. On the water, there was a flock of honking brent geese and it was nice to see them back for the Winter.

On the way back to the car park a robin appeared out of the undergrowth, quietly singing its beautiful song, a nice end to a great day of birding.

Garden birds

Living in a town, my garden is very small, and it backs onto a main road. Behind that is a small wood, where previously I have seen roe deer, and in the middle of the night, heard two tawny owl calling from. In the winter, I have seen siskin and redpoll feeding among the trees and even seen great spotted woodpecker and treecreeper climbing up the tree trunks. Not bad for an urban garden!

For quite a few years now I have put food out for the birds, such as peanuts, suet balls, sunflower seeds as well as the odd apple in winter for any visiting blackbirds. Normally, when I’m home, I always look at the feeders to see whats coming down. The most common birds are definitely blue tits and great tits. However as the temperatures drop and as we get closer to Winter, the variety of species increases.

For my birthday in September I was delighted to receive a trail camera from my mum, something I have wanted for a long time now. A trail camera has a sensor which picks up on any movement and automatically takes videos and/or photos, perfect for seeing what’s visiting the feeders. After setting it up, I put it up in the garden right next to a feeder with sunflower seeds in.

After leaving it out for a few days I looked through the photos and videos it had taken. I was surprised to see a variety of species, including a pair of nuthatches, pair of marsh tits, blue tits, great tits and coal tits.


I was really happy to see that a pair of marsh tits were visiting my garden, as a red listed species. Now, a few weeks on, they have stopped visiting so I presume they were just storing the seeds away.

This week I have increased the number of feeders by putting up a feeding station. I’ve kept the sunflower seed feeder up and added a suet feeder and niger seed feeder. I’m hoping the niger seed will attract finches down as I sometimes hear them flying overhead. At the moment, the suet feeder is proving the most popular.

If you would like to attract birds to your garden, no matter the size, putting even one feeder up can help. Especially in the winter, food put out in gardens can really help birds survive the cold weather. You can see more information here:

Birding and IBS

For a while now I’ve wanted to write about my struggle with IBS and how birding helps. Like many people I don’t tend to talk about it as it can be quite embarrassing. That’s why I’ve been wanting to write this blog which I hope will raise awareness about this common condition as well as how I think birding and just being in nature really helps.

IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome and about 2 in 10 people suffer from it in the UK. Symptoms range from pain and cramping in the stomach to fatigue and bloating. One difficulty is that you don’t know what you can and can’t eat, which is hard because you don’t know what is going to cause a flare-up. Also, for weeks and weeks you may not suffer with any symptoms and then suddenly feel ill again .

Triggers for a flare-up can be food and drink, stress or anxiety. Personally I believe stress and anxiety mainly set mine off. This is difficult to manage because sometimes if I go out I worry that I will suffer with the symptoms and then because of that anxiety I do. So really it’s a vicious cycle.

Birding and generally being in nature has been beneficial to me for the past few years. When I’m able to go out, just walking around a local park or reserve, has been enough to ease any symptoms. Focusing my mind on seeing what birds are about and what would make a good photo reduces any stress or anxiety. Just being outside is relaxing – fresh air, the sound of wind whispering through the trees, birds gliding in the sky above. So if you suffer with IBS or any stress/anxiety related condition and can get outside I would strongly recommend it.

Although I am limited to where I can go at the moment, I am hoping to be able to go further afield as soon as it starts to get better or when I feel I won’t get any symptoms. However I’m quite lucky that in my town there is quite a few green spaces, such as Tilgate and Buchan Park where I can go for nice walks.

Unfortunately I couldn’t manage to go to my planned trip to Bardsey this week, but I’m planning other smaller trips and meet-ups that I hope will slightly make up for it!

Stay at Knepp Estate

Last week I made the half an hour journey to Knepp Estate in Dial Post, West Sussex. It was for a night camping and walking around the wonderful rewilding project. Knepp Estate is a brilliant 3,500 acre estate which was once an intensive farm. It is now a renowned rewildling site which intends to restore the land using grazing animals and restoration of natural water courses. It is home to many rare species such as purple emperor butterflies, nightingales and turtle doves.

After setting up my tent I had a wander around the estate. The habitat is mostly scrub, woods and ponds. When walking around I managed to see many whitethroat, a buzzard, sparrowhawk and a white stork.

At Knepp they are helping to establish a breeding population of white stork with their reintroduction project. There has been some evidence that white storks were once a breeding bird in Sussex and with this project they hope to create a colony, re-establishing their population.

Not only was there lots of bird life, but it was brimming with butterflies and as I walking down the path two roe deer gracefully ran out in front of me. After getting back to the campsite and having dinner we were treated to a lovely sunset.

During the night I could hear the calls of tawny owls as well as the distinctive barking of muntjac deer. A fog had covered the campsite meadow and above the stars shone clearly and brightly.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of swallows swirling above, high in the sky. It was already very hot so we decided to have a walk and head to the shade. Standing on one of their treetop viewing platforms you could really appreciate the great habitat that had been created. Long-tailed tits acrobatically moved from tree to tree and chiffchaffs flitted between leaves, picking off tiny insects.

Overall I had a lovely time at Knepp and will be definitely visiting again very soon!

Welcome to my new blog!

Now I’ve finally finished my exams and have the summer holidays ahead of me I’ve decided to start a new blog. I have changed to wordpress as I think it offers more modern layouts and is generally easier to use. My previous site,, will still remain active and blog posts can still be read on it.

With this blog I hope to post and update it more regularly. In August I will be staying at Bardsey bird observatory for the young birders week, which I’m very excited about and will definitely be posting about! Also I will be able to get out more now I have a break.

Hope you enjoy visiting my blog and let me know what you think!

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