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.
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.
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!
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: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p082lsd6
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.
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.
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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBx6Kt2ScxiJwuzR8yWbzlQ
After a lightbulb moment, I thought of creating a wildlife quiz hosted by the ambassadors of the Cameron Bespolka Trust (https://www.cameronbespolka.com). 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.
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: https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/news/life-and-wildlife-during-lockdown-by-mya-bambrick
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: https://www.bto.org/community/blog/where-are-young-women-birding
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.
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhQ5SpGQNH8&t=2361s
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDB_zW42JUk&t=3014s
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op3CJV3zuEs
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: https://leica-nature-blog.com/best-uk-walks-chosen-by-leica-locals-part-1/
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: https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/news/david-streeter-award-for-outstanding-contribution-to-nature-conservation-goes-to-mya-bambrick
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: https://www.healrewilding.org.uk/post/mya-why-rewilding-is-so-important
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): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08zh64q
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!