I have always struggled to find younger people my age with similar interests to me – especially wildlife and nature. My local natural history society has no young members, my local ornithological society has no young members and all of the voluntary groups at nature reserves I have been to, have no young members.
During lockdown, I noticed so many more people developing an interest in nature. After talking to some people from my local natural history society, we decided to organise a butterfly walk aimed at young nature enthusiasts. And that is how Young Nature Watch began – we never really said, lets start a new group, it just eventually happened! The butterfly walk was a success, so we organised a photography walk, then a harvest mice survey and so on! And so then we decided on the name Young Nature Watch, and wanted to do more events, walks and talks and its sort of grown ever since! A big thank you to Inés Lopez-Doriga for co-organising it!
Here are some of the events we have hold so far!
What started it all! For our butterfly walk, we headed up to the downs to see what we could find! We caught some butterflies, using butterfly nets and observatory pots, to have a close up look!
Some of our favourites were Adonis Blues, Small Coppers and Large Heaths – it was amazing to encourage a love for nature in younger people, and teach them about British butterfly species!
NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY WALK
For our walk, we were led by the amazing Abby Eaton and Craig Morris (two inspiring wildlife and nature photographers) around Fonthill Lake. We learned how to use a camera and tried out different lenses! We walked through fields looking for bugs and butterflies, woodland for birds and leaves and round the lake watching grey wagtails and dragonflies. We tried our different lenses, including large zooms and wide angled and we were given advice and support on using the camera manual setting!
HARVEST MICE SURVEY
Our harvest mice survey, took place in a grassy field margin on Peter Shallcross’s (the Tisbury Natural History’s Chair) farm. The aim was to find lots of old nests, which were built in the summer! Their nests are about the size of a tennis ball, and built into the stems of tough grasses and other flowers, usually about a foot up from the ground and often below brambly hedges or in reeds near round ponds.
We spent two hours bent double, poring over tussocks of likely-looking grass and occasionally giving a triumphant cry at sighting one of these incredibly difficult-to-spot nests! In total, we found a whopping 19 nests – it was great to have contributed in a small way to knowledge of wildlife in our area, whilst having a lot of fun searching for them, as well as learning more about harvest mice and their nests!
OWL PELLET DISSECTION
This has to have been one of my favourite events! I had the amazing opportunity to run the dissection and teach a group of young enthusiasts about Barn and Tawny owls as well as their pellets!
We found lots of little bones from small rodents in the pellets and learnt how to identify which animals they came from by their jaws, pelvises and skulls!
WATER VOLE SURVEY
This survey was so much fun and everyone learnt a lot! We were searching for water vole signs on the River Nadder and found lots of burrows, droppings, feeding signs and footprints!
Found along our waterways, water voles are similar-looking to the brown rat, but with a blunt nose, small ears and furry tail.
Water vole droppings are particularly distinctive as they are often described as having a tic-tac shape! There burrows are generally oval shaped, usually 5-8cm wide, often seen along the water’s edge but with some under the waterline! Diagonally nibbled stalks of grass in small piles along tunnels in long grass indicate the presence of water voles and their footprints are sort of star shaped!
BIRD RINGING DEMO
I really enjoyed leading this bird ringing demo around my woodland bird hide! It was amazing to see so many young enthusiastic birders and being able to show them so incredible birds was great!
We caught and ringed a range of different species including chiffchaffs, goldcrests, treecreepers and nuthatches, but the fantastic highlight was a male Sparrowhawk!
We had never caught a Sparrowhawk at the hide before and it was only my second time ringing one so it was incredible that it was in perfect timing to show lots of engaged children!
Instagram – @youngnaturewatchwilts