Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Festival Habits

This weekend I was at the Exmouth Festival, a week long celebration of local music and culture. From what I saw it is a brilliant mix of local amateur groups, local professional bands and community activities. With the sunshine warming the air everyone had smiles on their faces and the park venue was covered with happy picnicking families all afternoon and well into the night.

When I arrived early the next morning (some of us were working the bank holiday!) I was quite shocked to see the park absolutely covered in litter. I expected some rubbish but not the huge amount of plastic bags, beer bottles, plastic bottles and other debris strewn around on the grass. I was so shocked I took a picture.

It amazes me that even with many well placed bins around at the festival so many people had just dumped their litter. Especially because most visitors lived only streets away and could have easily taken their rubbish home. Local people who wanted to enjoy a quiet morning stroll or jog through their favourite park must have been disappointed and if it were my local green spot it would definitely put me off supporting another festival. Thankfully, a lovely group of festival volunteers quickly appear and with incredible  speed and efficiency cleared away all the rubbish, replaced bin liners, tidied flower borders and checked the whole site was safe for another day's fun in the sun.

Three things struck me about the festival and it's rubbish. The first was how fantastic the volunteers were. Many had been at the festival the night before, with little sleep in between, and I doubt many were thanked by visitors as all the clearing up was done well before anyone else arrived. But they still turned up with smiles and cleaned up their park, and it was lovely to see the pride local people took in caring for their local area and the effort they go to in making this annual event a success.

The second thing I noticed was there were no recycling bins on site, only general waste ones. Since people didn't seem to manage to take their rubbish to any bin I don't know if recycling bins would have helped but I do hate the idea of so much rubbish just going to landfill. What I hope happened is that all the waste (mostly glass, plastic and cardboard) was sorted somewhere else, and will be recycled back into the system anyway. Having recycling bins might not have encouraged more people to dispose of their waste, but it would have been a good opportunity to raise awareness of recycling in the local community.

The last thing I noticed was that people seem to forget their normal habits when out and about. many families that visited the festival during the day took their rubbish home, perhaps people lots of people could see what they did and how they left the grass for other picnickers. But when it turned to evening people just didn't seem to bother. I would be amazed if all those festival goers just threw rubbish on the floor normally, in fact I bet most of them recycle, so why didn't they clean up after themselves at the festival? Maybe it's something to do with other people being in charge, and the assumption that other people will tidy up afterwards too. Whatever the reason it makes me sad that so many local people are happy to just dump their rubbish for someone else to deal with in their lovely local park.

I'm going to lots of festivals this summer, and I'll be interested to see whether people clear up after themselves, if there is recycling and what the atmosphere is like. It also means that my blog might be a little less regular than normal, but I hope you'll keep reading and enjoying them when they appear!

Monday, 27 May 2013

A Quick Look Back

Due to the bank holiday (and a very busy work schedule) a new blog will appear here on Tuesday the 28th May. 

But while you wait, why not have a look at some of my previous blogs from this time of year?

Check out this, this, this or this.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Stories For Our Not So Distant Future

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to the launch of Beacons: Stories for our not so distant future; a new collection of short stories themed around climate change. I was disappointed when I couldn't make it because it sounds like a fantastic evening's entertainment. The launch is in fact tomorrow at 6:30pm in the Piccadilly Waterstone's in London. Authors will be reading extracts and discussing the book and I'm sure the free event and refreshments will be full of interesting conversations about all the environmental issues facing our world.

The book has already had good reviews and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy soon, especially because royalties will be donated to the Stop Climate Chaos fund, one of my favourite causes.

The series of short stories looks at where we are today and where we might be heading. Topics cover everything from the practical effects of our meat consumption rate, climate refugees and changing landscapes to more abstract ideas such as the bond between nature and man or the effect that climate change may have on our society.

I already have a whole shelf-full of books on the environment, but not one of them is fiction. So, between my wildlife memoirs, climate change textbooks and ethical shopping guides there is definitely space for this gem. As some of the reviews have already said, there are many worrying impacts that climate change may have on our world in the century to come and climate literature allows us to explore, discuss and imagine what our world may be facing in the future. it is through such discussion that we may be better prepared to act upon whatever it is that our not so distant future holds in store.

So, if you're in London tomorrow pop along to the Piccadilly Waterstone's at 6:30pm and take a look. And if you go, let me know how it went,  I'll be very sorry to miss it.

A Lovely Weekend

This weekend I had an exciting trip up to Symonds Yat in Gloucestershire. Sometimes I really, really love my job especially on weekends when I get to stand in the sunshine and show visitors amazing wildlife. But I'm a little exhausted by all that wildlife, so, this is just a quick blog about some of the fantastic things I've seen in the last few days, and a longer blog will follow later in the day.

The highlight for me has to be hearing my first cuckoo of the year at about 11am on Saturday morning.  Brilliant to hear them again and always amazing to think they've flown all the way from Africa.

The stars of the show were the peregrines flying around their nest and showing off catching pigeons throughout the weekend, but mainly just sitting and chilling out on the rock face. Fasted animals in the world you know!

A kingfisher was seen distantly below in a tree by the winding river and the marvels of telescopes meant we could all see it very clearly and it stuck around for ages, before some canoeists accidentally scared it off.

Other highlights were the nuthatches nesting, the roe deer grazing in the fields below and the buzzards circling above. The sunshine helped keep spirits up too!

Definitely a good weekend and I was lucky enough to be at Symonds Yat at the best time of year with bluebells out and warblers singing in the trees. If you have a spare day in the nest few weeks, take a trip up (or down, or across to) the fantastic Forest of Dean!

Blog number two of the day coming later....

Monday, 13 May 2013

Tweets at Dawn

This week was the start of Radio 4's Tweet of the Day series. Having missed international dawn chorus day a few weeks ago (5th May) I have been enjoying these daily ventures into the world of birdsong, although I admit I tend to listen on iplayer in the evenings rather than live at 6am.

The first five episodes heard David Attenborough narrating the calls of the cuckoo, song thrush, swift, wood warbler and the first of a two part-er on the nightingale. Despite being only 90 seconds long each episode manages to be both relaxed and very informative giving a welcome break from the busyness of the day. If I were awake at 6am it would be a lovely way to start my mornings!

If you haven't managed to catch them yet, here are the links to the episodes so far (well worth a listen!) and a few facts that particularly caught my ear.

Cuckoo: In the past people thought that cuckoos transformed into sparrow hawks when summer was done, and then spent the winter in this form until spring came and they changed back.

Song Thrush:  Each call is repeated twice by the song thrush, making it an easy song to identify in the noisy dawn chorus.

Swift: Travelling up to 500 miles a day to feed; a large part of a swift's daily diet is spiders floating through the air on threads of silk!

Wood Warbler: The call of this bird sounds very like "a spinning coin on a marble slab". Males will watch an area of woodland to check for ground mammals before building a nest on the woodland floor.

Nightingale: Despite their name, nightingales will sing during the day as well as at night. Like the cuckoo and swift, nightingales are summer migrants travelling yearly from Africa.

By the time this blog goes live the second part of the nightingale's story will be up online, and I look forward to hearing it when I wake up. Birdsong is one of my favourite sounds. I've heard all five birds featured so far in the series, I hear song thrush and swifts quite often close to home while hearing a cuckoo or nightingale is always a memorable moment. Wood warbler is one I'd rarely notice although I must hear it throughout the spring and summer, but maybe I'll notice it's call a bit more from now on.

I'm looking forward to hearing grey herons, shags, garden warblers and redshanks, among others, over the coming weeks and knowing that there will be a few moments of birdsong in my day for the next year (even if I never set foot outside) is already putting a smile on my face and a spring in my step. What about you?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Keeping Promises

Three years ago when the coalition government first came into power everyone wondered if a blue party and a yellow party working together would make a green government. In fact, they told us that's exactly what they were planning. In May 2010 David Cameron visited the Department of Energy and Climate Change and said that he wanted the coalition to be the "greenest government ever". He also said

"There is a fourth minister in this department who cares passionately about this agenda and that is me, the prime minister, right. I mean that from the bottom of my heart."

This January the government released its mid-term review and pledged to uphold those previous policies. The review said that

Climate change is one of the gravest threats we face and we have to confront it. We promised to be the greenest government ever and we will fulfil that commitment.

It's good to know that Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg still believe in these issues. I just wish they would show this in actions. My memories of the government policies don't seem to match this desire to do good. They suggested culling buzzards (and then thankfully changed their mind six days later), they have chosen less than a quarter of the suggested marine conservation zones so far and this week they abstained from a vote in Europe on whether to ban neonicotinoids which are suspected to be contributing to the drastic decline in bees that has been seen across the continent.

It might be that I only notice the bad news stories. I hope so. I hope that by writing this blog many people will tell me of all the wonderful environmental policies that have been sneaking out over the last few years. The Guardian website created a Green-o-meter to track the governments progress in its first year, if you fancy a look, check it out here.

And if after you've had a look you think the government isn't doing enough to meet it's promise of greenest government ever, you could sign this petition asking the government to remember it's promise and keep protection for wildlife and the environment. It's easy to forget a promise if no-one's asking you about it, so let's help the government remember how much it loves nature and how much it really does want to be the greenest government ever.