I love the outdoors and I have a particular passion for conservation volunteering in my local community. In autumn 2017, aged 13, I started a fundraising initiative (the 100 nest-box challenge) building and selling boxes for £10 to raise funds for wildlife charities; little did I know at the time, but that project would be the start of a local conservation initiative that has become a huge and rewarding part of my life.
I’d like to share my story with you, in the hope that it will inspire and give confidence to others (especially young people) to get involved in their local communities with conservation/rewilding projects. This blog is a little longer than my usual ones, but I think it makes an interesting story. I hope you’ll agree.
For those of you who have followed my work through my blogs, simply scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the exciting developments that have taken place in 2019!!
The beginning (October 2017 – February 2018)
As part of my nest-box challenge I decided to donate 6 boxes to my local park (Linn Park Local Nature Reserve) to encourage wildlife in the park. I’d noticed that the majority of the old boxes had rotted and were falling off the trees.
I met with the newly reformed ‘Friends of Linn Park’ (FoLP) (volunteer group) and the Countryside Ranger for the park (and many others in the local area) to discuss the idea. It was suggested that I could stage an event in the park to promote my 100 nest-box challenge. At the event I would sell boxes to he public in the normal way, but would also give people the opportunity to ‘sponsor’ a box in the park for a donation and a sponsorship certificate.
In February 2018 we held our event to coincide with National Nest-box Week and it was a roaring success! I sold my 100th box at the event and secured sponsorship for more boxes to be put up in the park later in the year. I was overwhelmed with the level of interest at the event and was now heading home with a list of ‘orders’ for new boxes that needed to be built. The problem was, there was no way I could get these done for the 2018 nesting season. So, I told the people who ordered a box that I would make them later in the year in time for the 2019 nesting season. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was the start of something that was going to grow and grow ……………….. and grow!
A few weeks later, with the assistance of the Countryside Ranger we put up the 13 boxes for the park.
April 2018 – June 2018
By this time, I’d become an active member of FoLP and was involved in a number of conservation-related activities in the park, including tree-planting, wildflower planting and path-restoration.
I’d also taken the lead on monitoring our 13 nest-boxes for use throughout the nesting season. I designed a monitoring schedule and with the help of my dad monitored the use of the nest-boxes in the park in accordance with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Nest Record Scheme.
For 3 months (April – June) we visited our boxes twice per week to monitor nest development, egg laying and hatching/fledging. It was hard but rewarding work! We became a regular sight in the park with our bright yellow FoLP bibs and we made a point of speaking to park users, especially children, to explain what we were doing. Pictures we had taken on our phones of the eggs & chicks were a particular source of interest. Families started to take an active interest in the boxes, watching the birds flitting back and forward with food for their young.
By the end of the nesting season 10 out of our 13 boxes had been used with 47 chicks successfully fledging. Equally as important, park users were now taking an active interest in what was going on.
I kept a spreadsheet of all nest information and submitted the data to the BTO scheme at the end of the year.
Excited by the success of our first park nest-box event we staged a second public event to secure sponsorship for additional boxes in the park. I’d been working hard over the summer months to meet my order backlog and to make extra boxes to bring along on the day.
Again, the public event was a huge success. We secured sponsorship for a further 23 boxes with funds going to support the conservation work of FoLP. The additional boxes were put up with the assistance of the Glasgow City Council Countryside Ranger Service bringing the total in the park to 40. This time we took email contact details for all box sponsors and promised to send them email updates of activity in their box during the 2019 breeding season.
November 2018 – February 2019
Motivated by the growing public interest in our nest-box work in the park we applied for and were awarded a grant (£700) from the RSPB to run a community engagement programme in the park targeted at building and erecting a further 20 bird-boxes and 20 bat-boxes.
Part of this grant involved running a public park event (in February 2019) as well as working with a local primary school where children would build a box.
During the nesting year, updates on nesting activity in the boxes will be sent to the children who will be able to identify their specific box by its unique number. Details will also be posted on the Friends of Linn Park (Love Linn Park) Facebook page.
The public and school box-building events were a huge success with approximately 60 children involved. By the middle of February, a further 20 nest boxes and 20 bat boxes had been made. As well as great tit/blue tit boxes we had increased the range to target other bird species in the park including treecreeper, spotted flycatcher, robin, dipper, grey wagtail, goosander, tawny owl and nuthatch. The nest-boxes were put up in the park at the end of February, bringing the total to 60. Bat boxes will be put up in spring 2019.
March 2019 – Onwards
With 60 boxes in the park this year, monitoring was going to be a huge task. To help with that process I’ve created a google-based map which shows the locations of each box in the park. As the location of some boxes is sensitive, I’ve created a ‘public version’ which shows some of the box locations This will give an idea of how the technology can be used. The map can be viewed at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=12MVhxbs7V0_qNY8vwigzCXa4ZD_hz9bZ&usp=sharing
Linn Park: Nest-box Locations
I have just recruited and trained a team of nest-box monitoring volunteers (including 2 families) who will support me with this year’s monitoring programme. In addition to nest-box sites we will also be tracking natural nest locations and recording this information; although these will not be made public.
I’m also in the process of uploading all the locations onto the BTO DemON system so that we can upload all our monitoring data over the year onto the national database.
I don’t know what the future will hold for my work in Linn Park and the surrounding areas. My hope is that with the support of the wonderful Friends of Linn Park and Glasgow City Council Ranger Service we can continue to involve the public in working together to protect and enhance the wonderful nature on our doorstep.
To others my age who are thinking about doing conservation work, but haven’t yet taken that step, all I would say is ‘go for it’! 18 months ago, I was a 13yr old kid with a crazy idea to build and sell 100 nest-boxes. I now feel part of something very special that is a huge and rewarding part of my life.
I’d like to say a very special thank you to all who have supported, encouraged and believed in me over the years.