A look back at the 2015 Wildlife Weekend

Our Communications Officer Mark reflects on FBOG’s 2015 Wildlife Weekend here in Filey, our most successful and enjoyable yet

Well, that was fun. After plenty of preparation, the usual last-minute hitches and the quiet gnawing of fingernails while checking weather forecasts, last weekend (7th & 8th August) saw the third annual Wildlife Weekend here in sunny Filey, and with a few days having passed since, it’s safe to say it was more than worth the effort.

Part of the bat-detecting group at the Dams

Part of the bat-detecting group at the Dams

As with previous years, the idea was to provide indoor and outdoor activities and events for members, non-members, locals and visitors alike – and importantly of course, to keep everything free of charge. As usual, the weekend was publicised via a variety of means (thanks to everyone who helped with this, from local shops and press to other bird observatories and groups), and with bright skies and warm temperatures on the cards, it looked as if everything might just go according to plan….

One of FBOG's younger members clocks onto a Pipistrelle...

One of FBOG’s younger members clocks onto a Pipistrelle…

Which happily, it surely did, and then some. First up was a new event for this year – The Dams After Dark – which, while looking good in theory, potentially may not have worked out quite so well in practice. A late Friday night on a reserve tucked away behind a sleepy housing estate on the edge of town could easily have ended up with just the few of us standing around checking our watches, but we needn’t have worried – by dusk, fantastically we’d in the region of 30 participants in attendance, with an age range from three to eighty-odd and with a mix of members, non-members, locals and visitors, the reserve was buzzing as the last of the evening light faded.

FBOG’s own Dan Lombard (our Lepidoptera and Odonata Recorder, among other things) was on hand to lead our bat-detecting sessions, which, it’s safe to say, were a real hit – especially with our younger attendees, an enthusiastic bunch who were an absolute joy to work with. With spare detectors available for those who wanted to use them (that’ll be pretty much everyone then), what could’ve been a fairly short-lived activity ended up lasting, well, until we had to wrap it up long afterwards.

In the interim, we recorded many Common Pipistrelles and (excitingly) a Daubenton’s and at least two Nathusius’ Pipistrelles, resulting in one of our younger friends commenting (and I quote) “I was gonna stay in and play FIFA on my X-Box, but this is waaaay cooler!”. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wished we’d have captured that on tape to remind us why it’s always worth it….

Magpie moth from the Dams trap

Magpie moth from the Dams trap

Flamborough’s crack moth team of Ian Marshall, Mike Pearson and Lenora Bruce kindly agreed to take care of the catching and IDing of what we hoped would be a really good selection of moths attracted to their open light trap on the reserve, and we (and all the people who stayed until the very end!) were clearly not disappointed. A full breakdown of species and counts will follow soon, but safe to say we caught a fine haul thanks to their sterling efforts.

With our ever helpful and supremely knowledgeable secretary Sue Hull and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust representative (and FBOG supporter) Jono Leadley both also on hand to help out, the evening was a huge pleasure to be part of, and from the feedback we’ve received, was universally popular; definitely one to think about rolling out again at some point.

The FBOG stall-warts....

The FBOG stall-warts….

Next up, the third annual Woodcock festival in the bandstand and its surrounding Crescent Gardens, overlooking our beloved Filey Bay. Fans of classic graphic design may have noticed that we were once again fortunate to have the poster designed by very talented American artist and FBOG supporter Jonah Schulz, and once again, Jonah provided his services free of charge. After the original idea of the festival a few years back (and its referencing of a certain, somewhat larger scale musical event some years ago), ripping off the Woodstock poster was naturally a must, but much easier said than done; until Jonah stepped up of course, and this year’s effort is surely the best yet; click on the poster to enlarge.

WC2015A4colour

So, how was the day? Fantastic, from start to finish. Warm and sunny, with great live music from a wide range of acts, a lovely communal atmosphere from a hundreds-strong audience, who provided lots of support for, interest in, and donations towards the group and our local conservation work; another great opportunity for profile-raising and connection-making within our wider community.

Plenty of good people were involved in the festival and there are too many to thank here, but special mentions must go to Sue (once again) and Nick and Sandra Carter for their typically tireless efforts in all departments, to our Recorder George for helping to run the stall, and to our two sponsors this year – both RSPB Bempton Cliffs and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust kindly helped us out this time round, and we’re very grateful for their support.

The evening talk has become a fundamental part of the wildlife weekend, and for this year we were particularly pleased to secure the services of not one but two excellent speakers connected by a certain special place within sight of our venue here in Filey. The recently relaunched, aforementioned RSPB Bempton Cliffs reserve has been the subject of much (well-deserved) acclaim over recent months, but with a theme for the evening of ‘The Inside Scoop’, both our guests were perfectly placed to deliver just that.

First up was Mike Babcock, RSPB Bempton’s Seabird Research Assistant, with a fascinating presentation on their cutting-edge scientific work which is so often overlooked (and under-appreciated); stories of satellite-tracked Gannets, Kittiwake breeding productivity and the relative success of Razorbill’s parenting skills provided a fascinating insight into the great work happening there. Next was award-winning photographer and Yorkshire Coast Nature Director Steve Race, who used his breath-taking images to give us a visually stunning and intimate take on life in Bempton’s seabird city. Steve and Mike’s expertise were fully exploited by a full house with many informed questions, ensuring we overran for the third time in two days – as good an indication of the weekend’s overall success as you can get.

So, thanks everyone for making the 2015 Wildlife Weekend the most successful one yet, particularly the fine people I’m lucky to work alongside within the group. With such a diverse and highly-skilled team of volunteers at the helm, there’s little wonder FBOG’s membership, activities and team spirit are at an all-time high.

Mark James Pearson