I was looking for something interesting to do with my younger sisters. I had invited them to come to stay with me and Natasha, and I wanted to make sure it would be a bit different – memorable even. With my interest in wildlife, I came up with some unusual ideas to keep two teenagers occupied… bees, anyone?
Through my work as a Ranger I happen to know a beekeeper, so experience #1 was planned as a bee-keeping experience for all of us!
Saturday morning rolled around, and the four of us headed up into the Langdon Hills on the southern edge of Basildon. Sam from Porch Honey met us and walked us up a steep hill to one of the meadows that make up Langdon Hills Country Park. Porch Honey operates holistic bee-farming on a number of sites, with hives on SSSI land (Site of Special Scientific Interest) at both Langdon Hills Country Park and Wat Tyler Country Park. As Kim later told me, “I think of this as my office”.
As we walked into the field, the views opened up to the Thames and even the hills beyond. The sun drenched us, and there were wildflowers and pollinators to spot here even after the annual haycut had taken place. Kim met us there, and together with Sam explained a bit about honeybees, bee farming and their own ethical methods. This includes limiting their hives and honey extraction to maintain wild pollinators – great news for wild bees, butterflies and other wildlife.
The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was once the most adbundant bird in North America, possibly in the world. Humans hunted them on a massive scale in the 1800s, and they were driven to extinction in the early 1900s. Have we learnt anything from the plight of the passenger pigeon?
A course about conservation
I’ve been taking the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Introducing Conservation” offered by United for Wildlife. United for Wildlife is a collaboration between seven big conservation organisations, and has the Duke of Cambridge as President. Their course aims to educate people all over the world about conservation, and encourages people to get involved themselves. I’m always keen to expand or refresh my knowledge, especially when there are certificates to reward the worthy! I’m currently working through Lesson 1: Life on Earth, and one of the exercises asked me to write briefly about an extinction from the last 500 years. I chose to write about the Passenger Pigeon, a dramatic example of human-caused extinction due to both the huge numbers involved and the short timescale over which it occurred.
Last month I visited Maldon’s Hythe Quay for the first time. Maldon is an Essex town, situated on the coast by the Blackwater Estuary. The Quay itself sits on the River Chelmer; upstream (to the west) lies Chelmsford, whereas downstream the river empties into the Blackwater Estuary and then the sea.