Studies have shown that having a strong connection to nature and spending time outdoors can have an incredibly positive impact on wellbeing. Fresh air and exercise have long been prescribed for improving mood and confidence, in fact research shows that people who are more connected with nature are happier, have lower levels of poor mental health and suffer less with anxiety. * Spending time outdoors can also help you feel connected with the natural world and feel more relaxed. Sounds good to us.
Activities such as bird watching develop our connection with the natural world, encouraging us to ‘press pause’ on technology and screens and embrace the quiet calm of nature. It’s also a great way to get to know people and connect with others in your local community. This summer we are thrilled to welcome conservationist and bird expert Robbie Phillips (@robbieoutside) to Boconnoc. Robbie will be leading a fascinating walk through the Boconnoc grounds where guests will be listening and looking out for owls, bats and even identifying rare moths. The evening will begin in our historic Stable Yard with a glass of wine or a soft drink around the cosy fire pit where our chef will be dishing up a delicious BBQ using locally sourced produce. Dusk is when many of the creatures living on the estate wake up and you can hear the screeches and calls of our nocturnal animals as they head out on their evening hunt. So, we’ll all have our ears pricked, hoping to hear tawny owls and possibly barn owls as well as listening to bats using a special bat detector.
Magically Modest Moths
To end our adventure, we’ll be examining a moth trap with Robbie (don’t worry, the traps are harmless to moths), to observe some beautiful moth species which are rarely seen.
‘Take Five’ with our guide and wildlife expert, Robbie Phillips
We chatted to Robbie to find out what his role as an ecologist involves, how we can all play our part in helping to protect our local wildlife, and we discover his favourite moth species.
Hi Robbie, we’d love to know how you started your career and what an average day in the life of a wildlife conservationist looks like.
I’ve always had a passion for birds and wildlife, and after completing my masters degree at university, I secured an internship monitoring birds for an estate in Devon and supporting the RSPB’S conservation science, that’s when my interest really grew with more time to really explore the variety of wildlife within the South West.
My role is very varied and dependant on the seasons. One month I can be found monitoring pied flycatchers or building nesting boxes for them, and the next I’ll be managing the grounds for grazing cattle on an estate in Devon and restoring wildflower meadows. In fact, as we speak I’m in the fields handmaking species rich hay to feed the cattle on the estate.
We are so pleased that you’ll be leading our evening walk around the Boconnoc estate. What do you enjoy about guided walks?
I really enjoy seeing new areas on guided walks, and of course I get to share my knowledge and passion with lots of lovely people. I especially enjoy giving people an insight into the different kinds of birds that are around, some that they might not have even noticed before. It’s a chance to make some great memories and experience the magic of nature together. There are so many interesting facts about birds but it is more memorable when you can see and hear them whilst learning about their fascinating lives.
Can you share any special places in the UK to see rare birds and bats?
The first place that springs to mind where you are almost guaranteed to see bats is in a place called Buckfastleigh in Devon. They have the largest breeding colony of Greater Horseshoe bats in Western Europe, with over 1500 at the site. In the evening you can sit and watch them fly over your head as they all leave the roost at dusk, you can set your watch by them! If you are interested in bats I would definitely recommend a visit.
For rare birds, the Lizard in Cornwall has lots of migrating birds from Willow warblers to Hoopoes, or Dartmoor for Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and the Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker. The great thing about birding is that it’s accessible to everyone, I would heartily recommend heading to some local woodland or scrubland just before dawn in the spring. Sit in one place and listen to the breath-taking dawn chorus, you won’t regret it.
How can we play our part in looking after our local birds and wildlife?
We can all do our bit. The simplest most effective thing we can do is to provide water: especially as UK summers are getting hotter. Even if you have a small garden, leaving a small crate or upturned bin-lid filled with fresh water can be a lifesaver for birds and the small creatures who visit.
For a larger impact I can’t stress enough how important buying your fruit, veg and meat from local producers is. By supporting local farmers and landowners you are investing in the future of UK food production. Even buying your fresh eggs from a local farm instead of a big supermarket corporation will help. Knowing where your food comes from and the environmental impact of the products you buy is the key to a more sustainable future, we as consumers have the power to make that positive change.
Thanks so much Robbie, just to finish, please tell us about your favourite moth species!
My favourite moth is hopefully one we might see on the walk. It’s called a Buff-tip moth and looks just like a snapped branch from the Silver Birch tree. This incredible creature uses a cunning disguise to hide from predators and will sit on the end of a branch on the Silver Birch, blending in to avoid being eaten by birds. So clever!
Our nature events aim to help connect people with the natural world, and in turn with each other in a way that is educational, inspiring and transformative. It is our aim to run a number if these events through-out the year, so please take a look at our What’s On page to see if there is something which sparks your interest.
Buff-tip Moth image from Butterfly conservation trust