Guest Blog – Is the future in safe hands? by Findlay Wilde

Hi, my name is Findlay Wilde, I am ten years old. I live in a small village in Cheshire with my mum, my dad, my brother and dog.

I am fascinated by wildlife, in particular birds.

The reason I got involved in nature is because of the vast wonder it has to offer. I only have to take a step out of my door and I am surrounded by all sorts of species of birds and other wildlife.

I enjoy all sorts of nature; however most of all I enjoy birdlife. I could give a thousand reasons why I enjoy wildlife, but the main reasons for me are watching it, learning about it and seeing how it all works together. For example, seeing how a bird like a Jay is part of the life cycle of trees, simply by carrying and spreading fallen nuts and seeds.

I am always exploring the countryside and gathering more and more information into my head; I don’t know how it all fits inside there some times. I am learning more about wildlife all the time, mostly by watching it closely, reading books and asking people for information and opinions. You can learn so much just by making simple observations. There is a flock of Canada Geese that visit the field near us each autumn. I know it is the same flock because of a white domestic goose that has flown with them for the last two years.

Another good example of my hands on learning is my recent visit to WWT Martin Mere to watch a ringing demonstration with the BTO. I was able to handle a wide variety of birds including a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tits and even the smallest bird in Europe, a tiny Gold Crest.  I was able to look at the birds closely, learn the names of particular body parts, and even work out if they were young or old, male or female. This is the sort of stuff I want to get involved with more and more. Due to this, I am quite frustrated that I am not considered old enough to do this amazing wildlife stuff just yet.

Even though I enjoy birding so much, there is one thing that worries me deeply and that is the fact many species of wildlife, including birds, have an uncertain future.  Climate change, lost habitat, diseases, pollution and even wars are all threatening our precious wildlife. I did a project for school on the Northern Bald Ibis and learnt that there is only a handful left breeding in Syria.

I know there are some successful conservation programs such as the one that has helped grow the number of Avocets. The Avocet numbers have gone up, but will this continue? And who will make sure this increase stays positive in another 30 years time.

Most of my friends are not interested in birds and other wildlife, they would rather be playing on computer games or think wildlife isn’t interesting or cool. I am not saying that they’re not allowed to play on computer games, since I sometimes like to have a go, but they are missing out on so much that nature has to offer.

I got myself interested in nature, but my parents have helped and supported me with millions of things, which I am extremely grateful for. For example, taking me to wildlife places, buying me equipment, making me a bird hide out of the old shed; all this has helped me to learn more and enjoy the most amazing experiences.

Unfortunately as I get older I can’t save the planet on my own, even though that would be cool. So who exactly is going to help?

I think the problem is that a lot of people my age just don’t understand how interesting and important nature is, because no one is showing them. Parents are always busy, roads are too dangerous for kids to go out alone and no-one seems to have any time.

My knowledge of birds and wildlife has all been self taught, but it would be great to have school lessons on wildlife and conservation. It would be great if we could have a Nature Day in school once a month. This could include trips or walks out to wildlife places and guest speakers from groups like the RSPB, Woodland Trust, Wildlife Trust or other conservation groups.  This might just get other children interested and make them understand how important it is to protect all sorts of wildlife from small plants to giant trees, and from bees to the 21 species of Albatross.

My hope is that adults and children get interested in nature and birds by getting out and about, and maybe even by putting up a few feeders in their gardens so they can watch, enjoy and unlock the real secrets of nature.

I am sure you have heard that plenty of bird species have declined, for example, since 1980 40 million Starlings from the European Union have disappeared.  The House Sparrow population dropped by 71% between 1977 and 2008.  I don’t know what the exact answers are for solving these problems, but I do know that if no one else my age is taught to care, these problems will never be solved.

Thank you for reading.

All my studying and findings can be followed on my own blog


62 Replies to “Guest Blog – Is the future in safe hands? by Findlay Wilde”

  1. A very wise young man indeed.
    A breath of hope in this world, I wish Findlay all the very best in his quest and thirst for knowledge. If more young people took his lead then there’s hope for the planet yet.
    Good luck with your ‘Nature Day’ at school too. A wonderful idea.

  2. Hi Findlay – I am the Director of the BTO and was inspired by reading your blog. It is encouraging that young people such as yourself are concerned about the future of our planet, and particularly that direct experience of wildlife fuels your concern. I’m glad BTO has featured in your experience already, and that you demonstrate real skill in converting that engagement into your own knowledge and wisdom. And then that you can communicate it. We have just had the annual BTO Conference where we present and talk about our science – maybe initially scary for a ten year old? However, this year we focused the final morning on young people, including Kane Brides, a ringer and nest recorder who may have helped you at Martin Mere, and Alex Rhodes a 16 year old who presented us with honest ideas about how to listen to and engage with young people. It was very inspiring stuff and you can read about it on Lucy McRobert’s blog here

    A few more young people helped us think about how to work with them in better ways over the next few years, and I’m sure you will be able to join in easily on-line – @Alex_RhodesUK on twitter may be a good place to start. And who knows, maybe next year you will be at our Conference…! I hope you are able to input your bird records to BirdTrack, and I notice in your blog postings, your observations of Fieldfares – these can contribute to our winter thrushes survey on-line

    Thanks for a great blog, and I hope to meet you sometime.

  3. I very much enjoyed reading this, It sounds as though you have fabulous parents.
    You comment re …”and no-one seems to have any time” is a very salient one. Time seems to be an undervalued commodity in the modern world. And yes, every school should have a nature day at least once a month, great idea.
    I hope you enjoy learning more and more about nature as get older, the learning never stops. That’s one of the great joy’s of the natural world. I hope you go onto create a career in conservation, good luck. Many of the best naturalists come from Cheshire !

  4. Keep up the good work Findlay, and keep telling your friends (and teachers) your special moments in nature. They may not understand at first, but eventually they’ll start listening, and maybe one day help to save our planet. At least its working in my children’s school!

  5. Really nice to see your enthusiasm Findlay. I started birdwatching (and all things nature) at a young age and started my first notebook when I was six….though I’m not sure how much of what I saw I believe now! I was lucky to have a Young Ornithologists Club (YOC) group in my small village in Shropshire which too us on trips in Shropshire and further afield. My parents were very kind too, always taking me to RSPB reserves when we were on holiday. I’ve been lucky to get a job working with birds at the BTO and hope that I’m doing my bit to help. Keep up the good work and take all the opportunities that come along.

  6. And no one has mentioned the fact that you are a rarity!! Beware the twitchers may come around looking for you! Even my lads when they were at school were picked on due to their dad being interested in birds and wildlife. The head teacher would say things like ‘You should know this because of your dad’ which put my lads off rather than encouraging them. Fortunately they all have a knowledge most of which was learnt from the golf course watching Stoats attacking Rabbits, Buzzards mewing over the trees and Crossbills ‘chipping’ near the bunker!

  7. Nature days once a month are a fantastic idea, Findlay. And bring back the Nature Table- the highlight of my classroom when I was your age. My son started off like you and now he is at university, studying conservation. Good luck!

  8. Well that was a nice surprise this morning, but a smile on a grumpy man’s face.
    Findlay it’s great and even inspirational to read your blog and hear your enthusiam it really comes through in your writing, it’s great that your parents are so helpful with your hobby. I just wish those who influence policies for this country (MP’s) would take some time out and listen to more people of your age. Just keep on doing what you are doing and if you can get just one person to find nature fascinating and worth saving then you’ve done a great thing.
    Great blog and kudos Mark for having Findlay as a guest blog, great choice.

  9. Nice to read your post. We met at the BirdLife International stand at this year’s Birdfair and it was great to see such enthusiasm. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  10. Hi Findlay

    I’m also a staff member at BTO and it’s great to hear from you. I also have two sons around your age (14 and 11) so have a bit of an idea of the world you live in! You write really well and more importantly seem to be really interested in the world around you. Keep up with this interest and you will never be bored in life (except when stuck in an office…) Yes, get your records flowing into BirdTrack (which has some exciting new developments due VERY soon).

    You will also find there are like-minded people out there and I think it’s actually easier for you to find young people interested in birds than it was “when I was a lad”, thanks to the internet. There’s probably some close at hand who are keeping their heads down! I like this quote from David Attenborough:

    “When people ask me, ‘How did you get interested in animals?’ I reply, ‘How on Earth did you lose your interest in them?’ Every child is interested in animals.””

    Surely that means we have ample material to work with, if we can get it right. Keep up the good work – I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you in the coming years. We need a Bird Atlas organiser in 2027….

  11. Thats a great blog post Findlay, and I think your own blog is great too. You obviously have a talent for writing about nature conservation as well as an interest in doing it. Like others have said, it is great to see someone with such infectious enthusiasm for the natural world. We don’t only need good conservationists, we need also people who can portray their passion of the need for conservation and what can be done for wildlife to others. You say you are frustrated that you are ten and too young to do things like bird ringing. Well, that is a good place to be rather than feeling you are too old to start! Just make sure that you make the most of your opportunities.

    I hear quite a lot about how fewer and fewer children are interested in wildlife and its conservation these days. I am not sure this is necessarily true. When I was ten, which was (gulp!) 26 years ago, I was the only kid in my school who had any serious interest in wildlife. And while we played outside more than perhaps children do now, I don’t think we were immersing ourselves in nature. Mostly we were playing football and cycling (and we even had computer games way back in 1986!), and very few if any of my old friends from school are particularly interested in nature now. I got into wildlife and conservation because, like you, I had very supportive parents who took me to nature reserves and organised for me to volunteer with the RSPB. I don’t think we have ever been that good at providing children with opportuntiies to learn about nature in schools, and have never properly taught children to care. As you say, how can all the problems facing the natural world be solved if this does not happen?

    You are quite right that in that the issues facing the natural world are as serious as ever. There are success stories, like the avocets you mention, but as you say we are still looking at widespread birds like house sparrows and starling in freefall. As was said in a recent blog on here, for years conservation has been about stemming the flow of wildlife loss. We need a fresh approach and fresh ideas from people like you to help us.

    I think you have lots to offer nature conservation. Keep going and I hope Mark lets you blog again on here in the future.

  12. First off, thanks to Mark for letting this very special young man guest on his blog.

    Findlay, you’ve given us some very wise words and great sentiments and you express your views on wildlife with such conviction. You will encounter numerous temptations(!) and dilemmas along the way but with all your enthusiasm and determination I can see you going far and achieving great things, and I wish you all the luck, in the (natural) world.
    As for your point about teaching nature in schools, my interest, apart from being born and brought up in a small village in Cambridgeshire, was sparked off while I was at junior school where we were taken out to a small wood, which had been divided up into small plots, and given the task of documenting and keeping a diary (and a mural on the classroom wall!) of everything, from plants to wildlife, that grew in or visited our allotted plot and thereby along the way giving us a good grounding in many skills including such things as observation, identification, drawing, map making and how everything in the natural world lives and reacts with it’s neighbours. So keep on badgering (no pun intended) your teachers and eventually, who knows?, they might start to listen!!

    And finally, a big thank you to Findlay’s mum and dad for encouraging and letting him follow his dream. I’m sure they know it, but they have a very special young man there, who I’m certain will go on to achieve great things.

  13. Great blog Findlay, I really enjoyed reading it!

    I have two grandsons just a little younger than you and how I wish they were more interested in wildlife but it’s all football and skylanders at the moment, which is fine, I suppose; I got a real thrill when they became excited at seeing a couple of deer from the top deck on a recent ‘bus journey – so I live in hope!

    I also have a five year old granddaughter and she is genuinely interested in all wildlife and occasionally helps me empty my moth trap. Her parents are both interested in the natural world and I reckon this parental encouragement is very important for getting young people started in the appreciation of wildlife.

  14. Thank you Findlay, for taking the time to write such an inspiring and thoughtful piece; and thank you Mark for giving Findlay a chance to speak to a wide audience.

    I now have a son close in age to yourself (and am pleased that he’s interested in natural history too) but it’s not so very long ago that I was your age and wondering about many of the same big questions you raise. Not least wondering why I seemed to be the only one who was interested in wildlife in my class, and one of only 2 birders in a school of some 600 boys.

    All I can say is stick with it, Findlay. As some of the respondees above have already said, it’s a lot easier to find like-minded friends now than it was 20 or 30 years ago as you now have the internet and a whole virtual community of really positive and helpful people at all levels of conservation knowledge and involvement, from folk feeding the birds in their garden right the way up to Directors of the BTO, and former Conservation Directors of the RSPB, and all levels in between!

    There are, in my experience, a lot more people interested and caring about the environment now than there were when I was your age. I know, it seems a bit frustrating still when you see your friends playing computer games instead of getting out there and seeing the wildlife all around you, but trust me on this one, being involved in conservation is a lot cooler than it once was, and some of your friends will (perhaps secretly) have an interest too. Maybe not as keen as you, but you’re lucky to have really encouraging parents. Make the most of them! And keep asking questions, that’s really important – you’ll never stop learning new things about wildlife. Honestly, being interested in wildlife’s the coolest thing you can do with your life. You already know that though, I suspect!

    All the very best,


  15. Brilliant blog, Findlay and very impressive. I love your idea of a Nature Day in school but fear it would not be taken up as I’ve said before Nature doesn’t get SATs results! I’ve tried to interest the school head in visits to RSPB reserves or the local Wild Trust reserve and the Derby Peregrines but to no avail. (The school is in need of inspiration Mark!). I believe that all children are interested in nature if they are given the opportunity to discover and explore but in today’s modern world for most people there just doesn’t seem to be the time.
    I seriously worry that if children don’t know what nature and wildlife is about they won’t care for it in the future. I agree with Findlay it’s not seen as cool and far to easy for parents to, say play on the computer. I have 2 daughters and would not let them play in the woods as, my brother and I did as children, but we make up for that by visiting reserves etc and simply looking out of the window.
    Good luck Findlay with your blog and very well done.

  16. What an inspiration! – Well done Findlay keep up the good work.

    I’m sure you already use them in this day and age facebook and twtter and the other social media like your blog will help you find like minded youngsters. if there isn’t a group – set one up, you’re obviusly not shy!
    FB has North West Birding & Lancashire Seawatching (OK its not Cheshire but plenty of Cheshirites look in) groups so you could ask on there for others your age to get in touch.

    Forget about not being cool – wildlife is ubercool, all those couch potatoes really don’t know what they’re missing!
    I’ve recently taken a school group out, of about your age, and most in the class had never trodden in mud before and had to get ‘special permission’ to get their shoes dirty – what’s the world coming too?

    Above all get out and ENJOY; it’s not all serious science, although some of it is and that’s often fun too…what’s not to like about learning/seeing/experiencing something new?

    You’ve made my day!!!!

  17. Great stuff Findlay and a great boost for those of us who crave to see more young people like you getting stuck in to the Great Crusade to save our wildlife. I am a bit late with this posting as I am currently in freezing Alberta, Canada with my son Jeremy (now 43) a birder since schooldays and my grandson Morris (15 this week) also with a passion like yours who accompany me on seeing the wonders of this wild land.

    Keep it up because despite our age differences there are many who took the same journey as yourself and are still at it. Congratulations too to Andy Clements etc for adding their voice in the encouragement of Findlay. The BTO under Andy’s guidance has become a real force for embracing this youthful exuberance.

  18. Great to see Mark and the BTO encouraging a young person as the future is really in their hands,well done.

  19. Well, that’s wonderful! Well done Findlay. And you know what, wildlife is far cooler than anything else – but you know that! When I was roughly your age (a long time ago!) I brought in a Devil’s Coach horse beetle to school in its sandy cage. It made the girls scream and impressed the boys, but then we didn’t have computer games.
    Keep up the good work and don’t be discouraged – the planet needs you!

  20. Well done Findlay. But please, next time you spot a Great Grey Shrike from the back of our car dont shout out “STOPP grandpa!!”.
    You never met her, but my aunt was a primary school teacher who loved nature, and taught nature study to her classes. It was she who initiated my interest in nature when I was about your age. A few years ago I remember we collected frogspawn for you to take to school in a vivarium and for the class to study. She did that too, many years ago. So your school will I hope welcome your idea of a monthly Nature Day.
    Like you, I got seriously interested in living things while bird watching. I was lucky to make career of studying ‘life’ , but in a very different area from my childhood interests. Life is a vast area to explore, so my advice is to keep your interests wide, stay curious, and somewhere in the years to come you’ll be able to contribute to understanding it.
    But dont give up on the gaolkeeping, although concentrating on the ball when a flock of starlings flies past might be a wise move.

  21. Findlay – well, I guess you are coming home from school around now and are eager to see whether your blog attracted any comments and what people said. There are lots of comments and they are all very positive. Thanks very much for cheering up lots of old(er) people by showing us that there are keen, eager and eloquent youngsters out there.

    Now all you have to do is keep being interested in nature (don’t be too distracted by girls, money etc over the next 30+ years) and get into a position of huge influence so that you can fix all the things that the rest of us have got wrong! No pressure!

    Seriously, your blog was very inspiring and it’s a pleasure to have it here. And you sound like a great kid too – if you are at the Bird Fair next August you can buy me a pint – oh, no, you can’t can you? Well, an ice cream will do.

    I hope you do keep your interest in nature – I’d bet on that happening because you sound so keen now. You could do worse, when the time comes, than work in nature conservation as it’s a very satisfying way to spend your life but wherever you end up there are always ways to help nature along.

    Keep blogging, keep enjoying nature, keep studying at school so that you can have a big influence on the world. And thanks very much for a wonderful Guest Blog. Do write another one, if you like, next summer – we’ll all look forward to it.

  22. Findlay,have a look in Mark’s book “Fighting For Birds”and you will find in there all his career path,think if you could follow a similar path you will make a big difference to wildlife.Of course you will never follow it exactly but for sure you will get some ideas.In one way you are lucky that now conservation is cool and fashionable with lots more jobs available now than there used to be.

  23. I have been following your blog for some time now Findlay, and have been totally delighted by the way that your enthusiasm, knowledge, and dedication have all blossomed over the months. I’ve always said that you’re a young man with a future. This very articulate post on this blog, and the comments it has already recieved, show that your passion is already being noticed by people out there who matter (such as the BTO) and who can influence the future of wildlife. Maintain that level of enthusiasm, and those important contacts, and it will be only a short matter of time before your voice will count big-time. With you around, Findlay, I feel very encouraged that the future of the World’s wildlife has a champion to be reckoned with! My best wishes to your family.

  24. Wow, thank you everyone for all your kind and supportive words. I really want to make birding and wildlife part of my job when I am older, and I really want to start my ringing training as soon as possible.

    I have managed to get 3 volunteers so far for my wildlife days at school and am writing a plan to give to my head teacher in the New Year.

    Now I have all your names, be prepared for lots of questions in the future.

    I have a big list to write after reading all your comments. It will have on it things like joining in with BirdTrack on the BTO site. I will keep you all up to date on my blog and will definitely write another blog for Mark in the summer.

    Mark, thank you for posting my blog. Dad will buy you a pint and I will have the ice cream.

    From Findlay Wilde (About Birds)

    1. Findlay,

      I know some really good wildlife friendly farmers in your part of Cheshire, with interesting farms that support plenty of wildlife. Most farmers are always more than happy to let enthusiastic birders/naturalists onto the farm, in fact I find a lot of farmers in stewardship agreements are often really keen to show off the good work that they have done. All they ask is that you shut gates after you and most importantly report back on the wildlife that you see.

      If your interested, I’m sure Mark would happy to pass on my email address to you and your Dad. Drop me an email and I’ll forward you some contact details of local farmers.

  25. Mark – if you feel like inspiring Findlay into conservation how about giving him a signed copy of your book for Christmas??? Unless he’s got there before you of course….

    Great blog Findlay – such wise words.

  26. Hey Findlay,

    What a great read and a breath of fresh air. Don’t forget, it is people like you that will safe the planet! With your great enthusiasm honed with a positive approach to conservation, you will have the best tools of the job. Keep the wonder (I’m 37 and I still have mine!); this is what drives your enthusiasm & excitement for wildlife.

    Best wishes

  27. Findlay – this is the loveliest & most inspiring thing I’ve read all day! Well done & stick at it – your hobby & your passion for the natural world comes across very well! Wishing you all the best for your future… You can do it!

    Best. Kane (WWT)

  28. Thanks so much for so eloquently sharing your thoughts Findlay. My main passion is Lepidoptera, butterflies in particular (I run the UK Butterflies website and am Chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight branch of Butterfly Conservation). One of my main concerns is the missing generation of nature lovers, and I really appreciate you taking the time to describe this from your perspective, since everything you’ve highlighted applies equally to Lepidoptera. And thanks, Mark, for providing a vehicle for getting Findlay’s thoughts out to a large audience; every nature lover should read this blog!

  29. Thanks to Kane’s last post I’ve just picked up on this too and find it especially wonderful to read after a few days thinking about young people getting into birding. I was also once like you, but as Andy M said, now with the Internet you can perhaps feel more connected. Certainly after all this positive feedback you will now!

    I’ve been into birds since I was 7 and have maintained that interest for 47 years now. And i know it will just get deeper! So you have much to look forward to – enjoy it, you are joining a friendly and dedicated group here! All the best.

  30. Hi Findlay, I’ve just seen your post, and like others, I’m pleased to hear how much fun and interest you are getting from the nature around you. I work for the RSPB, and at the moment I am busy with a project helping the RSPB decide what it can do to help young people get closer to nature, and take action to help save it.

    I wasn’t surprised to hear most of your friends aren’t interested in nature, and I agree you can’t save nature on your own, so finding ways of getting many more young people interested is, as you’ve said, very important. I’d be really interested to know what you think might work. I wonder what might make nature more exciting for young people? Do you, or any of your classmates watch ‘Deadly 60’? If they saw the bird ringing you experienced at Martin Mere, maybe that would change their mind?

    I wish you the best of luck in getting your school wildlife days off the ground, and getting into the conservation world as you get older – looks like you’re making a brilliant start!

  31. Hi Findlay
    Great blog – much better than the miserable old bugger who normally writes here (only kidding Mark).
    What always strikes me when we talk about how to get young people more into nature is that it invariably seems to be based on treating “young people” as a single group. Clearly they aren’t, any more than “over 60s” are. This sometimes leads to suggestions like “work with schools”. That might work for some, but wont work for all, any more than “work with SAGA” would get all over 60s involved in wildlife.
    I don’t pretend to have a magic bullet (copper obviously), mainly because I don’t think there is one. We need to stop thinking about children by age brackets and think of them primarily as we would any other group.
    For starters, Findlay, you are clearly a conservation leader of tomorrow. The conservation organisation should be providing you with the tools to develop the skills necessary to be leading the movement in years to come and make sure you’re able to take on Mark’s old job, or similar. In contrast, a lot of your friends probably wont ever get to that level, but they can still help save the world just by being aware of nature, wildlife and the environment and caring about it in a vague sort of way. To achieve that, we need a very different set of actions.
    So, great blog, keep working hard and I look forward to working for you one day!

  32. Hi Findlay, what a brilliant blog. Every adult who loves nature should be rushing to help and encourage young people. In 30 odd years I might not be here but Findlay will and the wildlife needs people like him. Lots of them. I hope to meet you sometime Findlay, you sound like a brilliant birder and all round naturalist.
    Good luck with everything and don’t let people put you off by saying you can’t do things, because you absolutely can.

  33. Findlay

    Go for it, chap! Expand your interests and get yourself a good hand lens or even a s/h stereo bino-microscope. You don’t have to look far for nature – there’s masses of it beneath your feet. And keep on using semicolons correctly – not many adults can do that.

  34. Findlay, thank you for a brilliant post! It should be required reading for all parents and educators. I continue to enjoy your blog and look forward to your future adventures.

    “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” John James Audubon

    Wally (Florida, USA)

  35. Hi Findlay,

    I work for The National Trust at Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire and I am interested in photography and love taking wildlife images.At Rufford Old Hall there are many species of birds and we have one of the more rare species,The Nuthatch.Last spring I was lucky enough to take photos of a pair of Woodpeckers,that were nesting in a beech tree,feeding their young.In the spring ask your parents to bring you to Rufford,you never know what you may spot.

    Happy Hunting and Merry Christmas,

    Carla Maloco

  36. Findlay, this is a very good post as I was struggling to find young people other than myself who are propelly interrested in nature. You briefly mentioned a nature day and that made me think about how biology, particully ecology is taught at my school. I have only ever had ecology taught proppely once but when it was it was really great. We went out onto the school grounds and looked for insects and other wildlife in the hedges and in the local brook.

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