25 years and counting

The oldest Wildlife Explorers group in Scotland celebrated their 25th anniversary at the end of January. Adam Ross, RSPB Scotland Membership and Engagement Officer, based in Aberdeen went along to the celebrations to find out more.

Wildlife Explorer groups are part of the junior membership of the RSPB. The groups are run by teams of highly motivated and enthusiastic volunteers. The key objectives are to inspire young people about nature while also having fun!

Formed in 1992, the Kemnay group is the oldest RSPB Wildlife Explorers group in Scotland. They meet once a month with a mixture of indoor meetings and outdoor excursions in the summer and offering opportunities for local children from a wide area including Inverurie, Alford and surrounding districts to get connected to nature. The group’s activities are aimed at children aged about 7 to 12, and are intended to be both fun and educational. As well as outdoor meetings in the summer to places like Bennachie, the group also make homes for bats, owls and hedgehogs to help local wildlife.

The group celebrated their 25th anniversary on 21st January. We started with a special event to prepare for RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, followed by a party.

We met at 2 pm, at Monymusk Village Hall and then wandered over to the Sir Frances Grant memorial gardens to spend an hour seeing what birds were around and learning the names of any new ones. Eight children plus some parents and group leaders took part. The Wildlife Explorers showcased some excellent knowledge and identification skills and we saw a fantastic variety of birds including collared doves, house sparrows, chaffinches, coal tits and a couple of very noisy robins. The favourite bird seemed to be the treecreeper which lived up to its name, sneaking around in the tops of the trees but thankfully staying still long enough to give everyone great views.

We then went inside to warm up and celebrate the 25th anniversary. The group welcomed Muriel Brydon who originally set up the group in 1992, back when it was known as a Young Ornithologists Club (or YOC). I presented the group with the gift of a nest box camera which they are already excited about using and we all enjoyed a slice of birthday cake which was beautifully decorated with the Wildlife Explorers logo and served with “champagne” (fizzy elderflower juice). We watched an entertaining slideshow of photos taken at Kemnay Wildlife Explorers events over the years and local RSPB Scotland volunteer Bill Craigie screened a short, evocative video of Scotland’s wildlife.

Brother and sister, Lewis and Rachel Cran are current members of the group. When asked about their favourite activities, Lewis really enjoyed planting the trees at Netherton Business Centre in memory of Dr Piggins and the group walk around Monymusk before Christmas. Rachel’s favourite meetings were the walk around Monymusk and meeting Helen at the Bennachie centre on the Moth watch night as she was able to tell her all about the moth she'd seen at Drum castle in the summer holidays.

Patricia Snowden, the main leader of the Kemnay RSPB Wildlife Explorers group, believes the group provides “a great opportunity to get kids outdoors and experiencing nature”.  And she is certain that “by playing and learning outdoors, we can inspire the next generation to have a lasting connection with nature and want to protect it”.

There are a number of Wildlife Explorer groups running in Scotland. To find out more visit our website.