2019 : What a Wild Year!

A few highlights…

This past year has been full of excitement and new experiences for us at Wild Intrigue; from rebranding our logo to launching a delicious new Mini Exped with the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, managing a Heritage Lottery Funded community project, and even introducing LA actor Nick Offerman to British moths. It’s certainly been a year that’s kept us on our toes!

Although our tiny social enterprise is still in it’s humble infancy, we’ve focused this year on discovering exactly what Wild Intrigue’s identity and purpose is. Since launching we’ve been exploring new ways to bring back an intrigue of the wilds to as many people as possible, and 2019 has been the year where we’ve really started to crack it.

With this in mind, here’s a few of our highlights from the year…

Into the wilds….

HUGE Bats & Pizza Nights season at Wild Northumbrian

We’ve been thrilled to welcome over 180 people onto our popular Bats & Pizza Nights at Wild Northumbrian this summer, with almost every one of our lovely attendees travelling from urban North East towns. Our attendees have been introduced to their first lizards, roe deer, red squirrels and tawny owls – with some families joining us to enjoy their very first time in a wild place – and we’ve of course recorded lots of bat activity, including Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, Whiskered/ Brandt’s and Brown Long-eared bats*.

All smiles with eyes in the skies whilst bat watching

The beautiful abundance and diversity of life at Wild Northumbrian is testimony to the successful, nature-minded management of the site by owners Rob and Vicky, particularly of the existing semi-ancient broadleaf woodland and wildflower meadow. We count ourselves incredibly fortunate to continue working with these two utterly wonderful people, who share our philosophy of creating memorable experiences in the wilds, and making them available to all.

No Kids! Bats & Pizza Night

(P.s. Our 2020 Bats & Pizza Nights dates are live and ready to book on to! A few dates are already fully booked, so we’re super excited for another busy Bats & Pizza Night season. Take a look at our Family Nights and No Kids! Nights, and don’t forget to check out the 15% discount on accommodation!)

* Bats recorded using Echo Meter Touch 2 PRO detectors, as well as Magenta 4 detectors.

Accidental Bank Holiday Bat Safari, Ouseburn

Bright graffiti, diverse food, constant music and fascinating people; Ouseburn in Newcastle is one of our top places to hang out in the north, and we couldn’t wait to get our Wild Intrigue hands into it! This year we’ve worked with the Ouseburn Trust to host a couple of Mini Expeds in this urban hub, including an Urban Bioblitz for the City Nature Challenge. The juxtaposition of wildlife living amongst vibrant human life is definitely something to celebrate, and what better way to do this than host a Bat Safari… on Bank Holiday Sunday!

Okay, so I’ll hold my hands up here. For whatever reason I simply didn’t cotton on to the fact that I happened to organise this particular Bat Safari on one of Newcastle’s biggest nights out, in one of the liveliest places in the north. As it turns out, it was AMAZING, and couldn’t have went better (phew!). We had 22 people book onto the event, from sole local residents and families, to members of the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

Ouseburn Bank Holiday Bat Safari

With music, lights and chatty people surrounding us we watched Common and Soprano pipistrelles foraging between flats (which we were pleased to see also had bat boxes up), and Daubentons forage over the Ouseburn itself. It definitely was a night for ‘wild life’ of the animal and human kind, but Ouseburn is such an incredible, welcoming corner of Newcastle, ‘tipsy’ people simply came up to us and asked what we were doing. Once they got over the immediate disappointment and shock that our bat detectors weren’t actually ghost detectors, they couldn’t believe that they were sharing the night with bats, which were flying right above their heads, and that the clicking and clacking was ‘bat chat’.

Every single person who approached us asked how they could book onto one of our Ouseburn Bat Safaris in the future, a great success for urban wildlife, and it just so happens that we’re currently planning a whole collection of 2020 Ouseburn Mini Expeds with the Ouseburn Trust. Bats & Beers anyone? Watch this space…

Moths & Muffins with Nick Offerman, Racy Ghyll Farm

So this was unexpected to say the least…

We’ve been visiting the Lake District farm of shepherd and author James Rebanks, Racy Ghyll, for a couple of years now, installing camera traps and moths traps (mainly Cain), and stealing as many delicious home-baked biscuits as we can (mainly Heather). This is to help discover the biological impacts of James’ nature-friendly farming, including his most recent nature-based solutions to downstream flood alleviation. This year we were really excited to have the opportunity to host a couple of Mini Expeds at Racy Ghyll; Bats & Brownies and Moths & Muffins, which ran consecutively one night/ morning, with James’ wife Helen baking the delicious goodies.

Elephant Hawkmoth

As it turns out, Nick Offerman is a big advocate of wildlife and nature-friendly farming, so is of course good friends with James and visits the Rebanks family when touring the UK. In a bizarre turn of events, our dates overlapped with one of Nick’s tours, so he joined our Moths & Muffins Morning, which was just fully amazing! Nick is the loveliest person, makes a grand cup of tea, and was in awe of the moths that James’ farm supports. It was a real treat to spend time with him.

Nick Offerman (or should that be Moth-erman?) chatting Lepidoptera

What we enjoyed most about this unexpected morning was seeing how nature can have the same awe-inspiring impact on everyone; regardless of their geographical, financial, or cultural circumstances. A famed author and farmer, local residents, buzzing naturalists, and an LA actor shared the room, but the tiny moths completely and utterly stole the show.

Kittiwakes & Doughnuts, new for 2019!

We launched our first multi-partner Mini Exped this year, Kittiwakes & Doughnuts – and we were SO EXCITED to start it!

For the past few years we’ve followed the plight of the Tyne Kittiwakes closely. Very briefly, the Tyne Kittiwakes are the world’s most inland breeding colony of this species; their calls bring the wild sound of the ocean to Newcastle’s Quayside, and it’s a real privilege for us to have them in this North East city. Not everybody has shared this sentiment, particularly a number of hotels who were permitted to install netting across their ledges and roofs to prevent nesting. The nets have in previous years been installed incorrectly, and have been absent of any maintenance, causing Kittiwakes and their young to become caught up and slowly die. This all happens away from the public eye, on rooftops above bustling streets.

Kittiwakes on the Tyne

Many people, some local residents included, still see the Kittiwakes as ‘pesky seagulls’; sure, they poo a fair bit, but don’t we all? With our motto to ‘Inspire, Educate, Rewild’ in mind, we wanted to create a well deserved buzz around these urban seafarers through the creation of a truly unique event, and so Kittiwakes & Doughnuts was born.

Cameras out, Kittiwakes about.

The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art had recently launched an excellent campaign called Care for our Kittiwakes, which fundraises to directly support and grow the nesting colony on the  famous BALTIC Mill structure, and will help to fund the clean up of the path below when the Kittiwakes return to sea.

So naturally, we launched our Kittiwakes & Doughnuts events this year in partnership with the BALTIC, as well as the wonderful, local team at Proven Goods Co. who use top notch local ingredients for their delectable doughnuts, and superstar Kittiwake researcher Dan Turner from the Tyne Kittiwakes Partnership.

Dan Turner inspiring attendees about the Tyne Kittiwakes

We hosted three Kittiwakes & Doughnuts events this year, and managed to raise £150 to ‘doughnate’ to the BALTIC’s Care for our Kittiwakes campaign. We’re pretty chuffed with that! Since the BALTIC estimate it to cost around £50 per Kittiwake to clean up, we’ve got a long way to go, so we’re thrilled to bring back this urban Mini Exped in 2020.

Proven Goods Co. doughnuts (*drools*)

Hidden Redesdale: Re-discovering local wildlife

In January we launched a local project in Northumberland, where we live, called Hidden Redesdale, funded and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Revitalising Redesdale, ERIC North East and Mammal Web.

Moth Trap Training session co-hosted with county moth recorder Tom Tams

We enjoyed having the opportunity to introduce those living in our region to skills which would enable them to discover the ‘hidden’ wildlife of the area through a series of free workshops; camera trapping, bat detecting and moth trapping, as well as managing the very first equipment loan scheme for the area.

Bat detector training session

We had some incredible discoveries and sightings along the way! Including a stunning Common Crane, a regal Emperor Moth and even a Hawfinch in our own humble little garden.

Spot the odd one out…

With the help of our keen Hidden Redesdale recorders, we took around 500 wildlife records for the region, which we’re still processing! Look out for our full Hidden Redesdale end of year report on our blog soon…

A Busy Year for the Team!

As for us, we’ve been pretty busy outside of Wild Intrigue too.

I (Heather) started a new job as Visitor Development Officer at RSPB Haweswater in February, and another as Beaver Project Officer for Cumbria in October – two dream jobs that I’m privileged to have alongside Wild Intrigue.

Cain has continued working as a Wildlife Media lecturer at the University of Cumbria, and has also graduated in an MA in Creative Practice, whilst finishing a PGCE qualification too!

James has been working super hard in his second and now third year on the Wildlife Media degree at the University of Cumbria, whilst helping to set up a wildlife hide and co-manage the Wildlife Society for the uni.

Literally our only team photo…

We are SO incredibly thankful to each and every one of you who has supported and helped us grow Wild Intrigue this year. We absolutely LOVE organising and hosting our quirky events to introduce you all to our wonderful British wildlife, and to help conserve it where we can, so we are super excited to welcome in the new 2020 season. We wish you all a wonderful, wild year!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Heather

Rebecca’s first day with Wild Intrigue
How Intriguing! Upturned Dor Beetles