By Andy Langley, World Land Trust Fundraiser
Latest Update 25.10.23:
I completed my all-day birdwatch on Friday 20 October – my decision to postpone it from the week before, due to a yellow weather warning, was rewarded by the opportunity to birdwatch in Storm Babet! Luckily it didn’t rain for too long and for most of the day it was dry. I went very close to beating last year’s total, with 89 species seen, 6 of which I hadn’t seen in previous years. One of these 6 was an American Golden Plover that must have been blown over the Atlantic, but seemed to be happy mixing with its European cousins. Other highlights were a Kingfisher than came out in the rain to fish, an Osprey which has conveniently hung around Frampton for a month while it waits for a good time to migrate to Africa and a Short-eared Owl seen from the bank of the River Severn. The full list of species seen can be found on my JustGiving page.
Thanks so much for all your donations so far – as I write this, with less than two days to go, fundraising is at 42% of my target so £2,140 will be multiplied by six to £12,840. With one last push hopefully I can get close to my target of turning £5,000 of donations into £30,000 for this amazing cause. There is still time to donate through my JustGiving Page during Big Match Fortnight!
As a supporter of World Land Trust (WLT), I’m always very keen to hear what part of the world the annual Big Match Fortnight is based, where money raised will trigger matched funding to be released from other charitable trusts and major donors. These appeals focus on saving areas with the most biodiversity that are under particular threat. Although saving any area of forest is a great thing, I love to hear details of some of the specific species that will benefit.
This year’s Forests of Mist appeal is a great example, with money going to extend the Guanacas Reserve in Colombia. This reserve is home to a staggering number of species, including many vulnerable animals and plants. One of the vulnerable species, which I hadn’t heard of before is the Oncilla – a tiny forest cat with amazing cryptic fur. The area is a pivotal biological corridor for these cats, as well as the larger Ocelot and Puma.
Big Match Fortnight has a special attraction for me as it’s my annual opportunity to do some fundraising for WLT and make use of an extra set of matched funding provided by my employer Ecclesiastical, part of the Benefact Group. For one day, over each of the last five years, I have completed a dawn to dusk sponsored birdwatch in Gloucestershire to see as many species as possible. All donations up to my £5,000 target are doubled by Ecclesiastical and then tripled as part of Big Match Fortnight, meaning that donations are multiplied by six. Through this arrangement Ecclesiastical have donated over £21,000 over the last five years, which with doubled or tripled matched funding has taken funds raised from these birdwatches to over £100,000.
I sometimes feel slightly embarrassed that I’m fundraising by birdwatching, rather than a more physical challenge of endurance. It’s certainly a very enjoyable way to spend a day, when the weather’s good, which I wouldn’t normally have time for. Luckily I think that the cause that WLT are raising money for helps me to justify the wildlife theme for fundraising and saves my knees from anything more strenuous.
As a keen birdwatcher, there is also the extra incentive this year that the area being protected is home to one of the rarest birds in the world, the Antioquia Brushfinch, which was considered extinct until its rediscovery in 2018, but is found in this reserve. I think that it’s amazing that WLT provide such a practical way for us to make a difference by protecting their habitat directly forever.
Although I won’t be seeing anything as exotic on my birdwatch, I’ll be aiming to break last year’s total of 92 species and hope to see something new. I’ve managed to beat my previous record in each of the last five years, building up from 72 in my first year, but beating 92 will be a real challenge. Over all five years I have seen 107 species, so another target is to increase this list.
This year I will be doing my birdwatch on Friday 13 October, or 20 October if the weather looks bad.
If you would like to help secure Ecclesiastical’s extra matched funding and have your donation multiplied by six, please donate through my Just Giving page during Big Match Fortnight. Most of my donations in the past have come from people I don’t know who have heard about my fundraising on Twitter, so please also share the details if you can.