Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig: nature defender
Born into a birdwatching family, Mya-Rose was taken to see her first rare bird at only 9 days old – a lesser kestrel on the Isles of Scilly in 2002. A year later she was transported, in her pushchair, to Anglesey to witness another natural treasure and unusual UK visitor, a black lark. Apparently when the bird got close she shouted out (a little too loudly) “Birdie!” It was her fourth word.
Mya-Rose has been birding ever since. She saw her 4,000th species of bird in 2015. Her aim is to see 5,400 – half of the world's identified species – by the time she's 18.
Loving birds comes naturally
Based in the Chew Valley, south of Bristol, Mya-Rose spends most of her free time (outside of school) identifying and recording bird species. She's also increasingly involved in campaigning on environmental issues via social media and her blog.
She explained to Friends of the Earth: "I am a naturalist and love nature and wildlife, though my love of birds is the most special to me. If you spend any time with birds you will realise how special they are. Birds are amazing. They can fly, so how awesome is that? I get a thrill every time I see a new bird."
Bird ringing – and identity politics...
Since she was 9, Mya-Rose has gone ringing – placing an aluminium strip around a bird's leg for identification.
"At the weekend I go ringing from 7am-2pm, Saturday or Sunday, sometimes both. Then I go birding in the afternoon at Chew Valley Lake or the Somerset Levels near Glastonbury. If there is a rare bird somewhere we will travel to see it one of the days at the weekend.
"I’ve also organised weekend nature camps for young birders and naturalists as well as for inner-city minority ethnic teenagers. Everyone had a great time and engaged with nature."
Mya-Rose believes in using her high-profile social media presence (more than 1.5 million views) to raise environmental and social issues that matter to her. This includes: flexitarianism (a plant-based diet with occasional meat), anti-GMO, against deforestation for the fashion industry, anti-palm oil in Malaysia and Indonesia, and many others.
She also speaks out against racism – and sexism – in the birdwatching and conservation worlds. She set up a project called Race Equality in Nature, about particularly encouraging ethnic diversity in these fields.
"I have been working with nature charities, writing articles and organised a conference where ornithologists and presenters Bill Oddie and Stephen Moss and Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy spoke."
Tips for young nature lovers
So how would Mya-Rose encourage others, of all ages, to enjoy nature and take action to save the planet?
"Just get out there. Do whatever you normally do, but just outdoors. Enjoy the sun, grass and wildlife. Your planet needs you too, so start with the small things like recycling.
"My top tip for young children is to buy them a bird sticker book. Children love stickers and will go out birding just to get the next sticker – and before long they're hooked and don't need the stickers any more.
"I want to do everything I can to save the environment from damage and persuade people to do the same. I want to combine my passion for nature and wildlife with my love of adventure to become a nature TV presenter – going on expeditions to remote places, looking for rare or undiscovered species..."
Mya-Rose Craig – an environmental superhero, for lots of reasons. Remember the name.
This article was first published in January 2017.
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