Marsh Harrier. Photograph by Sarah Kelman (Bird Photographer of the Year image)
Marsh Harrier. Sarah Kelman

Birding 101 challenges young people to explore birds through written art

Read the winning pieces here.


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BTO Youth’s online training programme Birding 101 is a series of free, virtual sessions for young people to learn all about birding in the UK. It has been a huge success so far, with over 100 young people from across the UK engaging in multiple sessions. These sessions have provided a safe space for young people to celebrate their passion for birds, share their experiences and develop their knowledge and skills.

Every fortnight our dedicated Youth Representatives deliver a session, concluding with a challenge. London Youth Representative Keir Chauhan recently delivered the Birds of Prey Birding 101 and decided to get participants' creativity in motion by setting them a creative writing challenge. 

Participants had a 350-word limit to work within to produce a poem, story or essay about birds of prey. We were absolutely blown away by the quality of the entries we received. A 4-person panel made up of BTO staff and Keir were set the incredibly difficult task of picking winners. 

BTO Youth prides itself on being accessible to any young person with an interest in the work we do, so given that Birding 101 sessions have participants ranging from ages 6 to 25, we decided to have three age brackets for the competition: 6-11, 12-17 and 18-25. 

Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations to our winners!

Lily L (Age 9)

Peregrine and Kestrel
Peregrine. Katie Nethercoat
Peregrine Katie Nethercoat 

Once upon a time there lived 2 peregrine falcons (one sister, Sky and one brother, Diver). These peregrines lived in a church in London on a really high ledge. These chicks already had the distinctive pointed wings like their parents so they could dive bomb any unfortunate little bird or mouse. Our chicks also had really sharp talons and great eyesight, they could probably see all the way to the ground.

Kestrel. Philip Croft / BTO
Kestrel. Philip Croft / BTO 

But, moving to a pair of kestrels living on another church not far away. This family of kestrels (2 sisters Dotty and Sunny) were always in a battle with our diving friends because they were able to catch the prey the kestrel had just spotted. The kestrel, like the peregrine, has pointed wings but they prefer to hover to find their prey. The kestrel has sharp eyes that see everything and talons that strike a blow to their prey. But what will happen when the chicks find each other?

One day our peregrine chicks decided that they wanted to go and see their neighbours whom they had never seen before. So that afternoon, Sky flew straight over to Dotty and Sunny’s nest. When she got home that night she asked her parents why they were not friends with the kestrels. Her parents told her that the kestrels were always trying to steal their food. But Sky replied saying that Dotty and Sunny
had told her that we were trying to steal their food. They realised that there was something making them blame each other and Mum and Dad said that they would try and catch whoever it was tomorrow.

So the next morning everybody could see 2 peregrines and 2 kestrels framed against the bright blue sky. Everybody was working together to find the culprit. The kestrel parents were using their vision to scan the ground. The peregrine parents were getting prepared to dive-bomb anything that the kestrels saw. Not long after they were in the sky they saw a cheeky little mouse climbing up to the peregrine’s nest. The peregrines streaked down and plucked the mouse off the pillar. They talked to the mouse and he promised to never make them hate each other again and after that our little chicks lived in peace.

By Lily Lacassagne

Dotty is named after her plumage and Diver is named after the amazing stoop that peregrines do.

Lucila G (Age 16)

Marsh Harrier. Photograph by Sarah Kelman (Bird Photographer of the Year image)
Marsh Harrier. Sarah Kelman 

I shake off the layer of morning frost feeling the warmth of the sun creeping in from the green canopy above. Rays of energy warm up every little muscle in my body, waking me up for the day ahead.
As I stare at the amber-tinted sky that seems to imitate the colour of my eyes, I catch a flash of brown soaring above, circling the trees, searching. My body fills with happiness and calmness in her presence. She softly lands and lays two slimy fish in front. I take one and
swallow it whole.
Excitement rushes through my veins as I follow her into the abyss. To discover what lies beyond the safety of the nest.
My wings stretch out in the wind as I steer my way through the maze of greens and browns, zig-zagging around the tree trunks and diving under branches, chasing mother through the woods.
We come into a clearing and hover over the grassy field below. I copy every movement, every action. We circle in the air, our gaze fixed on the ground below.
The suspense builds up as others come in.
Suddenly, they start whistling to each other as they dive down and swoop down on the small furry creatures rustling around in the crisp leaves below.
Mother comes next to me and gestures down with her head. It's my turn to try, to hunt.
I concentrate on the field below, dry leaves and green fingers dancing in the wind. I hang in the now blue sky.
And there!
I see the tiny creatures creeping out from their little holes in the ground. I hear the whistling from the others as they see them too. I watch them dive.
It's now or never, I think as I fold in my wings and go after them.
Cold air cuts through my feathers as I plunge towards the ground. I stretch my claws, grabbing the body in one quick motion. I dig my nails into the creature, trying not to drop it as I flap as hard as I can, bringing it to mother to show her.
I did it!

Kimberley H (Age 22)

Osprey. Tom Streeter / BTO
Osprey. Tom Streeter / BTO 

Missing in Africa

On a tree branch, perched up high
A regal figure looks out to the sky,
With striking eyes framed by a feathered mask.
Watching. Waiting. Wondering.

Spring has come, and so has she
But someone’s missing, not at the eyrie.
No ivory body and narrow wings,
Dancing. Diving. Displaying.

Poised, she makes a leap of faith,
Her outstretched fingers catch, and she is safe.
On arched wings and a short, broad tail.
Soaring. Spiralling. Searching.

Ready in the loch below,
A feast of fish must be eaten solo.
By piercing talons with a deadly strike.
Hovering. Hunting. Hoping.

Eager is her amber gaze
To seek her mate in the morning haze,
With his hanging flight bearing courtship gifts.
Looking. Longing. Lingering.

Yet dusks and dawns come and go
And where he is, she’ll never know.

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