Sunday, 6 March 2016

Interview with Natursidan in Swedan

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Chew Valley Lake
Photograph taken by Oliver Edwards Photography

I've given a few interviews in the last few months, but this one was a little different.  It was for a Swedish website written by a birder Erik Hansson

Often when we travel around the world birding, we meet Swedish birders along the way.  They are normally extremely dedicated to their birding and interesting people to meet.

Last summer we met a Swedish family birding in Uganda, with their eighteen year son.  It's really rare to meet a British family like that.

After the interview was published, it was shared by BirdLife Sweden, virtually all the Swedish birder's Facebook groups as well as a Swedish feminist page on Facebook.

It was fantastic that so many people in Sweden read my interview and hopefully were interested in it.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Chew Valley Ringing Station
Photograph taken by Oliver Edwards Photography

Below is a google translation of the Swedish text. Some of the meaning can get lost in the translation and can come out a bit strange, but it made be smile, so I've left it as it is. My favourite is gulskalliga kråktrastar (Yellow-throated Picathartes from Ghana). I am sure you will get the gist.

Mya-Rose Craig from the UK is perhaps better known by the nickname "Bird Girl" and for her record number of seen birds. Last fall, she became the youngest ever to see 4000 bird species worldwide (read more here). But she is also involved in numerous conservation projects and has probably done more for bird-watching and nature conservation in the world than any other 13-year-old's.

Mya-Rose Craig was born in a family birdwatching. Both her parents and her older sister are birdwatchers and "cruisers". She was "born to bird watching," as she puts it.

- I went on my first move to see the lesser kestrel in the Scilly Isles when I was nine days old. It was then that many British birders met me for the first time, which they gladly reminds me of.

15 months old, she followed with another pull to see a Black Lark. Then the bird came closer to her, she pointed at it and exclaimed, "birdie". It was her fourth word.

Bird's interest really took off when she was three years old came with a marine birding trip in Madeira. The following year, she began to identify and remember the birds she saw and on a trip to South Africa, she began to count her bird observations in the world.

- At this time, my sister Ayesha was 16 years and a great role model for me. She was beautiful and cool and I really understand today the importance of children allowed to have role models and people who inspire them, says Mya-Rose Craig.

In 2009 she made a so-called "Big Year" with her parents to see as many birds as possible in a single year. In connection with that, she participated also in the BBC4 documentary "Twitchers: A Very British Obsession" where she discovered that she also liked to be on TV. Since then she has begun writing a popular blog,, regular columns in the local newspaper and interviewed frequently on TV and radio.

When Mya-Rose Craig's hometown of Bristol last year was awarded the European Green Capital in 2015 with many projects for young people was Mya-Rose Craig involved as one of Bristol's ambassadors. She has also used her platform to spread information about the birds and the endangered areas to a wider audience. When an oil spill affected the mangrove forest Sundarbans in Bangladesh, she gathered more than 200 000 to clean up the area. In 2015 she organized a bird watching camp for young people and ethnic minorities, called Camp Avalon. It is worth recalling that Mya-Rose Craig is only 13 years old.

What is it you like about bird watching?
- First, I love birds. I mean - they can fly - how cool is that? I also like to study birds. It's really special to see their delicate wings, beaks and legs. Last but not least, it is fascinating to see new birds. When you see a small migratory birds, it is amazing to think that the wind hit the Atlantic Ocean or all the way from Siberia.

What is your favorite experience in nature?
- It's really hard to pick one, but I'll have to say when we went to Ghana in 2012. We were looking for the gulskalliga crow thrush and when we got to the place we saw how fågelekoturismen in the area funded cocoa farms and two schools for the local population. To have the chance to see the bird we had to walk up several steep slopes and then sit quietly and wait for a few caves. I did not expect to see them, but suddenly gulskalliga kråktrastar up and walked around in front of us. They are waxy, big as chickens and amazing to watch.

Another memorable event for Mya-Rose Craig was a trip to the mountain gorillas in the Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Watch a video from the meeting here:

You had an eventful 2015. Not just because you saw your 4,000th bird species - you were also involved in at least 30 articles and several TV spots. How do you perceive the publicity?

- I think the media attention and publicity is important because it gives me the opportunity to talk about conservation and nature conservation. In January 2015, I was, for example, interviewed by Channel S, Europe's largest television station in Bangladesh. They were initially interested in me because I was the youngest person to see 3,000 birds in the world and because my mother is from Bangladesh. But after a short discussion about birding in the world I could talk about the spoon sandpipers in Bangladesh and how important it is to save them. The interview appeared in Europe and even on a news channel in Bangladesh at the time I visited the country to identify these rare waders. When I visited a barber shop near the area where the spoon sandpipers are felt the girl who worked there recognized me from television and knew that I was trying to save a rare bird. It was a very important message that I wanted to get up and I was really proud to reach people like her.

Mya-Rose Craig says she does not mind being an ambassador for bird watching. It gives her a chance to talk about the issues that she feels extra for. As an example, the effects of palm oil plantations, to get children and young people in nature and how we save the world's endangered shorebirds. These are topics that she has written articles about, talked about in the media and presentations on several different contexts. For example, when his hometown of Bristol as European Green Capital 2015 and the Oriental Bird Club's annual meeting.

Have you noticed if you have inspired other young birders?
- Lots of young birdwatchers from the UK and around the world, including many from Bangladesh, contact me privately. Sometimes they want to help get into bird watching, sometimes they want to start blogging or start with nature photos. I will help them if I can, but encourages them always and hope that I can inspire other young people to follow their passion and not let people dismiss them.

Regarding that, Mya-Rose Craig, even though she is only 13 years old, has already experienced a lot of sexism. She has also spoken out publicly about it in an eloquent blog post that has been widely spread in the United Kingdom. The text shows Mya-Rose Craig has great insight into the problems and can speak from personal experience. She says, among other things, that when she was only eleven years old created a secret Facebook group, where middle-aged men posted rude comments about her. It was revealed among other things that a university lecturer wrote a comment with sexual allusions about her. Screenshots from the group leaked and the group was closed, but seems to have been reopened under a new name.

You have been more or less public in six years already - have you noticed any change in people's attitude toward you during these years?
- After I participated in the documentary "Twitchers" was the most positive and encouraging, but there were those who were sure that I was not really that interested in birds. Now, since I still birdwatchers, they can not say so long. Instead, they attack me by saying that I do not know much about birds and I do not what I have seen but just follow behind my parents. Some bird watchers also froze me and my family. Therefore, I can not really say that things have improved so much for me.

In Sweden, it has taken embarrassingly long time for women to be relatively accepted as birdwatchers - what is your view of the situation in the UK?
- I think the bird is still heavily dominated by men in the UK. I know lots of older female bird-watchers who have been so discredited and has not been trusted with his observations that they would no longer dare to go out with a rare bird they found. Others seem to have no problems. There are lots of girls that start bird watching now, but they are still in strong minority. My experience is that some male watchers are pretty macho when they meet in the draft or in social media. Although many bird watchers are not like this, so it is a part that is both racist and sexist. When I'm out in the world and birdwatchers can I always others birdwatchers who are very supportive and have respect for my experience and passion.

Again, it is worth recalling that the Mya-Rose Craig is 13 years old.

What do you think you're doing in ten years?
- I hope I have a degree in zoology and some form of master's degree in conservation or media. I would like bird watching in the whole world, to go out on expeditions to remote places and look for new or rare species. If I may, I would also shoot in the meantime, as Steve Backshall made during a trip to a volcanic valley in New Britain, that would be my dream.

Before then, Mya-Rose Craig have several other projects underway. In summer maybe bird watching in Mexico or the United States and her next project is to once again host a bird watching camp to get more young people from ethnic minorities in nature.

- I learned a lot about this last year when I got five boys from ethnic minorities to come to Camp Avalon. I realized then that there are things that conservation organizations can do to improve the situation. This is something that I really want to change because the numbers are shocking. 17% of this group visited not even a park over the past year. I wrote to the major British non-governmental nature of the organizations on this and now they help me to organize a conference June 3, 2016 on equal treatment in nature regardless of color. Kerry McCarthy, Secretary of State for the Environment Ministry, will be our keynote speaker. Since I am a teenager from an ethnic minority, I hope to be a role model for others.

It's probably the least one can say about Mya-Rose Craig.

Camp Avalon June 2015
Photograph taken by Helena Craig

About the Writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

Mya-Rose Craig is a 13 year old young birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent. 

Mya-Rose is a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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