Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Wildlife Trust: My Wildlife Story

In order to discover why nature matters to us all individually, The Wildlife Trust is running a new social media project that encourages anyone and everyone to share their wildlife story with the world through their website or using the tag #MyWildLife. As today is World Wildlife Day, I thought I would share "My Wildlife Story" that I submitted on their site yesterday.

When I was much younger, maybe seven or eight, I declared that I wanted to be either a vet or a marine biologist. At the time, I was reading my way through the Animal Ark series by Ben M. Baglio (under the pseudonym Lucy Daniels) and I was obsessed with all things related to animals. I was determined that I would be a vet, saving hedgehogs and cats and then I developed a passion for dolphins, which was when I switched my dream job to marine biologist. I can confidently say that I have always held the natural world in my heart.

Needless to say, I didn't go on to study veterinary science or marine biology. In fact, I went down a different path altogether, choosing my passion for art and all things creative over nature but I never lost my interest in it. As corny as it might sound, the past few years have been a bit of a journey of self-discovery for me, after plans I made for my future just didn't pan out the way they were meant to. I started drawing birds in my spare time which meant that I was suddenly taking a lot more notice of the feathery creatures in our back garden. As I was drawing, I was learning, discovering species I had never known existed and building my knowledge up, bit by bit.

In 2012, my family and I moved house, from a suburban cul-de-sac property to a chocolate-box cottage in rural Sussex and it was there, in the middle of ancient woodland, that the natural world began to fully reintroduce itself to me, showing me wonderful sights I had never seen before. A great-spotted woodpecker drumming against the bark of an oak. A nuthatch scaling up and down tree trunks like a feathered ninja. A wake of buzzards riding thermals on a perfectly clear day. All of these and more were happening within a few feet of our back door and I had never felt quite so fascinated by anything, and never so hungry for more similar experiences. I was lucky to have the freedom of working from home so my working hours were flexible and I was therefore able to venture out into the surrounding countryside in search of new discoveries. One particular day sticks clear in my mind because it was just so memorable and almost once-in-a-lifetime. During the Summer of 2013, I was walking through a patch of woodland that our house directly backs on to, camera and binoculars in hand and not 500 yards down the path, in a sunny clearing, I came across a female roe deer and her very young fawn, who still had spots on its back. I stood watching the pair for quite some time, as the doe sniffed across the ground for food and the fawn stayed close to its mother's side, until they became aware of my presence and bounded off into the thicker trees. I was amazed to have witnessed such a beautiful sight so close to home!
I've never felt 100% sure of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to take my life until I realised that working in conservation was the answer. It took a long time to finally click but I got there and I'm now actively pursuing it as a career, through volunteer and field work with various conservation charities, citizen science projects such as the BTO Nestbox Challenge and the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar and I am planning to start studying for a Zoology diploma this year. My eyes have been opened to so much over the past two years and I'm constantly learning, even when I simply look out of the window and observe the behaviour of  the birds on the feeders. Something that I have picked up on particularly is the value of each individual species, not just the "cute and fluffy" ones. Everything serves a purpose in the ecosystem and this is why it is so important to gain a better understanding of how to protect and preserve the species on this planet.

My wildlife story is one of discovery. A change of location opened up a door to me and cleared away the fog of confusion that had settled on my life. Nature has helped me and now I am hoping that I can return the favour. There's so much we can take away from the natural world but at the same time, we should be giving back as much as we can.

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