Observing nature is something that predates the modern world. But over the last century this simple skills has been in swift decline, with a bit of thought it is possible to learn the signs once again starting by first watching the natural world.
The blessings of a modern society have provide numerous distractions that have made there natural world seem distant. Often nature is thought as the amazing creatures seen on documentaries and photos shared on travel blogs. But nature starts right outside your door and by taking the first steps the world can become a even more fascinating place.
Cutting the cord
Technology has both been a blessing for those interested in learning about the natural world, but the distractions posed by youtube sensations, trending stories and now pocket monsters lining the streets has drawn attention from our surrounds and has left us absent from the complex world around us. It is easy to do, and I am no exception, but on a long walk to meet a friend or get to work you may want to plug in your headphones, read the news on your phone and text friends. But it is on these walks were you can first nature a curiosity in the natural world.
I used to cycle to work every morning, up as the sun rose riding through the suburbs and passing through some quiet cycle paths before heading to an industrial estate. While this doesn’t sound like a place to see wildlife if you take the time you can notice a great deal that would have otherwise passed you by.
Remember nature doesn’t just appear when you are looking, it is always there working in mysterious ways with complex interspecies relationships happening all the times and tuned to the seasons. If you take the time, and make an effort to start looking you will see things far greater then any Facebook post.
Whilst it may sound like I have an aversion to technology this is far from the truth. The use of the online community can be a great entry point and a huge source of information for many nature watchers. Try following a local nature group Facebook, these re great for getting help with identifying unrecognised species. But remember to keep your eyes on the world also.
If you decide to leave the suburbs and urban sprawl and go out into the forest this is perhaps the most important bit of information. By moving quietly through the trees you will experience far more than if charging through the bushes trying to catch something great.
After a while of moving quietly deep in the forest it begins to feel like any noise you make could disturb the peace there. At first you may move at a slower pace but before long you will find yourself avoiding twigs and creeping along to make your presence less obvious. If you do this through English forests for long enough you will see something stunning. Often the most magical moment for me is after hours moving through the forest I have found myself in the presence of a buzzard or some other birds of prey. It is always a shock to see something so large up so close. If not already silent it would leave you speechless.
One thing those new to nature watching forget is that there is no rush. It is exciting when ideas of what you may see fill your mind and you may not notice your pace start to quicken. But, if you rush then you will miss more than you ill find. To resolve this rushing I would head out to a point in the forest. Any point will do, but preferably with some vantage point. Then just sit down, and wait. There is no rush and by reducing your impact by staying still many more of the more timid species will show themselves. A foxes sense is far more attuned to the forest then our own so stopping and taking your time is the best way for this charismatic and timid species to appear. Foxes have appearer in front of me, sometimes less then thirty feet away (10 meters), in the middle of the day whilst I was sitting just to relax for a while. The time you need to wait is about as long as a piece of string but at least half an hour of just watching is a good start and may reveal something incredible.
When people think of wildlife in Britain images of rabbits, foxes and badgers may come to mind. These are of course charismatic species but they are far from the complete picture of diversity that Britain has to offer. If you start to take a much closer look you will realise just how diverse nature can be. A few years ago I began to notice the variety of mushroom and fungi that appeared over the seasons. Whilst some may be easily overlook, by getting down to the ground I realised just how intricate they were. For me I could never just walk past a fungus again. whole new world had opened up to me and hashed some of its secrets. Since then I have spent a lot of my time getting down to the dirt to have a really good look at the beautiful gills of a mushroom or the colourful brackets clinging to a stump. When able to draw myself away from the delicate structure I became aware of the vast variety of insects and bugs that were everywhere. Have you ever spent hours in a room and then you unthinkingly look up, and theres been a colossal spider with you all along! Well that spider was there long before you took the time to look.
The same is true in the forest. I implore you just to go out to the woods and start to look closer. A lot closer. Don just see a flower. Look for mites and pests living on the flower. See how larger insects come and drink the nectar, or maybe prey on some of the smaller visitors. The closer you get to this world the more amazed you will be.
These few tips have given me insights into a world which is so often overlooked. With a little time and attention it is easy to see a story unfolding all around you. So whether on the commute to work in the city or out in the country for a stroll. Bring your mind to the current moment. Take a look around and see whats happening in this world, and maybe you will see something incredible.