Having now gone head-first into nature guiding, there’s a bit of me that cringes when I tell people what I do. As a youngster, I imagined that by now I’d live in Africa protecting lions, as a teenager I thought I’d be a researcher into marine biology and until very recently I thought I’d work for a conservation charity in the UK protecting my beloved British wildlife. There’s a huge part of me that wants to turn around and say that I spend my time in one of those roles, but then I have to remind myself that I do what I do now because that is what I do best. It is my job to enthuse people and to inspire them to care about wildlife and conservation, and increasingly I am reminded of what an important job that is.
Before university I had some realisation of this. I had wanted to apply for Biology with Media at Bangor University, but it was discontinued that year. I ended up at Leeds University studying Medical Microbiology and Zoology which, although thoroughly interesting, implanted in my mind that academia and research are the only things worthwhile and I lost sight of what my own talents were.
Volunteering on the Isles of Scilly for the local wildlife trust gave me my first opportunity to interact with a group of people directly affected by conservation efforts, but whom were opposed to the local methods. I loved it. I know of myself that I love to play devil’s advocate, but when things matter I can sit back and form considered judgements and discuss my opinions with others fairly. I felt I made some headway there, but wasn’t able to stay around long enough to see any change.
The next piece in my puzzle was applying to work for the RSPB at South Stack. When it came to my application I threw out the rule book and poured my heart out and told the RSPB about my passion for engaging people with nature and wrote pages instead of filling in the small box at the bottom of the application. I got the job; a pivotal moment for me.
I do not claim to be the most accomplished writer, or to know the most about British wildlife, but what I know that I have in great abound is passion. I get a kick out of showing somebody a puffin for the first time. I get a kick out of them mocking me when I imitate a manx shearwater so they know what to look for. I love it when people open up to tell me about the wildlife in their garden back home. However insignificant that might be to someone else, I know how marvelous it feels to them and it makes me happy to know that we humans can share this love of nature.
I know why I started Naturebites as a business, there’s a long term aim. I’m not leaving conservation organisations behind, I’m encouraging people to join them and their aims. I’m not leaving education behind, I’m learning more about our natural world everyday. Perhaps I won’t work in Africa, but maybe one day I can inspire someone else to do so.
I see my aims coming into fruition already. Incidentals on my tours who have gone home and put up bird feeders, binoculars that have been bought to fuel a passion, a man reconnecting with his love of nature that had been lost since a bereavement. If my success ends there I am happy with what little I’ve achieved.
Today I volunteered out on the shingle ridge at Cemlyn. It was great to be back there showing people through the colony for the first time since wardening there for the North Wales Wildlife Trust last year. People love that place. Some make an annual pilgrimage to Cemlyn, the only sandwich tern breeding colony in Wales, it has such a hold on their hearts. There are few places that you can observe so much of a birds behaviour; mating, nest building, incubation, predation, hatching, feeding, growing, fledging, migrating, all on show in one place.
Many of the people out on the ridge at Cemlyn today talked to me about Springwatch and so, not having a television, I knew I’d have to catch up on iPlayer this evening. What a pleasure it was to hear Chris Packham urging us to get outside and enjoy wildlife, to save wildlife! So much so that I felt compelled to write my first blog in months… Yes, I want people to book onto my tours and help me pay my rent, but I haven’t sculpted this unusual profession out of a desire for money (that would be a very ill-founded plan). I have chosen to do something that will enable me to be satisfied that I have contributed to this world in the best way I can, with the attributes that I have. Talking about nature is what I do (in one form or another) and my love of nature is why I do what I do.
I hope my post doesn’t sound self-indulgent. Of course I hope I can build upon my small influence and change the world… but I am realistic!
Looking optimistically forward to a world rich in wildlife,