Welcome to our 2015 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! For each day in the lead-up to Christmas, we have a post from an A Focus On Nature member on this year’s Advent theme: “The Gift of Giving”. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As a wildlife educator and mostly as a naturalist, one of nature’s greatest gifts is the endless opportunity to learn about it.
The sheer vastness of the natural world and its processes mean that we can study it for a lifetime and yet not scratch the surface. Wildlife always has the ability to shock and surprise us, species are always changing and evolving, and even some of our most familiar species and habitat can do something out of the ordinary. When wildlife watching there is no such thing as a typical day, even visiting the same spot over and over we encounter something different each time. Yes there are patterns, the salmon always come upstream, the birds always come and go in the spring and autumn and the leaves change colour.
But every year we learn something new about even the most ‘predictable’ species. For example this year we saw an early arrival of one of our more predictable migrants, the Bewick’s swan. There are population changes, the rise in the goldfinch is a perfect example of this, for years they were a rare visitor to our gardens, however recently their population has increased and now they are now often seen brightening up our bird feeders across the country. Each year a host of unusual and unexpected wildlife turns up in places we would never expect, few could have predicted that this year an albatross would show up at Minsmere and orca sightings would be high in Scotland, or a beluga whale would be spotted off the coast of Northern Ireland.
This constant change is not only exciting, it keeps us nature lovers on our toes, it is one of the few topics that we can become experts in and yet still not really know much about it. A naturalist could know everything there is to know about birds in Britain, and yet still have mammals, insects, fish and plants to study, and outside of that, each country has its own unique wildlife, all of which behave in a slightly different way. This is a gift for us because it stops nature from becoming monotonous, it can never be boring, because no matter where you look there will always be another species to examine, observe and study. This is why I believe it is so important for young people to be given the opportunity to connect with nature.
That is one of my favourite things about nature, I feel as though everyday I learn something new, either by discussing it with other people, reading about it, seeing documentaries or mostly just being outside watching wildlife.