One of the most common questions raised whenever someone stumbles across this blog, particularly from those of a non-environmental background is: why bother? Surely it takes up too much time, provides very little in the way of a reward and is generally rather tedious. A good question actually, though one I struggle to answer on a regular basis, the issue broached equally as often by nature-lovers, many of whom appear baffled by the notion of writing about wildlife, as opposed to watching it in the field 24/7. Well, I do, in fact, spent a great deal of time watching wildlife. As well as writing about it. Though such conversations have indeed caused me to ponder, let’s say, just why I dedicate so much time to blogging about nature. And, for that matter, aspire to one day make a living from amalgamating words and wildlife.
Nature blogging, for me, is a mode of learning. And, more the case in recent years, my mind now scrambles to make mental notes of every aspect of an animal or place, in order to write about it in detail later. Where once I merely watched wildlife, appreciative yet not learning overly much, I now find myself scrutinising many many aspects of species and habitats in detail. From the behaviour of a Willow Tit at the nest to the variance in bill sizes of the innumerable Dunlin pottering around my local estuary. Such observations, more often than not, raise questions. Questions that will niggle until I head online, to the library or to the pages of other nature writers in order to answer them, thus learning a little more every day. Similarly, when asked or inspired to write on a certain topic, research must be conducted in order to avoid sounding like a babbling idiot. I honestly believe I have learnt more over the years from blogging than I ever did during my three years as an undergraduate.
My blog is my diary. Many people, particularly birders and naturalists, maintain a journal – often a jaded, tattered notebook, treasured above all other worldly possessions. And in which they frequently record anything from seasonal trends in wildlife – the first swallow of Spring, or Redwing of autumn – to memorable encounters and anything else they observed on their travels. Keeping an online diary is no different. Blogging about nature allows me to keep track of my sightings, observed trends in my local wildlife and the general highs and lows of a life in nature. Even now I find myself looking back, sometimes fondly, other times no so much, on ventures I posted online in the past, and will doubtless do the same for many years to come. If only to reminisce. All of this, of course, goes without saying the more personal aspects of a journal – some of my final outings with my Grandmother, the lady who first introduced me to the joys of wildlife, are recorded online and are deeply treasured. Nature blogging has many perks, but above all else, it is a highly personal affair, not too dissimilar to maintaining a diary. Though this diary lies plain for the world to see.
As well as acting as a journal, nature blogs also provide a means by which to inspire others, with this inspiration manifesting itself in a number of forms. From direct actions undertaken to protect nature, to simple forays outdoors to enjoy the beauty that abounds around us. There are a great number of inspirational nature bloggers online, with some of my favourites including Mark Avery, Ben Eagle and Sophie-May Lewis, all of whom inspire me greatly whenever they take to the keyboard. I do not count myself among these people, not yet at least, but hope that from time to time my blog may too cause people to think harder about a certain topic, or visit a new place. The simple act of prompting a person to enjoy and discover wildlife in an unfamiliar setting is highly rewarding in itself.
In addition to the previously mentioned points, blogging also provides a gateway to a vibrant community of talented, incredibly friendly individuals. I mentioned some of my favourite bloggers earlier in this post but there are an awful lot more out there – more every day it seems, hurrah. Writing a blog provides an opportunity to engage with other bloggers, to trade ideas, to promote one another and, above all else, provides an opportunity to make friends. Indeed, many of the people I am lucky enough to know at present first became known to me after commenting on my blog, or when I luckily stumbled across their own. All of these people boast similar interests, thus blogging, for me, has proven a real game changer when it comes to dragging me out of the reclusive shell familiar, sadly, to many with an interest in nature.
Finally, and I leave this until last because it is the least important, in my opinion at least. Blogging is also a great way to bring about new opportunities for yourself, and a well-written or simply enthusiastic article has the potential to open up a whole new set of horizons. For me, simply sharing my thoughts on my humble online journal has progressed, on occasion, to the opportunity to contribute to magazines, books and, of course, the blogs of other people. It has lead to day trips, volunteer work, links to notable groups and even the odd press-trip. And through these opportunities, each of which I am horribly grateful for, blogging has greatly boosted my confidence. Both as a writer and an aspiring naturalist. It has helped hone my ambitions for the future and given me the reassurance I feel I needed to “grab the bull by the horns” and make things happen for myself.
The reasons set out above detail precisely why I, personally, maintain a nature blog. Obviously, every writer puts pen to paper for a different reason – figuratively speaking, I seldom use a pen – and not all will do so for the reasons listed in the post. I do, however, hope to have answered the question I began with. And moving forward I intend to use this post as a means to appease those who raise such topics in the future.