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Why The RSPB Changed My Life

by Annette J Beveridge

There are pivotal moments in life. We may not recognise them as such at the time but on reflection, we can think back and realise that, ah yes, that seemingly insignificant moment was a positive moment for change. Joining the RSPB became one such moment because it helped to develop the love of nature that was always within me. It shaped my views and fostered its growth.

I was always watching nature. I was a fairly solitary child so, I noticed the birds that came to visit and the butterflies that added a splash of colour to the garden even in the short term. I rescued animals and learned how to look after them and free them. My brother was more interested in social insects. He spent hours watching ants and bees. He was passionate about them and because he was older and declared seniority, I had to learn a lot about them too. I recall one hot summer’s day when the flying ants flew high and I was in the midst of this wonderful moment. It was an explosion of life and I had never felt so happy.

As I grew up and made friends, there was something missing. I didn’t really have anyone who I could share my interest with. My enthusiasm didn’t wane, it was just something I did on my own. Time passed and I developed a fascination with the passing seasons. I observed the dappled effects of the leaves on trees and noticed the myriad of colours with an artist’s eye. I listened to bird song but rarely was able to differentiate the species. I lost count of the number of times where I listened to bird song and tried to track down the individual bird. I crept in stealth mode through woodlands, careful not to make a noise, convinced I was about to be treated to a rare species. Most often, I found that a Great Tit was mocking me. I had been caught out by its ability to mimic others. But simply being out in nature and being a part of it is the most incredible feeling. To be alone and to not be an intruder within the natural world but to live it, to feel it and to connect with it creates a sense of peace within. Sitting quietly in a woodland scene is the most relaxing place to be.

Even though I felt this way, it was only when I went on holiday to Cornwall that things really changed. I didn’t plan to visit the RSPB nature reserve but found myself there. Talking to the warden, I realised just how knowledgeable she was. She listened and identified bird song easily. She spotted birds on the wing and told me how to identify them. She told me about specific bird traits and reeled off these facts as if second nature.

It might have been her job, but the light of passion shone from her eyes. I felt the same. That was the moment. Inspired, I signed up for RSPB membership. Apart from the years spent travelling throughout Europe, I maintained my membership and rejoined immediately when I returned to live in the UK again. Over the years, the RSPB has been central to my development. It has helped shape my knowledge and enabled me to keep my finger on the pulse of the natural world. It also enabled me to meet others with the same love of nature at local RSPB meetings.

The wonderful thing about nature is that there is always so much to learn. Going on walks with other RSPB members is educational in itself. I learned so much and certainly, things I would have missed had I been alone was suddenly brought to the fore. I remember seeing my first Nightjar’s in the New Forest. What a moment. Nowadays, I call myself an informed birder. I know a lot but I love that my learning continues. When I go out walking, I am not just looking for birds but for life. I look all around watching for the slightest movement. I listen too. I tune into the natural world. I am so aware that we are all a part of an intricate puzzle that is our ecosystem.

My love of nature has grown beyond my early expectations. I fight for nature. I am passionate about environmental justice and about spreading the word to others. Often, people are not informed as to their impact on the natural world or, they see without truly seeing. When you point out birds or relay the importance of an insect to the ecosystem, they are perhaps, taken aback because they genuinely didn’t know. These conversations can ignite interest and understanding. They help others to care or at least, to be aware.

I call myself a nature campaigner…….a peaceful activist and my love of birds lies at the heart of this. Every living thing has a right to live. If we accept that we are a part of this natural world, life becomes more simplistic. If we help others to see through our eyes, even if it is just a glimpse, it may help to cultivate that connection to the natural world. When it comes to nature, there is a starting point for everyone. Mine was the RSPB but for others, it could be a single conversation about social insects, or, pointing out a Sparrowhawk swooping low over the fields or, catching sight of the glorious Robin that comes to visit the garden each day. It is just a case of being aware that life exists all around and welcoming nature into our lives. I truly believe that we can make a difference.

Published inEnvironmental

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