Blickling National Trust
As autumn passes the baton to winter, we find ourselves slowing down, and shorter days and less sunlight means winter blues and even depression can strike. Colder weather keeps us indoors where there’s plenty of technology to entertain us, but too much screen time can leave us feeling stressed. We’re less connected to the natural world, yet research by The Wildlife Trusts and the University of Essex shows that spending time in nature is good for our health.
Contact with nature reduces anxiety and stress and improves mood, self-esteem, and attention and concentration. Exposure to nature also increases immunity and can help reduce symptoms of ADHD in children. Such is the importance of nature to wellbeing that Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, describes nature as ‘Vitamin N’.
Winter can be the ideal time for a nature walk and Norfolk the ideal place!
Blickling Gold: Tracy Brighten
Autumn is my favourite time to get outdoors and go for a walk. Pick a sunny day and the backdrop of blue sky with golden trees takes your breath away. On days like this, my worries float away with the falling leaves.
When life’s stresses weigh me down, a walk in the woods puts the spring back in my step. When I’m breathing in the earthiness of a downpour or watching birds take flight, I feel alive. Continue reading
Having grown up on a council estate with tiny gardens and a father who thought birds were best eaten, it wasn’t until I had my own family that I started walking in the countryside and watching birds.
It was only recently though, having moved to Norfolk, that I had the pleasure of seeing a pair of curlews. I wondered how I could have missed this enchanting bird in the past.
I wanted to find out more about curlews and what better way than to read a nature memoir! Unlike me, nature writer and campaigner Mary Colwell is no stranger to the curlew call, nor why they may be hard to see. Continue reading
Humans have a complex relationship with animals, ranking them in a hierarchy of utilisation and affection according to human cultures and values. While some animals are saved, others are slaughtered.
Depending on where you live in the world, elephants, rhinos and lions might be seen as endangered species to be protected or they might be used for pseudo-medicine, trinkets and trophies. Cats are beloved pets for some but for others, they are bird killers or meat. It can be difficult to balance cultural differences, species conservation status and ethics to find the best outcome.
But questionable cultural practices aside, even evidence-based conservation science faces an ethical dilemma. Continue reading
Terra Incognita Travel’s first Wildlife Blogger of the Year competition was a resounding success with stories from nature writers around the world. I’m delighted to have my story included in their new wildlife blog eBook alongside other personal stories of wildlife encounters and conservation insights. The team at Terra Incognita describe below the idea behind the collection and what the judges—renowned conservationists, scientists, nature writers and filmmakers—said about the top stories. Continue reading
Huddled behind the hide at the far end of Sandfly Bay, we shelter from winds whipping sand across the dunes. The sun is yet to break as we wait for yellow-eyed penguins to make their way from the headland to the rocks below. It’s a perilous journey from forest nests to ocean feeding grounds, and I wonder why a penguin makes this long trek across farmland each day. Continue reading
Yellow-Eyed Penguin, native to New Zealand. Credit: David Brighten
Sponsored by Swarovski Optik, ecotourism social enterprise Terra Incognita Travel have organised a competition (details below) to find the wildlife blogger of the year. How exciting is that!
Thank you to James Common, Director of New Nature Magazine, for sharing his red squirrel encounter on social media that led me to Terra Incognita. Reading the variety of wildlife experiences and stories, I was inspired to enter my own: ‘Jewel in the Crown: New Zealand’s Yellow-Eyed Penguin‘. What an opportunity to be read by judges that include highly regarded nature writers, wildlife filmmakers, conservation scientists and environmental campaigners—that’s a prize in itself! Continue reading
Our love for plastic and our throwaway culture is choking our oceans and wildlife, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Covering 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface and deeper in places than Mount Everest is tall, oceans have long been a source of fascination. Since Captain Cook charted the Pacific Ocean in the 18th century, returning with zoological specimens and botanical artwork that set the mark for scientific exploration, we have been learning about the natural world. Scientists are still discovering new species. Researchers and filmmakers travel to the most inhospitable places revealing the ocean’s mysteries in documentaries such as Blue Planet.
But sadly, today’s naturalists are faced with the impact of ocean plastic waste. Watching albatross parents feed plastic to chicks has been one of the lows of David Attenborough’s natural history career. But how did we reach this point and what can we do to help regenerate our oceans? Continue reading
We all have favourite books. Some books explore the human condition, helping us understand ourselves and each other. Other books teach us about nature with fascinating stories of wildlife and wilderness. Books that have the power to change us are those that challenge our beliefs and offer new perspectives. These books can lead us to live a more conscientious and compassionate life.
I’d like to share some of my favourite books in the areas of health and wellness, sustainable and ethical living, wildlife conservation, and family and education. These books have enlightened and inspired me to live a more considered life. I hope some of these books may help you in your life too. Continue reading
How can veganism not be a black-and-white philosophy? After all, causing pain and suffering to animals is black and white – you either do or you don’t. You’re either vegan or you’re not.
This all-or-nothing premise was used by TV host Piers Morgan to attack environmental journalist, author and recent vegan advocate George Monbiot on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Monbiot was under the impression he had been invited to discuss the ethics and impact of animal farming. But Morgan clearly had other ideas. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says pipes washed ashore in Norfolk pose no danger of pollution. Are they unaware of, or simply ignoring plastic fragments scattered along the coast?
The MCA’s announcement on the pollution risk from four gigantic plastic bore pipes washed up on Norfolk’s east coach beaches was reported by The Guardian. Twelve pipes were being tugged from Norway to Algeria when they came loose after a collision with a container ship. While there are reports that the recovery operation is underway, no-one is talking about the plastic fall out on pristine beaches used by seals and rare seabirds. Continue reading
The second rarest seabird in the UK, little terns face a bleak future without our help
At a colony along Norfolk’s east coast where I’ve been helping as a volunteer, RSPB wardens are providing dedicated round-the-clock protection for endangered beach-nesting birds. The RSPB’s conservation work is part of the EU Life + Nature Little Tern Recovery Project involving eleven partner organisations, including the RSPB, Natural England, The National Trust, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. The recovery project has been crucial in monitoring, protecting and increasing little tern populations across the UK. Continue reading
When I opened last winter, patronage to my garden bird café was a little disappointing, competing as I was with more established venues in town.
But over the wintry weeks, more customers found their way to our small backyard, so when I sat down with my mug of tea for the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch, I did at least have some birds to count! Continue reading
Help garden birds through the winter and feel the warmth of nature
The rental property we moved to recently was built on land where an old bungalow used to be. Except for three conifers, the garden was cleared and laid to lawn except for an empty flower bed which I turned over the other week hoping to attract robins and blackbirds with worms.
The garden may be neat, but it isn’t bird-friendly. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
How we justify cultural traditions that exploit animals and why that needs to change
Cultural traditions are passed on through generations, perpetuating our use of animals for food and pleasure. In upholding religious festivals and food practices, medicinal ‘cures’, and superstitious beliefs, animal abuse continues without question. We can be reluctant to let go of cultural traditions, seeing change as a rejection of our culture, or even an attack on our identity. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
Human settlement pushes New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguin to the brink
Yellow-eyed penguin feeding chick at Penguin Place, Otago. Image credit: David Brighten
The Emperor penguin is arguably the most familiar penguin in the world, the poster penguin for climate change as global warming melts the Antarctic ice they depend on. Indeed, this magnificent penguin’s survival in such an inhospitable environment is well-reported in films and documentaries such as March with the Penguins and the BBC’s Dynasties.
But not all penguins live in sub-zero temperatures. The yellow-eyed penguin is challenged by temperatures at the other extreme, yet the plight of this ‘Endangered’ IUCN Red List Threatened Species is less widely known. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
There’s something perverse about teaching children to hunt
The slaying of Cecil the lion last year epitomises everything that’s wrong with a hunting culture that now seems to be more about pleasure and ego. A dentist who learned to shoot when he was five years old hops on a plane from the U.S to Africa and buys himself a baited lion which he slaughters, all for the thrill and the trophy. He doesn’t see the wondrous animal that others see. He sees only himself. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
Children in Central Otago see a dark side to the Easter bunny
Easter is a time for celebration, whether it’s the Christian celebration of resurrection, or the Pagan celebration of fertility, symbolised in community Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny.
What you wouldn’t expect is a family bunny hunt involving the slaughter of 10,000 rabbits. But that’s what happens every year in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. The Great Easter Bunny Hunt seems to be a celebration of killing. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
As cat ownership soars, we need a radical change in attitude to save mammals and songbirds from cats’ claws
Despite evidence from camera traps and Cat Tracker devices showing predatory behaviour, cat owners tend to describe their pets as too slow or too gentle to harm wildlife.
But Kitty is equally at home stalking wildlife as she is sleeping on our lap.
As human populations and domestic cat ownership explode, especially in urban areas, more small mammals and birds fall prey. When breeding can’t keep pace with predation, species numbers decline. Well-fed domestic cats might even be compared to trophy hunters in the sense they aren’t hunting for food. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
Cat predation is wreaking havoc on wildlife, but an open-air safe haven for domestic cats and a collar that warns birds could be the purr-fect solution
I’ve written in the past about the threat to wildlife from domestic cats and owners’ reluctance to accept their cat might be involved. While exact prey numbers are difficult to determine, camera traps show that small mammal and bird populations are threatened in areas with high-density cat populations. Continue reading
By Tracy Brighten
Research suggests owners are reluctant to accept the cat predation risk to wildlife and a cat welfare approach may be needed
Domestic cats have been introduced by humans across the world and growing cat populations are placing local wildlife under greater pressure. Cat predation compounds the survival problem by adding to habitat loss and food scarcity for some species.
Free-roaming cats on islands have contributed to the extinction of native bird, mammal, and reptile species unable to fend off this introduced predator. In mainland environments, cats are impacting local bird and mammal populations, with large numbers killed each year. Continue reading