The last blog focused on looking back over the summer and our time on the road, so in the name of equilibrium I thought it only fair to make this latest blog post about looking forwards. We aren’t due to start work again at the campsite until late March, so that gives us roughly 5 months of relative freedom. Our plan was to work enough through summer months this year to save enough money to see us through the winter, working roughly on the same budget we did for travelling at the beginning year which was £200 a week. Luckily, we came in under budget each time, so we were able to put that towards our winter living costs alongside the money we made as campsite wardens.
We don’t have any plans for overseas adventures this year, we won’t be chasing the sun in foreign climes or hiking in snow capped mountains. No, no, no, we will be staying in good old blighty and sticking as closely as we can to the format of seeking out all things wild. Obviously, we will be spending plenty of time with our family and friends in Salisbury, Southampton and Cornwall but that doesn’t mean we can’t still seek out wild things there because there are plenty of untamed spaces and wild beasties in all those locations and all the spots in between.
I have set myself a few animals to try and find during our time off, and it’s fair to say that all of these creatures I am seeking can neatly be lumped into the avian category. This year I’ve been attempting the My 200 Bird Year challenge set by Birdwatching Magazine. I got off to a great start, and had managed to hit 119 by midsummer but then it sort of stagnated, although I’m not complaining with both the U.K’s eagles, hen harriers and marsh harriers on that list. I’ve certainly got some catching up to do and whilst I know I can certainly rack up a few more species that frequent my local patches; godwits, little ringed plovers, brent geese etc there are a few slightly more exciting species I would love to see on my list;
· Great Grey Shrike – this have always eluded me, but the New Forest is good start to search for them so fingers crossed.
· Bittern – cold, frosty mornings with lots of ice tend to bring these birds out of the reed beds and into the open.
· Short Eared Owl – I always miss these when they are in the area, not this year though!
· Smew – this would be amazing, I will just need to convince Bill to head more inland to some of the gravel pit bird reserves.
This quest for wildlife is also giving us a good excuse to explore some of our more local wildlife reserves that we’ve, not necessarily overlooked, but not always had the inclination to go to, because they’ve never been on our destination route.
· Wildgrounds Nature Reserve – this is a little reserve tucked away in Gosport, that is popular with lot of photographers on my local photography facebook page. The thing I like most about this is that you have to have a permit to visit, so it’s a true wild conservation initiative.
· Farlington Marshes – a Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust reserve in Portsmouth. A popular marsh habitat for huge numbers of wading birds, geese and short eared owls.
· Hamwall – this is an RSPB reserve in Somerset and apparently boosts one of the most spectacular starling murmurations going.
I’m more than certain that this list will grow over the winter months, it’s not extensive and it will be added to as we go but these are the places that I am really keen to tick off the list because they are sort of right on our door steps. And we have no excuses this time, what with minimal (no) work commitments we will just have to make it happen.
So as well as searching out birds to tick off my list and wildlife reserves to wander round I am hoping to get involved with some otter tracking surveys run by Dorset Mammal Group. I’ve been a member of this group for a couple of years now but I’ve not really attended meetings or got involved. So this summer I got in contact with the otter team section and have volunteered myself to help so that I can hopefully give back to such an enigmatic creature that has given so much to me.
Another thing I have grown even more profoundly passionate about is the plight of our raptors in the U.K. They are declining species and it’s being brought more and more to the public’s attention how severely persecuted they are. In order to find out more about these wonderful birds, I have put my name forward to join some surveys in the New Forest over the winter to help gain some insight into the numbers that are present throughout this habitat.
Whilst all this wildlife watching is going on, Bill also has plans to rearrange the interior of our van. We have lived in the Van with No Name for a year now, and whilst she is super comfy and we are very happy, there are a few little niggles. We have realised the absolute necessity of lots and lots of storage. We don’t own a lot of things but when you live in a tiny space with a crazy dog, then the amount of things you own seems a lot more. So Bill will take some time to rearrange and reorganise to make next year even better.
I’m not at all worried that we will find ourselves twiddling our thumbs this winter, or getting cabin fever in the van because we just don’t know what to do with ourselves. Between visiting loved ones, visiting wildlife reserves and going on the trail of tricky and elusive creatures we have given ourselves plenty to do.