Cornwall Life – January Dog Walk

Usually featured in this fantastic magazine about Cornwall, January’s dog walk was reproduced by the magazine team on the website. For the first feature of the year Lex, Laika and I visited Porthcurno.

Cornwall Life – January’s dog walk to Porthcurno

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Issue 2…

Has been released.

I am surprised at how far we have come in just 2 issues. I feel that this is already a huge improvement on our first issue in terms of design, and I’m really excited about the features. The ideas for further New Nature publications are coming thick and fast, from both within the team and from the fans-turned-potential-contributors and I am really excited for the future of the magazine.

For more things New Nature, head to our website, or have a read of the second issue here: New Nature Issue 2

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Her skeleton lay unceremoniously on the beach. Her bare bones, rotted to the core, casually   dumped in her final resting place. I gazed at her and wondered about her story; the seas she had sailed, the storms she had fought, the passengers she had carried, the life she had led. Until finally she was left, forgotten, to decay on the sand. There was something about her, lying alone, the water lapping gently around her. She was hauntingly beautiful, as though completely out of place, yet in the very home she was built to belong in.

To us, boats go hand in hand with the ocean, yet from a natural point of view, they don’t belong.

She was made of wood. Possibly oak, it was too hard to tell, her former glory now a distant memory. Her decomposed panels barely clung to each other, desperately holding on, keeping her together. Just. The hull, now non-existent, was just a bed of sand. Her port side, merely vertical planks which jutted unceremoniously up into the sky. Minute flakes of white paint still visible on what was left and I considered them; in all the time she had lain there, what chemicals had she seeped into the ocean? What serious damage she had unintentionally done?

I ran my fingers across what was once her bow. The wood, now soft, crumbled lightly under my touch. I bent down, looking closer at her, and noticed, in her crevices, she was not as bleak as on first suspicion….

Barnacles were encrusted in small patches where flat, undamaged wood remained; tiny, rough mounds, sharp to the touch. Some were closed tightly, others now just empty spaces. Amongst the small white blotches, limpets also clung on. Tiny radula marks in wayward, erratic lines across the wood, revealing their short journeys, undertaken when no one was watching. Kelp fronds had moved in on top of them, anchoring themselves to the conical curved tops. I imagined the plants, rising with the tide then engulfed by water, fluttering in the current like torn flags on a ghostly pirate ship.

Ragged clumps of sea weed hung between the gaps where her stern once was. I pushed a section aside, loosening some salt water which trickled down my fingers. A louse, disturbed by my sudden intrusion, flitted wildly, in random directions, succeeding in its aim to confuse its ‘attacker’.

Empty mussels adorned her sides. Their inhabitants had long gone, leaving the shells open like butterflies heating their wings in the sun, delicately painted in hues of blue and white. Glistening alien blobs hid in dark, damp crevices in the wood, lying in wait for the water to rise again, when they could unfurl their tentacles and once again bloom beneath the waves.

I noticed a crab hiding in the shadows and bent towards it. It’s claws, tentatively open, hovered near its face as though waiting to go 6 rounds with an invisible opponent.  Two pinpricks, sat atop conical tubes, swivelled erratically, nerves causing it to be wary of everything. It took a few steps back, further into the shadows, and I realised I was the source of its fear.

I had overstayed my welcome.

I stood up and cast my eye over the vessel in full. The boat, which from a distance had appeared a sparse, empty shell, had been brimming with life up close. A tiny world, barely noticeable to the untrained eye.

I continued my walk along the beach again; hands stuffed into pockets, face towards the wind and watched as the waves rolled along each other before they burst like white fireworks and flitted away. They reminded me of hundreds of tarantulas, running en masse towards the shore.

I took one more glance back at her as I walked. She looked so different now. Not lonely, not sad. She had new purpose.

Man may have given her up to the sea, but nature had given her life again.

 

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New Nature

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I am very pleased to finally be able to upload the link to a new eMagazine, New Nature.

The magazine is aimed at young people interested in natural history and I am part of the team who has created it. We hope to give young people a platform, a place for them to get their voices heard.

When I started writing, I had no idea what I was doing. No one told me how to get published, where to start, how to get noticed. I had no mentor, no university lecturer to give me some hints. There was just me. In the beginning, I just sent out emails saying ‘Hi, any chance you want some help?’ to some of the biggest natural history magazines, somehow assuming this would get me work. Obviously, this led to very few positive responses. Over the last few years I spent a lot of time learning how to pitch, coming up with new concepts, learning different writing styles…and it has mostly  been self taught. The idea behind New Nature is to give others the opportunity that people like me didn’t have – someone who will listen, someone who will help with editing and will help them get their work in print. And so far, it seems to be a success.

I have 2 favourite articles in the first issue. One is by Robyn Womack; a piece about the body clocks of birds. It is really interesting, a fascinating PhD which I am extremely excited to read the results of. The second article I really recommend is by Luke Nash. It is about the bullying that  some young people are subjected to  simply because they are interested in nature. This is a subject I have heard young people reference before and I really hope that, by producing magazines such as this one, we can show them that they aren’t alone and that there is a strong support network out there, so they don’t feel they have to succumb to negative reactions.

But all of the articles in the magazine are of an extremely high standard. This collection of writings proves that young voices should not be ignored; they have something to say and my can they say it. Each article is articulate and passionate and I am extremely excited by the level of professionalism and devotion in the upcoming generation.

Thank you to everyone who has supported New Nature’s release. The response has been utterly overwhelming. I am super proud of the magazine and incredibly excited about its future. Hold tight, we have a lot more to offer….

Issue 1. January:
New Nature Magazine

www.newnature.co.uk

New year…new persecution

In recent years, I have had a big issue with the persecution of certain species. I am not talking about general poor treatment, but specifically targeting species WE have altered..and then deciding to kill it when it behaves in exactly the way we have encouraged it to.

One of the more recent examples of this is herring gulls. (see my article on Wildlife Articles regarding an in depth look at herring gulls). We are slowly encroaching on their natural habitat, we are removing their natural food sources. Alternatively, we are leaving excellent food sources just lying around our streets and in some cases, deliberately feeding them in urban areas. Thus, they are moving into urban areas at an increased rate and are also now becoming a ‘pest’ – stealing human food, destroying rubbish sacks and dive bombing humans and dogs that come too close to their nests. As a result, angry people starting asking for a cull.

As summer ended, tourists left the beaches and people spent less time outside, and things calmed down (although I fully expect to be having this same argument in 6 months time). However, during the festive period, we were alerted to a new persecution: the humble fox.

This article was released by The Standard shortly after Christmas: www.standard.co.uk

The article outlines how there is an increase in fox exterminations in London during the festive period.  My issue with this situation is that our first step is always to kill, instead of closely examining the causes and most importantly, our own behaviour.

The first point to be noted is that during the festive period, at least one fifth of every bag of food we purchase ends up on a landfill. If you can imagine how many people shop during this period, how much thy fill their bags and how many bags they fill, this amount is huge. It is also insanely expensive and extremely wasteful. We are essentially throwing away a fifth of everything we purchase.

Rubbish collections are decreased during the festive period. People will still put their rubbish outside, but often they end up leaving refuse sacks uncovered, so access to food increases, and attracts a variety of hungry animals.

Culling will not solve the issue we have of ‘pests’. It has been proven, scientifically, that it cannot. In order to exterminate a pest, you have to kill a high level of animals over a very long period in order for it to significantly affect numbers and behaviour, a process which is long and expensive. some have suggested the fox hunting ban means there is nothing to control fox numbers any more, however this cannot be the cause either as fox hunting only account for around 6% of fox deaths annually, their biggest killer is cars, further proving that killing them is not effective.
There are other methods which will be a lot cheaper and more effective, so why do we never look at these first?  Because it is ‘more difficult’ for us, because it is our behaviour that needs to change.

Firstly, we need to purchase a lot less than we do – at least a fifth less going by the waste statistics. Buying less food will ultimately equate to less waste. We need to use the food we do purchase, learn to cook and store our food correctly so that we use what we purchase and what we throw away is decreased.

We need to ensure that we dispose of our waste correctly. It costs a few pounds to buy a secure bin – a hell of a lot less than it does to hire an exterminator to shoot a fox. Our councils need to look at their refuse collection schedules. We need to clean up our streets and care for our urban areas. Singapore have a no litter policy which is strongly enforced. First time offenders can face high fees, hundreds of dollars for dropping a single piece of litter. The result of this? Their streets are incredibly clean. Why can we not introduce new policies here?

But all of these measures, whilst they would help to prevent animals from being ‘pests’, doesn’t really solve the problem. The main problem we have is that we are not caring for their natural environments properly enough.

There is still ongoing debate about rural and urban fox numbers. Foxes populations seem to be quite steady, around 250,000 pre-breeding season. A majority of these are living in rural areas, only a small percentage, around 15% are thought to be living in urban areas. Many argue that urban foxes are increasing, however it is very difficult to determine exact numbers: sightings are more common in urban areas, especially when foxes are in the news and densities are higher in urban areas, leading to ‘increased sightings’. Of course, in recent years there were a lot of sightings reported. This was largely due to reports that foxes had started attacking humans. I, like many others, don’t believe any of these reports. In fact, on or two were revealed to be attacks by family dogs that the owners felt they had to cover up and one report was revealed to be an attention seeking hoaxes. These attacks built up a dislike of foxes, an idea that they were getting bigger (unsubstantiated, likely untrue) and that they were potentially dangerous, breaking into homes and attacking children. We forget that actually, these are just another species trying to survive in a world we seem to be slowly destroying.

If foxes are increasing in urban areas, and it hasn’t been proven they are, it wouldn’t be that surprising. Urban rabbit populations are increasing, whereas rural numbers are dropping. Trends such as these can likely be linked to the destruction of natural habitats, the difficulty in finding natural food resources in rural areas and the ease of locating food in built up urban spaces.

Instead of vilifying these species, building them up to be demons, we need to look at why they are behaving in the way that they are and essentially, it always comes down to us. We need to change our own behaviour and our mindset.

And at the end of the day, is picking through a bit of rubbish, looking for something to eat and maybe causing a mess, really worth killing for?