Author: Emily Kench. This piece originally appeared in the Eastern Daily Press on 19 August 2017.
All nature has a ‘wow factor’. Everything from the emergence of dragonflies from deep within the darkest pond water, to the swifts that eat and sleep in the air, to the intricate underground labyrinths of rabbits, constructed for their huge families – every obscurity and complexity amazes.
However, it takes a certain something to drop your jaw, leave you with a near speechless ‘O’ and place two magic ‘W’s at each end.
The sight of 100000 starlings working together like Olympic gymnasts is likely to leave you breathless. Two ruthless stags battling over a harem of dainty does is jaw-clenchingly good. Flurries of pipistrelle bats emerging from forbidden lofts will cause eye-darting.
The word ‘wow’ is derived from this movement of the eye: it describes the way the pupil moves when a person sees something of extreme interest or surprise. Though I like to think that wow really means ‘Wildlife of Wonder.’
Wonderment is rare in day-to-day life. My day normally consists of honey flakes, emails, sandwiches, post-slump meetings, jacket potatoes and trash TV. In amongst the mundane, my biggest ‘wonder’ is what filling to put in my jacket.
Throughout childhood, it felt like everything was a wonder. Now, I realise that I have to make time to see wildlife of wonder… to see a wow.
Summer is the perfect time to experience a ‘Nature Wow’. Summer holidays, warm nights, and longer days mean that we can all make time to get outside, even at the beginning or end of a working day. All you need is a little planning and a dash of patience, and you’ll be on your way.
Dragons of the realm
You don’t have to go far to see a colourful array of dragons take to the skies, however these dragons don’t breath fire. The noise and sight of a dragonfly is seriously special; hovering like pre-historic helicopters, they control each of their four wings independently flying backwards, forwards, stopping, hovering, cruising up and down before targeting prey and tearing it apart with serrated teeth.
Where to see: You might see dragonflies scoping out ponds in your garden or local park, but if you want to see plenty in all their glory, visit RSPB Strumpshaw Fen (Norfolk), RSPB Minsmere (Suffolk), RSPB Lakenheath Fen (Suffolk), or The Lodge (Bedfordshire).
Superb skies – we are blessed with huge skies in the east. A landscape photography rule-of-thumb is to fill the photo with 70% sky, but here the sky does all the thinking for you. After a long day, get outside, sit somewhere that makes you feel Zen and watch the sun set. Make sure it’s a clear sky for the best effects.
Where to see: You can do this outside near your house, or see a spectacular sunset at your local RSPB reserve.
There’s something particularly special about sea mammals. Whales are majestic, dolphins graceful, and whilst on land they may look like over-fed sausage dogs, seals definitely take the place of the most soulful sea creature. Whether you see one or two bobbing along the waves, take a boat out, or witness grey seals pupping come winter, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe, and maybe even an aww.
Where to see: You may see one or two swimming off the beach at RSPB Titchwell Marsh (Norfolk) or across the estuary at RSPB Wallasea Island (Essex), however, to see lots of seals take a boat out to see the seals at Wallasea or at Blakeney Point (Norfolk), or to see the seals at Scroby Sands, take a boat from Great Yarmouth. Alternatively visit Horsey beach (Norfolk) in winter to view seals responsibly from the dunes.
Bats: the world’s only true flying mammal. These nocturnal oddities are secretive and it is easy to forget that we share homes, offices and outhouses with them.
Where to see: Found in countryside, towns and cities across the UK, you can usually see them in your garden at sunset or sunrise in warm dry weather. However, we are running guided bat walks at Strumpshaw Fen on 15 September and at The Lodge on 8 September.
‘Nature Wow’ is an RSPB Wild Challenge activity, to find out more visit rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge
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