As you might remember from my first introductory blog post at the start of the season, my background in conservation is Marine Biology and I’ve studied as a marine biologist for 4 years. I have mainly worked in rockpools, but now I find myself deep in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, at the wonderous Abernethy Forest. So, what is a landlocked marine biologist supposed to do?!

While I am here, I want to learn as much about terrestrial habitats as possible, and submerge myself into the forest life.  To put it simply, this has meant spending a lot of time reading and even more time exploring. When I get the chance, providing the weather isn’t too bad, I like to see what I can spot and “twitch” (already learning the birding lingo) and test my knowledge and ID skills. The other week, I went out for a walk around Anagach Woods and along the river Spey. I heard numerous crossbills, came face to face with a tree creeper, and saw my first dipper feeding in the Spey. Spending time in the forest has quickly become one of my favourite things to do here because of the beautiful spectrum of colours and the life you can hear in the trees towering above you. You could spend hours walking and still find something new to see and learn about. I daren’t admit how many rubbish photos of mosses, flowers, fungi and insects I’ve taken and have yet to identify. It is becoming an embarrassing obsession…    

One day, I stumbled upon a nest in one of the bridges along the River Spey, for about half an hour I watched a little bird glide above the water’s edge as it was feeding, then returning to its nest. Then the chick emerged from the nest and I saw the adult feed the chick on the waters edge too! It took me a little while with the bird book but identified it as a female grey wagtail and her chick. A lot of you have undoubtedly watched this bird before and would have known instantly what it was and probably think it is silly to work for the RSPB and not be an expert on birds… But with a lot of time and patience, and with the help of the rest of the Loch Garten team, who are so generous with their knowledge, I’m slowly but surely turning into a fully-fledged birder! I admit, I still have a lot to learn, but I’m excited to learn it!

But birds are only a fraction of the story here in Abernethy and to understand the birds, I must first learn about the forest. I know that I am incredibly late to the game, but I have just started reading “The Secret Life of Trees” by Colin Tudge and it is a stunning piece of writing. Learning how trees can communicate with one another, by passing on chemicals to each other though their roots and symbiotic fungus, is truly incredible. Trying to digest all this knew information is quite overwhelming and the forest seems such a long way away from the rockpools I have been uprooted from. However, reading this book made me remember something about myself and how I first discovered my interests in nature. When I was in 11 I had my first lesson on photosynthesis and that memory is so vivid in my mind because it was a turning point for me. The concept of photosynthesis, how plants can make food from sunlight and give humans oxygen to breathe, was so incredible to me that I was left stunned for days. I saw my whole world around me change, plants, trees and even grass had suddenly transformed from inanimate “things”, into a life source and complex organisms in their own right. Learning this galvanised my love for science and nature. Realising how these two subjects are intertwined helped me find out where my interests lie and spurred me on to pursue a career in wildlife conservation. Remembering this childhood memory has made me appreciate that I am not so lost in this forest, because I’m in an environment I thrive in, learning new things while surrounded by nature. Ecosystems are connected by a delicate web, and as much as I will always love the sea, I cannot fully appreciate it without valuing the land too. We need connectivity with our conservation efforts and must value the land and the sea equally as both are important on their own, to each other and to us.
I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes from an inspiration of mine Dr Sylvia Earle “No blue, no green. No water, no life.”

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