Here is another fantastic little blog for you all to read. Neil is as charming as his blog suggests. 

As we wake each morning to a new and fast changing world, we are all having to adapt to a new way of living, for the short term.

For us as Visitor Experience Officers at the Nature Centre and the centre being closed, we are learning to engage with you nature enthusiasts in new way by bringing nature, and our lovely selves to you.  So, blogging it is and for an old school, pencil-and-paper-type guy like me, this is going to be quite an experience. I fell at the first hurdle when I very enthusiastically and proudly announced to the team I was going to write my first ever blog!

“I didn’t know you had a laptop” was the response

With a perplexed look on my face “Why would I need a laptop to write a blog?”

Yes, I did indeed feel my age for the first time ever!

Now that I have set the bar for your expectation levels and we are going to be virtual nature buddies for a while, I should really introduce myself. My name is Neil and I am part of the close family that make up the Visitor Experience Officer crew at the Nature Centre.  I come from East Lothian “sunny Dunny”; Dunbar to be exact. It is the birthplace of John Muir and a giant outdoor playground with amazing seabird colonies on one side and the wonder of the Lammermuir hills on the other.

“Sounds wonderful” I hear you say, “Why move?”

Simply, the Abernethy forest is a truly magical place where wildlife hides its secrets, and if you are lucky, will reward you with mesmerising glimpses that have you coming back for more. That, I can guarantee. 

Where did this love for nature start for me? Well I have my parents to thank for that.  Two very distinct moments stand out from my childhood.  I was fortunate enough to live in an area that hosted an array of garden birds and I enjoyed just sitting, watching them. Any excuse not to do homework when you are a kid. My parents nurtured this by placing feeders out to encourage more birds to our garden. I was soon captivated by greenfinches, bullfinches and so many more, in all their colourful glory.  Siskins punching above their weight and fighting with any rival who dared venture too close.  My garden bird knowledge grew quickly.  My dad, the wise old owl he is, thought to harness and focus this new-found passion, and decided to test the waters with some birding.

Off we went to Loch Leven reserve. I remember it like it was yesterday, seeing the lapwing call and sky-dance in front of my eyes for the first time. Turning to look at my Dad with a beaming smile on my face, not a word shared; just quietly soaking up the wonder unfolding in front of us.  At that very moment, I was hooked…birds were now “my thing”.

Skip on a few decades and it is time for my wings to spread and fly off to see the delights the world has to offer. My partner Mhairi and I packed our bags to disappear on a global adventure.  As well as absorbing the sights, sounds and cultures of each country, it began to sink in that each landscape we ventured through held different species of birds. 

That inkling quickly turned into a question in my head: why? Why aren’t penguins, condors, toucans or albatrosses everywhere? This is when the penny started to drop. The link between birds and their habitats joined in my mind.  My love for birds has now become a study of habitats and world of conservation as a whole.

Fast forward one more year, and I cannot wait to study conservation management. A whole course on how to manage land for wildlife. My outlook everywhere I go now is about how we can care for, nurture and enhance all our land for the benefit of wildlife. Here I am, right in the thick of the longest and largest scale conservation project in the UK and loving every second of it.  Ready to enthuse and share my experiences with all of you lucky folks!