Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Victorian Accidental Nature Reserves

Scottish Highland Capercaillie and young at Highland  wildlife holidays ScotlandI spent much of last week in the beautiful surroundings of the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland, on a recce for this year’s Autumnwatch, investigating a story about deer. It’s a stunning landscape, with vast sweeping vistas of forests, mountains and lochs. The air was crystal clear and from the top of the Cairn Gorm Mountain Railway the views were spectacular. It just felt so wild and untouched. But of course, it’s not, far from it.
Most strikingly there are a vast amount of the forested areas being managed, foreign conifers laid out in regimented rows, like huge sheaves of corn waiting to be harvested. This is nothing less than a farmed landscape. Occasionally, tucked away in deep craggy valleys, where the foresters couldn’t work, there are still pockets of the traditional Caledonian Pine Forests that would have once stood in their place, but these are few and far between.
The wildlife value of the modern forest is risible. They are a monoculture little better than the giant fields of grain crops you find further south in Britain. The thick dark canopy of needles allows no light onto the forest floor here, which consists of a barren carpet of dead needles. Nothing can really exist at all.
Compare that to what should be the natural habitat, the Caledonian Pine Forest, and the difference is astonishing . Here Scotts Pine trees are beautifully spaced and layered with a mix of old and new that allow light to flood to the floor, encouraging a wealth of plants like blaeberry and heathers to flourish. The biodiversity of these places is just as nature intended, rich, diverse and beautiful. Tantalising species like Pine Martens, Capercaillie, Cross Bills, Crested Tits and of course the charming red squirrels, make up an A-list of wildlife superstars that call this habitat home.
It can be a depressing trudge around the highlands looking and hoping for a glimpse of this rare Caledonian Forest habitat, it’s just so rare to find it. But, some places offer a much better chance than others of finding it. And those places exist thanks to our relatives in the Victorian Age. They created a classic example of Accidental Nature.
You see it was the Victorians who really got excited by hunting. It became a really big hit with the social climbers of this world. Hunting deer, grouse and salmon was the thing to do. And the thing to have if you had the money wasn’t a yacht at the Cannes Film festival or a villa in Monaco for the Grand Prix. No, the thing to have was a hunting estate.
Huge areas of natural habitat where prey species flourished, i.e. the Caledonian Forest and moors, were shielded away from the local crofters who were otherwise turning these places into farmland. This land grab may well be wholly socially unacceptable, but effectively back then it created giant nature reserves. They didn’t have the regulation of today’s safe hideaways, and the animals were shot and killed, but a large proportion of the habitat that the Victorian’s hived away for their own sporting gains, still remains today. And obviously the animals being hunted were never allowed to die out, because that would have defeated the purpose of owning the hunting estate. So, today these estates represent many of the best examples of Caledonian Forest that we have left, along with strong populations of the species that live in it.
One particular estate, Kinveachy, at 33000 acres in size, is one of the very best examples of this Accidental Nature reserve. It holds maybe 10% of Scotland’s Capercaillie population and it’s where last year I filmed Britain rarest mammal, the Scottish Wildcat.
It’s carefully run by Sporting Manger, Frank Law, who has to play a delicate balance between his hunting clients and the needs of what has now been classed a European Special Area of Conservation. Talking to Frank there seems no doubt in his mind just how important the wildlife is, and he’s exceptionally proud of what the estate represents for nature. What’s more he is absolutely convinced that if it wasn’t for the Victorians and their love of killing things, very little of the Caledonian Forest would be there today. And as hunting still plays a key part of the estate’s income, hunting is still important in keeping the Caledonian Forest as it is and helps pay for the increasing amount of conservation work that is now carrying out.
It would be good to imagine a future where hunting is no longer needed on the estate. But how strange that the remaining wilderness of today in the Cairngorms has depended on humans desire to kill animals. I guess when it comes to Accidental Nature we can never be sure how our actions of today will unfold for the natural world of the tomorrow.

To see more of Kinveachy visit

Saturday, 6 August 2011


There is a fabulous story by Matt Walker on the BBC's web-site that really gets to the heart of the biggest effects of Accidental Nature.

It suggest that wildlife is actually evolving in urban environments, not merely changing its behaviour, due to the pressures of humans. If you consider that the urban environment is the newest habitat on earth (after all jungles, oceans, deserts and so on have been around for millions of years) then perhaps this is not surprising. The urban environment is undoubtedly going to be at the forefront of evolution, life will try to find a way where ever it is and the newest challenge is our human world, so thats where the newest evolution will be.

Apparently some scientists have come up with a buzz word, "Synurbic" to describe what's going on today. All well and good but perhaps forgetting that Accidental Nature has been going on ever since humans evolved and put pressure on the plants and animals around them. So, i think the idea that this is brand new to todays world may be a little off the mark, but it shows how this area of biology is becoming very topical. And, it's certainly highlighting that the future of nature on our planet is going to rely very heavily on species that evolve with us.

It's a stimulating piece, have a read.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Sewage Sparrows

When I asked "where is your Accidental Nature?" a few blogs ago, one of my Twitter followers, @Englishfolkfan, suggested sewage works could be a great example. I hadn't thought about sewage works, but it seems reasonable to expect that with relatively large areas of green space, undisturbed by the general public, they could make great places for nature. Sure enough, it seems they are, proof arrived yesterday with a filming job from the Autumnwatch office.

This Friday I've been asked to go and film Tree Sparrows, at Beddington Sewage Works. The birds are in serious decline in the UK, numbers having plumeted far faster and deeper than the more widely appreciated decline in house sparrows, 87% in the last 25 years. The birds are traditionally farmland birds and their decline has been linked to re-production failure caused by a lack of insects on modern farms. The insects are vital for feeding the young as they will not feed on seed until more mature. As modern farms have little natural habitat for insects and use pesticides, chicks never make it out the nest as adults struggle to find them food. Eventually the breeding birds die with no young to succeed them and the population vanishes.

The adult birds have problems too.  They feed on seed and have probably taken a hit like all farmland species with tidier farms and very little winter stubble these days.  The cold months are hard to get through. Within the concept of Accidental Nature, you could argue that if tree sparrows needed winter seed crop provided by humans to flourish, then its not unreasonable to just suggest that if they don't do well when we stop providing them food, so be it, that is nature's way. Rather like Herring Gulls and fisheries discard. But, let's not forget that Farmland will have taken away natural habitat that could easily have supported the birds and those insects for the chicks would have been in abundance too. So, its not just a case of modern farming techniques, but long term eradication of suitable habitat by humans. In the first instance, the traditional farms may have a positive effect on numbers, but modern ones certainly not. So the accidental relationship between the birds and humans is not so straightforward then.

So, why I am I being sent to this sewage farm to film the birds? It's the wrong sort of farm isn't it? Well, it may be, but it seems a new relationship has started up.  Beddington has got the second largest colony of tree sparrows in the country, fledging well over 500 young a year. Why the success? Simple really, the sewage sludge is spread out onto large beds, on which all sorts of "weeds" flourish. (for weeds read wild flowering plants!) This type of rough unkept habitat, known as ruderal habitat, is full of weeds that will provide year round seed for the adult birds, and is home to great insect life too, ideal for the young chicks in the summer. So, the Tree Sparrows are thriving.

The film I've been asked to shoot revolves around some ringing research work that is trying to track this years chicks. For the full story, you'll have to watch Autumnwatch when one of the presenters will be off trying to find the ringed birds. Its a wonderful tale about Accidental Nature, sewage was never intended to help Tree Sparrows thats for sure. And perhaps if the trend of Tree Sparrows setting up shop in sewage works continues they'll become known as Sewage Sparrows, but somehow, I doubt it.

Keep your eye out for the story on Autumnwatch and if you want to know more now visit here...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Seal Pup Update

For those of you interested here is a quick update from Alex at British Divers Marine life Rescue on the common seal pup that was rescued last week.....

"Pup is doing well she weighed in at about 8kg, umbilicus a bit infected so she has had some antibiotics and that has dried up. She is fine apart from that feeding well and now has a little belly on her. She is likely to be there until beginning of October so will let you know how she is doing and when the release date is in the hope that you can make it. They had another one come in from Hastings so she has another one to keep her company!"

Monday, 1 August 2011

Ancient Accident

Over the weekend I've had the chance to catch up with some old friends, James and Sally. They live on a farm a few minutes down the road. When we got talking I discovered they had an old guest back in town, a Barn Owl.

I've been thinking about doing some filming on the farm and news that they've a resident Barn Owl again has added fuel to the fire. You see, I love the Barn Owl. An old painting of the bird with its wings outstretched used to sit above the fire place in the sitting room when I was a boy. As a young child, who had never seen such an animal, it looked a big and impressive beast. That iconic image meant the birds have always been a big figure in the landscape of my wildlife imagination. And, of course, they've been a figure in the wider human landscape for a very, very long time indeed. Right back to when humans very first started building the structures from which they get their name. 

They do fit the Accidental Nature mould so well, even if in a very ancient way. Here was a bird that nested in holes in trees or cliff faces and fed on small rodents. Along came humankind, who, through farming, created lots of sheltered holes in sheltered places (barns) and near these holes humans were farming grains, which attracted rodents on which the birds could feed. It was a perfect accident for the owls who became so commonly connected to these buildings that they became named after them, in Britain at least.

This should have been seized on by farmers as a good thing, because they wouldn't have wanted the rodents feeding on their crop. But one of the many other names given to Barn Owls is Devil Owl, and they were often percieved as omens of doom and shunned away. It took many centuries before farmers recognised the birds usefulness and duly started to actually leave holes in their barn buildings on purpose. I didn't realise they did this until filming on Exmoor in an 17th Century barn and having the Owl Hole pointed out to me by the farmer. It was part of the original design and sat just under the apex of the eves, ideal height for the barn owl to fly in and out of the roof where it would nest. An owl family had been in residence there for as long as the family could remember, way back for generations. I guess it was at this point in time where the relationship stopped being accidental.

The species flourished, as it has done so across the world, and it is one of the most widespread bird species on the planet. I am sure this global success may well have something to do with the continued success of the species to which it is so closely linked - us.

Of course we have played a negative role in the birds' history in this country too. As we developed poisons to kill rodents and farming became more efficient the rodents became less of a trouble and so the importance of the owls as pest controllers dropped. They also suffered from eating rodents who had eaten poison (secondary poising) as well as the troubles with re-production caused by DDT in the 1960's. Genreally farmers stopped worrying about providing nesting places in barns and all in the Barn Owl no longer had the ingredients it needed to flourish.

These days of course the picture is rosier, but not by accident. There has been a huge push over the last few decades to help barn owls spread back across Britain and many farmers have had visits from conservationists asking for permission to put up Barn Owl Boxes on their land. The birds have responded well and whilst I don't think there is any danger they'll be called Box Owls, the relationship between mans activities and owl numbers is clear again, only this time its no accident.

What I love about Barn Owls is that we think of them as being part of the essence of nature. And yet, if you consider Accidental Nature, they are also the essence of the effect humans can have on the landscape. A positive effect. A symbol of humans as part of nature. They are, I think, very significant species indeed and I am looking forward to getting out on the farm to watch them. I'll let you know how i get on with filming these oh so ancient accidents.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Gannet Guilt

A few posts back on this blog and you'll see I spoke about how many of our gull species have benefitted from Accidental Nature. In their case, largely by us humans providing a food source either from fishing boats or landfill sites. For the species as a whole this has benefitted them, and this idea that a whole species can benefit from accidental nature is a common theme. This means that on balance most individual in a population are benefitting, but at the same time, there will moments when individuals do not benefit from Accidental Nature - and this was very evident for another seafaring bird species yesterday.

I have no doubt that Gannets have had one or two free meals from following fishing boats and taking discards. On the whole gannets as a species have probably benefited from Accidental Nature. But, out walking the dog yesterday I came across the poor soul pictured here. The bird clearly has some kind of fishing tackle wrapped around his bill, clearly it has divided at great speed to catch a fish in a net, or on the end of a line and it's bill has got caught up. What's more, if you look closely you'll notice the lower bill has actually been snapped in half. This bird is a casualty of Accidental Nature.

I tried to rescue it, rather like we rescued the seal at the weekend. But the bird could still fly and stepping foot within 20 meters of it sent it flying back out to sea. I watched it drift back in to the beach over the next few minutes. desperate to rest on shore. It was clearly exhausted, unable to feed because of the rope and line around its bill. It's only chance of survival would be to be caught and taken to a rescue centre, but this was not going to happen, not until it was too tired to fly. And even then, with a broken bill, once rescued I suspect it would never make it back to the wild and perhaps the kindest thing to do would be to put it down.

I felt terribly guilty that i couldn't help this gannet. I just had to walk away and leave it. The RSPCA tried to help but as far as I know they were unable to get any closer to it. This bird had a terrible accident and will likely die a long slow death. It would be easy to get angry at the fishing industry and wish it didn't exists  - but, as sad as that is, I will continue to consider that Accidental Nature may well be helping Gannets as a whole species because the easy food source fishery discard gives them outweighs the horrific injuries to this one bird. With Accidental Nature you always have to think of the bigger picture. Yes, all fishermen should be careful with keeping tackle out of the way of birds, but to stop fishing could be harmful in the long term.

This link shows a scientific research project looking at Gannets and Fisheries discard and how the birds who represent a success story in recent years may begin to suffer with the new regulations banning discard.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Nuclear Nature

I've had an email this morning from Trust for Cheryobyl Children asking if I would donate one my pictures (i sell framed photographs, mostly seascapes) for an auction to raise money for children caught up in the continuing consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It's harrowing tale to hear about what happened to the families hit by the radiation fall out, but it is also a story that has had a profound impact on wildlife too, one that is very Accidental in nature.

When the nuclear re-actor exploded in 1986 a huge area of land was instantly declared an exclusion zone. Humans were banned from entering it. In effect, this created an enormous nature reserves, albeit a radioactive one. Since that point in time a huge number of scientific studies have been carried out in the area to try and understand how nature has coped with the effects of radiation and lack of humans.

Obvioulsy, in the immiediate blast area many individual animals died during the event. The surrounding forest of Scotch Pines died very quickly, turning a deep red in colour and giving the area its new name of the red forest. No doubt many mammals, birds, amphibians fish and reptiles were killed too. But after the initial blast of radiation, what has happened?

A few years down the line scientist visiting the no-go area started to notice animals seemed to be doing just fine. Wild Boar populatiosn had exploded and predators like Lynx and Eagle Owls, that had never been seen before in the area, had set up home. It seemed that the radiation levels were not harmful enough to outweigh the advantage of taking humans out of the landscape.

As the years passed other studies suggested a decline in some species like the Barn Swallow, which indicated that perhaps not all was well. Was biodiversity struggling more than some scientist suggested?Maybe, but then the paper apparently failed to address the fact that Barn Swallows need humans to flourish. Barn Swallows are themsleves very much "Accidental Nature". Dairy farming, which provided feeding habitat and a home to the swallows had been erradicated from the area, so perhaps it was no surprise to learn they had not done so well out of Chernobyl. The same was found for house mice. None in the abandoned houses in the exclusion zone, but plenty in the inhabited houses outside it. It was a lack of people having a negative effect on species, not the presence of radiation.

There are some links below all about these difference of opinions:

You will notice from reading them that the subject of Chernyobyl and its positive or negative impact on wildlife is still hotly debated, but 25 years on from the disaster it seems the idea of Accidental Nature is hard at work either way. Stories of wolves and bears in the exclusion zone are an exciting accident of humans being erradicated from an environment, falling numbers of swallows is sad for the population in Cherynobyl, but maybe a reflection of positive impact we can have for some species when we are present.

No doubt the research work into the wildllife will continue, and I'm glad the Trust for Cheryobyl Children continue there work so long after most of the world must have forgotten about the people effected. I need to go and find a picture for them to put in their auction. You can see their web-site here...

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Windfarm Accident for seals?

So, there I am thinking that my seal rescue has nothing to do with Accidental Nature. It seems I must think again. Now, this is not down to scientific fact, just a brief conversation, but listen to this.....

Windfarms are being built off the Kent coast at a rate of knots. The picture here is the view from my house and it shows one of the largest off-shore windfarms in Europe, all part of that Kentish eco-energy effort. Good news for carbon emmissions but what effect are these structures having on the sea in which we've put them?

Well, the brief tit-bit of Accidental Nature I've heard is that chalk reefs are beginning to build up around the turbines. As they do the seabed becomes more shallow, that means more fish, and more fish means - more seals. Seal numbers having been rapidly increasing around here in the last decade and there are no doubt many complex reasons as to why, but if building windfarms is one of them then what a superb piece of Accidental Nature. It might make up for the impact that turbines are suspected of having on birds in flight and noise pollution. I know I am touching on dangerous ground with this, wind turbines create a lot of hostilty from wildlife groups, but if there is a positive to be found in them then lets celebrate it because one thing is for sure, we're going to see an awful lot more of them as the UK has to chase it's targets for reductions in carbon emissions. 

So, the fact that I now see seals on a weekly basis, sometimes daily, in a seaside town that delivered no such delights as a child, could be related to windfarms. It is certainly a sign that more seals are breeding here. In turn that means it becomes more likely the folk living round here are going to find young pups washed up on the beach, like our little lady from yesterdays rescue. So, the seal rescue does have a link to Accidental Nature after all, as, I believe, so much of our natural history does if we take the time to look at how our social history fits into the world about us.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Waiving or Drowning? Seal Rescue

OK, so there's not much "accidental nature" about this story, but if a seal pup gets washed up outside my house and i snap a photo of the addorable little thing, how could i not share it.... And getting washed up was an accident on its behalf - so hey - why not!

It's Common Seal breeding season around the UK coastline and sadly that means an awful lot of young common seals will be found washed up along our beaches. Unlike grey seal pups born in the Autumn (who are largely encouraged to stay out of the water for the first 3 weeks of their lives) common seal pups are expected to swim within hours.

Common seals will often pup on tidal sand backs, just like the Goodwin Sands off Deal where i live. If the mothers don't keep an eye on them, or the weather is bad, when the sand banks get covered by the tide, its very easy for them to become seperated in the waves. The pups are washed away, can't fend for themselves and starve or drown from exhaustion.

This one pictured must have swum some 4 miles or more from the Goodwins over to the mainland outside my house, and is clearly just a few days old. It should have a good rotund barrel like shape with no neck, but is clearly undernourished and in desperate need of a feed. It was struggling to haul itself out of the surf and clearly didn't want to get back in the water - it was exhausted.

There is a strict code to follow with these events. You should never try to approach the pup or pick it up. Wait to see if the mother is close by, sometime she will be, and you standing about watching is keeping her away, so stay well back. If she doesn't return its time to call a marine rescue centre - the British Divers Marine Life Rescue is a good one... An expert will come along and assess what needs to be done. In this pups case, its was definitley a question of drowning not waiving! If it had gone back into the sea I don't think it would have lasted the night. So, Alex from BDMLR carefully crept up un the seal, which I was distracting by waiving my jumper about, and then she jumped on it with a towel. Safely wrapped up it was put into a carry case rushed to the scene by another on-looker Jeremy, who had made the call to the bring Alex in. 

The pup will have to go all the way to Hastings, the nearest marine life resuce centre to spend a few weeks putting on weight and being prepared for release. I've filmed pups in sanctuaries before, but i've never been involved in helping with a rescue. This little pup must be a fighter to have made it so far to shore, lets hope he makes it OK to Hastings and gets through his weeks in captivity to swim another day. If i ever get to see it again, I hope it'll be waiving, not drowning.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Golf Courses

The idea of Accidental Nature all came from a film I made for Springwatch this year. You can have a look at it here....

It's got some interesting facts on just how much space there is for wildlife on these seemingly perfectly manicured sports grounds.

So, where's your Accidental Nature?

There I was at my son's swimming lesson and I get chatting to my mate Jim about this new program idea, for which i've started this blog. And straight away Jim comes up with his idea for "accidental nature" - Army training grounds. Genius. Of course! The MOD own hundreds of thousands of acres of land which they set up for rifle ranges, assault courses, tank training, camping etc etc etc. In doing so they shelter off huge areas of the UK from urban development and daily general public disturbance, which in turn gives nature a place to breath. If you add into that all the areas owned by the MOD which just aren't used at all anymore - like old bunkers and the like, and you've got even more wildlife habitat accidentally made secure for nature. I've heard stories about orchids thriving in the tank tracks left up on Salisbury Plain as orchids love disturbed ground, and I am sure there must be hundreds more examples like that across MOD land.

It's because Jim was in the forces that this sprang to his mind, and it re-inforces my idea that everyone has a link to Accidental Nature. It's not nature for the scientist and researchers, its nature for everyday people like you and me. What ever walk of life we're in, we will have a story about accidental nature. It could be something as simple as the spider making a web in the spare room you never dust or it could be the railway embankment you see everyday on your commute to work, passing by the squirrels, the butterflies and the foxes as you go. We all have somewhere to see accidental nature, and that nature all has a story involving us humans behind it. So, if we do all have accidental nature around us, where's yours, whats it's story? I'd love to know.

Manatee Muddle

As i continue to get this blog going i want to keep stressing the idea of "accidental nature". Showing how humans are constantly creating habitat for wildlife without intention. I love how this displays the resilience of nature. Yesterday I talked about something really mundane, woodworm, its an everyday story, but very relevant to accidental nature. Today, I'm going to show accidental nature doesn't have to be mundane - it can be very exotic.

Over the last few decades Florida has been draining water from freshwater springs to feed its ever growing human population. And urbainsation has been blocking access to others too. Some of these springs are warm water springs, the destination of Florida's manatee population come winter. They need these warm waters to survive the cold winter months, and will die if they can't find them. As the Springs have been drained, Mantee's have suffered, at least they did until they worked out somewhere else to go for warm water - the out flows of the local power stations. Here, water that has been used as part of the cooling process is discharged into local rivers. In 2005 up to 60% of Manatees were using these warm waters to get through the winter. A very happy accident for the Manatees.

But it is not all good news, not by a long way. The Manatees have to travel further to get to their feeding grounds from here and so spend longer times in cold water and are more likely to get hit by boats. The best solution would be to re-instate the warm water springs, but for the time being that looks unlikely and the accidental jacuzzi's created by the power stations are very important to them. Its a case of taking with one hand and giving with the other here. A real Manatee muddle.

For the story in full check out this weblink:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Uninvited Guests

OK, you cant simply love all of nature. There are some species that are not on the list and right now woodworm is one them. I've been doing my office up and when I ripped out an old shelf i found fresh wood worm holes all over it - so I've had to spend a fortune on chemicals and time to spray the whole office. The chemicals are nasty but quite frankly, i need a house to live in and its got wooden floor boards throughout. So its death to the woodworm.

The woodworm is of course not a worm, its a beetle. The "worm" confusion is the result of a beetle laying eggs into wood and a grub hatching out. Once hacthed out it this beetle grub will then munch away at the timber. People simply mistook the beetle grub for a worm. And what a nasty little grub it is too if you own a house - it will feast on your timbers for between 3 to 5 years! Once they are finally done stuffing themselves on your house they bore a chamber near the surface of the wood and pupate into the adult beetle, which eats its way out, flying off to find more beetles to mate with. The life cycle then starts again as they lay eggs into the surrounding wood in your house.

They're clearly a very successful little beast, and love the warm slighlty damp conditions our homes offer. Infact they are so successful there have created a multi-million pound human industry around eradicating them, but the fact we provide a home for them is certainly one accident I wish we didn't create. I know you have to admire nature's tenactity if you are going to celebrate accidental nature, but right now........

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Herring Gull

Much of our accidental nature turns people off, Herring Gulls in our urban environment is one example. Many people find them a loud, noisy and even aggressive intruder in what we want to be "our" world. Many animal lovers also mourn the herring gulls decline from its natural habitat to this grimy urban one. But do the gulls worry about any of this. No they don't. They just get on with it. They are after food, shelter and somewhere to reproduce. If we offer them those things they will take it. And think about it, back at the coast where they "belong" why were number so high? Because of fishing boats and the discarded fish they feed on perhaps? Is it any wonder as the number of fishing fleets in Britain crashes that coastal gull numbers are declining and rising in urban areas, especially at landfill sites where we throw away more and more "rubbish". Its likely we have been accidentally effecting gull populations for centuries and the gulls are simply following us and our accidental food offerings about. Once landfill sites close, which they will in 10 years or so, what happens to gulls then. Even more in our towns and cities as they raid our garden bird tables and over flowing dustbins? A massive crash in population? I don't know. What I do know is that gulls and humans have a long lasting relationship. Population Up or Down, is it right for us to interfere or do we just let the accident of gulls and humans play out its course, after all, accidents happen.


Planning to shoot a film at Dungeness for Autumnwatch. Great piece of accidental nature going on there. The nuclear power station pumps warm water from its cooling process into the sea. This warm area of water called "the patch" attracts a lot of marine life which in turn attracts sea birds which feed on it and so it is now a common "hot spot" for seawatching. Don't get more accidental than that!

Trying Again

I started this blog 3 years ago with the intention to link the city world with wildlife, it was called The Wilderness City. I got off to a blazing start blogging daily, and then it all stopped. I hadn't quite got it right, the city is too narrow a subject matter for me. i hope now i have got closer to what it is i want to be blogging about. It is a subject that relates to what went before but is much bigger. It is Accidental Nature. What does that mean. Quite simply it is the social history of our natural history. It is the appreciation of how we humans shape the landscape and wildlife makes use of that. We don't plan to have that wildlife in our lives, but it is. It is accidental nature.

Think of motorway embankments, think of canals, think of railway networks, think of grouse moors, think of traditional farmland, think of landfill sites, think of gardens, think of abandoned quarries, think of golf courses, think of pretty much anything. Whatever it is, after the initial human disturbance, nature finds a way to make use of it. We create spaces for nature whether we like it of not. Many of us then seem to adopt the widllife that moves into our world and become accidental naturalists. Through my work making natural history TV programs I've met many of them, green keepers, pier masters, grave diggers. All developed an interest in the wildlife that came into their world by accident rather than by design. It shows me that wildlife is not the preserve of the scientist or the conservation worker, but of everyday people.

So, from the city to the world it is.....everywhere i look i see accidental nature, a reminder that life on earth is so much more powerful than us human types, it will trump us everytime, in the immortal words of Jurrasic Park - "life will find a way". I think that is a positive thing to celebrate, and as much as we harm this world, we also play our part in its continual evolution. The life that finds a way, will continue to do so, and i want this blog to explore that thought and see where it might take us. I may look at big pictures stuff, how humans landscape the world or simple stories like how accidental wildlife crosses into our everyday lives, just like my son and the fox poo on his shoes in the last blog post 3 years ago. Anyway, it all starts here.....