It has become somewhat of a tradition on this blog to, near the turn of the year, dwell momentarily on the high-points of the months past. To look back over my experiences and attempt to rank them based on my own enjoyment – if only for a spot of personal amusement. Truthfully, 2016 has been brilliant year (my best yet): jam-packed with wonderful sensory experiences, great wildlife and memorable moments. It has seen me progress a little further towards goals, involved no end of travelling and, at times, has left me both dumbfounded and reeling. For those interested, here is this years reflective post.
1 – A Scottish Summer
As in 2015, 2016 once again found me in the highlands of Scotland: working as an ecological field assistant for a consultancy firm. A great little job, in truth, and one that saw me living and working in one of the most beautiful settings in the UK. Providing yet another chance to better my identification and surveying skills and, more importantly, allowing me to, once again, immerse myself fully in the best of Scottish wildlife. It really was rather fun.
Here, at various locations, I enjoyed Golden Eagles, Ospreys and Hen Harriers: some of the most enigmatic sights in British nature. I had up close run-ins with Ptarmigan, Mountain Hares, Red Deer and Adders; enjoyed the sight of hunting Merlin and the sound of “bubbling” Black cock. In addition to no end of Crested Tits, Crossbill’s and other highland wonders. It was delightful, though one sight here trumped all others in the splendor stakes: that of an immature White-Tailed Eagle skirmishing with an Osprey over a rather unlucky Trout. The eagle won, of course, and I left feeling thoroughly fulfilled, my love of the Northern wilds reaching new heights – as if that was possible.
2 – Fuerteventura Press Trip
On a surprising note, and due to a kind recommendation from TV’s David Lindo, February found me jetting off to Spain: to the unparalleled region of Extremadura as part of a press-trip involving no end of wonderful, accomplished individuals. It was quite strange to find myself in such esteemed company, more so when the grandiose nature of the trip is considered, though the week was undeniably fabulous. Here we enjoyed Cinnerous and Egyptian Vultures floating on the thermals above us: in addition to Spanish Imperial Eagles, tropical looking butterflies and no end of exquisite scarcities. The experience only amplified by a trip to the Spanish Bird Fair, an interview for their promotional video and, of course, the fantastic cuisine the region has to offer. My inclusion on the trip giving me hope that, despite a few slip-ups, I am on the right lines as far as my career goes.
3 – Writing picks up
2016 has also seen me take a few more tentative steps into the realm of “true” nature writing, due in no small part, to the wonderful opportunity to contribute to not one but two of the delightful ‘Anthology for the Changing Seasons‘ books by Melissa Harrison. With my writing here – regarding the Chiffchaff and the Farne Islands, respectively – leading to chance contributions to other outlets including the Harrier and Dragonfly News. The initial feedback from which has gone someway to bolstering my confidence with regards to written word and provides substantial hope for the future.
Blogging efforts also found themselves doubled this year, here, on my own website and elsewhere. With my weekly column on Conservation Jobs going down a treat and opportunities presenting themselves to write for both Blasting News and Environment South Africa, in addition to guest posts for a host of wonderful online content creators. The year also marking my first full 12-month period at the helm of the Wildlife Articles blogging platform, which continues to grow nicely,. What will 2017 hold I wonder? I am hoping for more of the same.
4- Masters Degree
I am not quite sure why, at the start of the year, I decided to undertake a Masters degree. Or, indeed, whether the decision was the right one for me in the long-run. Whatever the reasons behind this choice, however, I am fully enjoying my current course at Newcastle University. Due, in no small part, to the wonderful staff, fantastic course mates and the extremely engaging lectures – really, I have learnt a monumental amount in the first three months alone. Wildlife management is a thrilling topic and, whatever I choose to do in the future – even if I opt for a career elsewhere – I am sure the knowledge gained throughout the program will be a huge asset. And a few extra letters after your name cannot hurt, right?
5 – Living North Awards
2016 also saw me receive my first true award nomination, and found me finishing as a runner-up in the ‘promise and potential‘ category of the annual Living North Awards. A rather esteemed ceremony aiming to highlight and celebrate the phenomenal amount of talent that resides in the North-East – contrary to popular belief. I am incredibly grateful for the shortlisting here, and, of course, my invitation to the ceremony itself – it was divine – having been left feeling incredibly motivated by the whole ordeal. My shortlisting coming off the back of a combination of local conservation work and writing promoting the natural beauty of the region. And, when all is said and done, providing a much-needed pat on the back just as period of self-doubt had begun to set in. It was delightful.