Hello, and welcome to Common By Nature – my humble blog, journal and sightings board. It’s name derived from a half-hearted witticism involving my surname and personal interests that, over the years, appears to have stuck. I quite like it, despite how cheesy it sounds.
I’m James, a wildlife conservationist, nature writer, birder, blogger, commentator and aspiring author from Northumberland. I launched Common By Nature back in 2011 as a place to express my interest in nature, explore topics that interest me on a personal level, and, more importantly, to interact with other like-minded nature lovers sharing their exploits on the web.
In terms of my specific interests, it is difficult to pinpoint just where my affections lie as, truthfully, all aspects of the natural world fascinate me. Indeed, I much prefer to think of myself as a generalist when it comes to wildlife; equally enthralled by bees and botanicals as I am by birds, mammals, butterflies and any other group of creatures. I am just as happy grubbing about on all fours in search of snails and slugs as I am tucked up in my local bird hide, sipping coffee and contently ogling Avocets. Something I hope shines through on this blog: in the wide range of topics covered and the plethora of places visited (and discussed) on my frequent adventures.
For me, my interest in the natural world stems from childhood: from long wildlife-fuelled rambles around my home county, often in the company of my Grandmother, Vera. A lady who singlehandedly taught me more about the world around us, and the creatures that inhabit it, than both the university degrees I have studied to date. With some of my earliest and fondest memories centred on identifying and pressing wildflowers, growing saplings from seed and, of course, bird watching – all under the watchful eye of my childhood teacher. It was these initial outings that undoubtedly set me on the path on which I now find myself.
A younger me pictured alongside my sister, grandmother and Molly the dog – taken 13 years ago on an outing near Bedlington.
My studies and work to date have taken me to some truly marvellous places – from the Cairngorms and the Farne Islands to Islay and the Gambia – and I have been lucky enough to enjoy some truly remarkable wildlife on the way. All of which has served only to further stoke my passion for nature. This is, however, not a CV and more information regarding my career to date can be found here. What I will say, however, is that writing never formed part of the game plan; though a love of words appears to have arisen during my time in the field. So much so that I now hope to utilise them as a means of inspiring interest in nature, and encourage others to discuss, respect and protect it. Specifically, by working towards a career in natural history communications.
While I am careful not to call myself a professional writer (just yet) the feedback received regarding my contributions to the An Anthology for the Changing Seasons book series, edited by Melissa Harrison, provided a welcome boost and considerable hope for the future. My pieces here centred on the Chiffchaff, a bird I have come to look upon very fondly over the years, and the Farne Islands, a regular childhood haunt and one of the best places in Britain to truly lose yourself in nature.
Elsewhere, things appear to be progressing nicely; with additional work published in Fieldsports Magazine, Roebuck, Research Features, the Harrier, Dragonfly News, the Entomologist’s Record and the Northumberland Gazette. And further articles, written about myself by others, appearing in the Countryman, the Morpeth Herald, and the News Post Leader.
In addition to contributing to printed sources, I also frequently publish articles online and, to date, have won recognition from BBC Wildlife Magazine and Living North for such work; in addition to a finalist spot at the 2017 Northern Blogger Awards. Until recently I held a regular column on the website of Conservation Jobs and managed the popular Wildlife Articles blogging platform – writing additional articles for the latter which, as of 2017, have been read and shared over 100,000 times. Elsewhere, I have contributed to the blogs of Blasting News, Environment South Africa, A Focus on Nature and Next Generation Birders; as well as to the websites a number of individual commentators and conservationists.
At present, I write regularly for Northumberland Wildlife Trust – covering my region and her wildlife in both a series of monthly blog posts and longer articles published in their quarterly magazine: Roebuck. I also, and on a rather proud note, manage my own e-magazine – New Nature – which aims to provide an outlet for the creative talents of young naturalists and inspire hope in the next generation. This role involves no end of editing, social media, promotional and administrative work, as well as elements of team management, recruitment and, on occasion, writing: all of which is conducted on a purely voluntary basis. Establishing the magazine has proven to be one of the most challenging projects I have undertaken to date, yet has also proven the most rewarding. With many of our young contributors having been noticed (and commissioned) by larger, more mainstream outlets due to their work in New Nature.
I will update this page further with any and all future developments but, for now, please take a minute to browse elsewhere and read about some actual wildlife, as opposed to myself.