Joint blogging with Matt Adam Williams for The Wildlife Trusts campaign

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#30DaysWild – Day 2


Oops, day 2 passed without me posting my 30 Days Wild! However, I did go out and connect with nature on Day 2. In fact, I even managed to do it before work! I was at Wimpole early yesterday, so I went for a short walk around one of the nature areas looking for insects, flowers and generally getting rather soggy knees. And even a nettle sting when I wasn’t careful enough!

Even in the drizzle, there was plenty to be found, especially because there were so many nettles! I have decided that big patches of nettles are one of my favourite habitats as I find so many interesting insects on them!

I was also thrilled to find some Jelly-ear Fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae), Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), a huge carpet of bright yellow buttercups and to hear and see a little Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) darting around the trees and singing away very loudly!

A most excellent start to the day!

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#30DaysWild – Day 1

day 1

At last! 30 Days Wild is back! It was so much fun last year, and the campaign is a great reminder that it can be so easy to connect with nature every day. Fortunately for me, I work in two beautiful locations – NT Wimpole Estate and NT Wicken Fen, so it is even easier for me to connect and discover something marvellous each day.

Day 1 of 30 Days Wild dawned wet and chilly, and most certainly classified as a good day for a ‘duvet day’. Nonetheless, I figured I ought to be a good employee and I headed off to NT Wicken Fen where I was due to be doing den building as a half term activity. My colleagues and I were wondering just how many children and parents would turn up, but actually we had about a 95% turnout. I do love it when families decide not to care about the weather and are determined to head out and have a good time.

Despite the drizzle, we had a fantastic time! We practised tying knots and learning about camouflage before building large enough dens for the children to sit in. It was great fun! Before coming to Wicken, I hadn’t done den building since my university placement with the Field Studies Council in 2011 / 2012!

We were practicing our knots by one of the ponds, where we were surprised to see a dragonfly on one of the reeds. It must have emerged relatively recently as it hadn’t yet opened its wings. And you can see an exhuvia on the opposite side of the reed to it, most likely the one that it had come from.

PS – I know I haven’t blogged regularly in the last couple of weeks. Now that I am working at Wicken Fen as well as at Wimpole, I am effectively working 6 days / week. This is on top of running the social media for A Focus On Nature (plus planning the social media for the launch of the VisionforNature report), attempting to do gardening (actually very time-consuming) and generally having lots of things to do – so my usual blog posts are a tad sporadic currently.

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My guest blog post for 30 Days Wild

Having seen that the Wildlife Trusts were accepting guest posts in their 30 Days Wild blog series, I decided to enquire if I could submit one. Receiving an affirmative answer, I then pondered on what to write. How I connect with nature? The Megan & Matt Go Wild! joint-blogging? How fantastic it is to work in environmental education and show the wonders of nature to children? All good possibilities. However, an issue had been meandering around in the back of my mind for a while. I decided that now was a good time to bring it to the front and work through my thoughts on it, culminating in the blog post you see below. Originally posted here

Megan Shersby is an aspiring naturalist and science (particularly nature) communicator. She is currently based in Dorset, working as a Seasonal Assistant for Dorset Wildlife Trust. She is passionate about inspiring others to explore the natural world, and can usually be found in a nature reserve examining the local wildlife. In this blog, the last in our 30 Days Wild series for 2015, she discusses how we can inspire a generation to love wildlife.

Many groups in society are overlooked or marginalise. Among these are young people, particularly those between 16-30. Politics takes us for granted as we vote less than others, and the impacts on us of spending cuts and the housing shortage are disproportionate.. Of course, it’s true, and important to recognise, that this intersects with a range of other inequalities based on gender, race and sexual orientation. But I want to focus on the age dimension here.

The conservation sector, too, sometimes lets this age group fall through the gaps of its excellent work.

There is much focus on connecting children with nature, and rightly so. According to the RSPB’s survey only 21 % of 8-12year olds feeling connected with nature. Environmental education makes up part of what I’m employed to do – we have a variety of school groups attending the centres. One day I will be talking about seashore wildlife to Year 2 primary school children, the next I will be taking Year 5s pond dipping and studying tree identification, and then the next, a Year 9 group discussing longshore drift.

The conservation sector targets most of its efforts and messages at a few groups – school groups, families with young children, and those who make up charities’ core membership. But those between 16-30, who are often at unique stages in their lives, are often overlooked, or treated exactly the same as people of 40, 50 or 60 years old. They are not the same – these young people are these charities future members and the conservationists of the future too.. Only a few projects are in place to engage those 16-30 year olds who aren’t in young families and/or not engaging with wildlife.

Lucy McRobert (amongst other conservationists) recently wrote a fantastic guest post for Findlay Wilde’s blog series called 13 Years Wilde. It is a very honest account of not connecting with nature as a teenager: “wildlife meant very little to me as a teenager”. It is quite an eye-opener, considering that Lucy is one of the leading young conservationists in the United Kingdom and works as the Nature Matters Campaigns Manager for the Wildlife Trusts. It makes me feel a little better, as my teenage years weren’t so different from Lucy’s.

If even our leading conservationists and naturalists didn’t connect with nature during their teenage years, how can we hope to connect anyone else? There is no National Curriculum beyond Year 11 – and even in the previous years, there is very little room to squeeze in more nature. There are a lot of pressures on schools, teachers, their time and resources.

There are some excellent projects out there. Ideally these could be rolled out across our country (and the world?!), but funding is forever tight so for now, I won’t build my hopes too high. However, 30 Days Wild itself could take youth engagement a step further. Next year, maybe we should plan to particularly engage this age group with the campaign? Get the message into the magazines they read, get the celebrities they like to become involved, contact the community groups used by these ages – just a few ideas off the top of my head.

The lack of engagement by these youths and adults is one of the many reasons why groups such as A Focus On Nature, a network of young conservationists, are so vitally important and wonderful. As well as connecting young naturalists with each other, they allow us to become self-assured in ourselves, our abilities and our knowledge –and that actually, nature is cool. As a result, I feel more confident to talk about how amazing nature is to my peers who aren’t into wildlife as I am. I know that others members of A Focus On Nature have felt the same too. Thus even though there is no solution to magically connecting everyone with nature, we are creating ripples in the pond, and I live in hope that soon this issue will no longer exist. So if you know a young person, or actually someone of any age, who isn’t connecting to nature, why not create ripples of your own?

You can follow Megan on Twitter and read her blog here.


The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

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Day Thirty of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in Cambridge)

So, I’ve spent the last 30 days going wild. What has this felt like and have I changed in myself or made change in the world?

I like to think that posting about this on many days has drawn some people’s own attention to nature. But my blog and social media have pretty small readerships in the grand scheme of things.

Some of the activities I’ve taken part in have been large – the UN climate talks, the large climate event in London and Rainforest: Live.

But mostly, spending this month going wild has made a change in me.

Today I went wild like I would on most days. I had the day off and went for a walk around the fields behind the cottage, where I saw ringlet, comma, small tortoiseshell, skipper and other butterflies. There were woodpeckers, swifts and a sparrowhawk.

This morning I spent over an hour emptying the moth trap and identifying some of the species within it.

But spending this month trying to go wild has made me realise that even as someone who works in the conservation sector it can be pretty hard to fit in some wild time on a normal working day.

I have certainly tried hard to document and write more about the wildlife I encounter. I will continue to do that beyond the end of this month.

More profoundly, thanks to this month, I’ve thought deeper and harder than I ever thought I would. My first love was wildlife, and I’ve spent much of my life since then working to protect it and help others enjoy it. But for someone whose life is centred so much on wildlife, I spend a huge proportion of my time at a desk, in meetings, on trains and asleep.

This leaves very little time for wildlife itself, far less than I feel comfortable with. I don’t know what this means yet, but I do miss the days when I was a nature reserve warden.

#30DaysWild has forced me to begin seriously reassessing my job, the location where I live and the way I spend my time. As some other big things feel like they’re shifting in my life, and I turn 30 (years old) myself next year, this month couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. It truly has begun a process of evaluating how my life to date has looked over the past 30 years, and what I want the next 30 to look like.

Here’s to 30!

Megan (in Dorset)

Today was pretty good for connecting with nature as it was my first day back at work after my holiday and I was down at the Chesil Beach Centre. As well as the usual admiration of Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon, and its associated wildlife, I also gave a short talk to a group about Chesil Beach and did a beach clean (that had originally begun as a nature walk).


After closing up the centre, I headed over to Lorton Meadows Conservation Centre as I was welcoming a local Brownie group and a local Guides group to the reserve for pond dipping and a reserve walk respectively. They were wonderful groups who really enjoyed discovering the creatures of Lorton – particularly the dragonfly nymphs in the pond!

And with that, the 30 Days Wild campaign, and thus Megan & Matt Go Wild!, draws to a close. What a fantastic month it has been. Blogging every day has made me realise just how much I do connect with nature. Sometimes it is just in a small way (admiring landscapes for example), sometimes there are days when it’s all I do (the Scotland trip as a whole!).

It is hard to choose my highlights for the 30 Days Wild, but I’ll give it a go

As well as connecting with nature, the 30 Days Wild campaign and this blogging project has helped me connect with Matt more. We’ve learnt more about what the other does in their job, what wildlife they’ve seen that day and worked together as a team to joint-blog. Although it sounds cheesy, 30 Days Wild has brought us closer, despite the distance between us. Thankfully, we have also managed to meet up a number of times in June and connect with nature together in some wonderful locations – Llanbwchllyn Lake (Wales) for my bioblitz, Brownsea Island (Dorset) and Ardnamurchan (Scotland).

I know that we will both continue to engage with nature and share our love of wildlife with each other, our friends and family, and the internet in general.

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Day Twenty-eight & Twenty-nine of Megan & Matt Go Wild


Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Megan (travelling from Scotland to Worcestershire, then to Cambridge)

Day 28

No adventures looking for wildlife today, we were on a mission to return from Scotland. It was a long journey, around 10 hours, and often in rain. However, I had a wonderful time admiring various landscapes. The steep-sided vista of the Highlands U-shaped valleys, once filled with glaciers and now filled with the awe of their visitors. The rainbow behind us as we left the rain and emerged into the sun, seeming to appear as if to energise us on our journey. The sunlight landscape of the Malvern Hills as we approached our destination. Proof that even long and arduous drives can be inspiring and beautiful.

Day 29

Travelling over to Cambridge, we got stuck in roadworks traffic. Oh joy. As Matt was driving, I could take the opportunity to admire the wildflower verges – spying poppies, daisies and even a tiny but distinctive flower, the scarlet pimpernel. It made the traffic less annoying, for me at least.

It was time for some (wildlife) gardening when we got back to Cambridge; planting wildflowers, adding to the log pile, and also planting some vegetable seeds. Fingers crossed for a good harvest!

Matt (travelling from Scotland to Worcestershire, then to Cambridge)

Going wild isn’t so easy when you’re inside a car for nine hours. Our journey back from Scotland on Sunday was limited in wildlife terms. But we still managed to spot things like buzzards from the cars, and we definitely managed to stay away from our screens!
Monday wasn’t quite as bad, as me and Megan pottered about in the garden in Cambridge, spotting butterflies and dragonflies and beetles, and planting wildflowers that will hopefully encourage more insects.
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Day Twenty-seven of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in western Scotland)

As the month draws to an end I’m considering how to make interaction with nature, and writing about it, a far more routine part of my everyday life. I suppose this means that #30DaysWild has achieved its goal.

Today was our final day in Scotland, and we made sure we took advantage. We visited the RSPB’s Glenborrodale reserve, where I held a frog and some butterflies. And I ended the week as I began it: with rockpooling and holding a crab.

We also saw porpoise and a golden eagle. This month has truly forced me to think hard about how much nature I actually get in my day to day life, even though I work in nature conservation. And I think it has had a profound impact on me. This wasn’t something I expected, but it is most welcome.

Megan (in western Scotland)

A day out today – we headed west again to visit a reserve we have often driven past this week and have often said “ooh, that would be nice to visit!”. So we went off to the RSPB’s Glenborrodale Reserve, and ascended the steep (ish) path. Note – this isn’t a reserve for those with limited movements! The terrain became mostly flat again once we reached the top. It was the worth the steep but short ascent, birds were singing and calling away throughout the woodland. We even heard a Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia).

In terms of insects, the butterflies were rather showing off. Two (possibly three) Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene) butterflies were calmly fluttering about a clearing, the warmth in the air not enough to really energise them. As ever, I was excited to see butterflies but particularly so as these were a lifer for me! I had managed to miss them at Gilfach Nature Reserve last year, and they were on my list of species to see. That doubles my 2015 butterfly Wildlife Resolution! Four new species this year, crumbs!

Evidently, another butterfly heard my delight and decided to top the Fritillaries as we soon met a Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) butterfly. Our third this trip, and always a thrill to see – bearing in mind that this species is (a) beautiful and (b) limited in its distribution.

As Matt mentioned, we went rockpooling once we were back at the cottage. I had great fun watching the barnacles feeding and even spotted a small fish darting quickly from beneath a rock. And now I’m typing, but keeping a keen eye on the area beside the conservatory – the Pine Marten (Martes martes) will shortly appear I am sure!

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Day Twenty-six of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Megan (in western Scotland)

Another relaxing day at the cottage, where I used the opportunity to do some writing, reading and drinking of tea. It was hammering down with rain for the morning and early afternoon, but eventually the sun appeared.

I wandered down to the shore of the sea loch, a warming cup of chamomile tea in my hand and my jumper sleeves rolled up. A little clamber over the rocks and I was by the edge, the crystal clear water rippling across the stones. I couldn’t resist and was soon barefooted, tentatively then bravely dipping my toes into the water. Ooooh, it was cold. But refreshingly so. Heading back to the cottage to persuade Matt to paddle too, I revelled in the feel of grass beneath my bare feet.

Not long after, Matt let me have a go at using his camera since mine broke yesterday. I practiced on a slug that had found its way into the conservatory in my moth trap. Below is a back of camera shot of one of my photos.

Matt (in western Scotland)

On my 26th day wild, I dipped my legs up to the knee in the freezing cold water of a Scottish loch, water that was clear and vivid and is shared with otters, mackerels and gannets, who take their food, their oxygen and their hydration from it. I felt rooted in Scotland.

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Days Twenty-four & Twenty-five of Megan & Matt Go Wild!


Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in western Scotland)

Yesterday was a quiet day. We hung around the cottage and took a break from dashing about.

But even here that meant a couple of otter sightings and our regular evening visit of pine marten.

Today, we took a trip to one of my favourite places – Mull. It feels like it’s on a different level. On Mull you’re on constantly alert for anything that moves, and we saw porpoises (my first ever), otters, Mull’s famous sea eagles, a peregrine falcon, wheatears, twite and oystercatchers.

We also took the boat to Iona, where I got one of my biggest ever birding ticks – the rare and extremely elusive corncrake. It makes a sound like a comb being run against a desk.

Not only did we hear this bird, we even spotted someone in a front garden of one of the handful of houses of this tiny island community.

But alongside the wildlife, one of the best elements of this trip has been being surrounded by such knowledgeable people whom I have learned so much from. Our current trip list of all the species of wildlife we have seen is 260. This is an incredible total, and I’m so impressed with the friends I’m with and the wildlife they can identify.

Megan (in western Scotland)

DAY 24

Today was a bit of a recovery day after the recent busyness. As someone who suffers a lot from exhaustion, this mid-holiday break was needed so that I don’t burn out before the end. I have spent far too much time at my laptop today, but I have been having fun. Whilst Matt was preparing the vegetables for the roast dinner, I played a bit of my music. The ‘Dear future husband’ song by Meghan Trainor started playing, and I thought about how my version would be quite different – after all, my future husband will have to accept me for who I am which includes dissecting owl pellets, keeping roadkill, smelling otter spraint and looking for insects.

Then I actually decided to write out my own version of the lyrics to the song! It was posted on my blog earlier today.

I then took it further, thinking that it would be quite amusing to make a video for my YouTube channel. I found the instrumental version of the song and edited some text onto photos and videos in time with the music. Here is the result, enjoy!

DAY 25

Following the calm of yesterday, we headed over to the Isle of Mull to try and see lots more wildlife. The plan worked – Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) from the ferry and two Otters (Lutra lutra) gliding through still waters of a loch (during which my camera broke, nooooo!). On Iona, we were building our hopes up to hear the calling of male Corncrakes (Crex crex), and we did! It is one of the oddest bird noises I have ever heard, probably more weird than a booming bittern! Do go online and listen to it! Only about 15 minutes later and Matt spotted one as we were walking back to the ferry. What a lifer!

A small detour driving back to look for eagles – always worth detouring for! We had excellent views of an adult White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), and could also glimpse a youngster through the branches of a tree.

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Day Twenty-three of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Megan (in western Scotland)

Another day, another adventure! We headed even further west today, all the way out to Ardnamurchan Point. We also stopped off a couple of times on the way there and back – seeing juvenile buzzards, an awesome moth, a herd of Red Deer, numerous birds including Twite, Whinchat, Stonechat and …. WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE!!!

Once at Ardnamurchan Point, in between seeing various birds (including Gannet and Manx Shearwater), I went on a small, yet, adventurous rock meander and even filmed it!

There were more Pine Marten antics this evening – I can’t get over how wonderful this animal is.

Matt (in western Scotland)

The Western Isles of Scotland are like no other place on Earth for me. A s you drive along, rounding bends, stunning new vistas will unfold as if from nowhere, like a predator leaping from camouflage to unveil itself. The beholder is left stunned, like a rabbit in the glow of this assailant’s eyes.

Lochs, mountains and forests appear as if from nowhere.

Viewed from up close, rather than the distant confines and comfort of a car, these habitats are teeming with life, even down to the moths that are stirred from underfoot as you walk, and the tiny mosses and lichens that bustle for space.

Everything is wet – even hillsides and plateaus can be damp and boggy, providing much entertainment and surprise – surely water drains downwards leaving these surfaces relatively dry?

Standing on a mountainside, the air can be so still that the sound of a running brook can travel clear several hundred metres across a valley. And there are no human sounds to be heard.

If there is a place that for me captures Wordsworth’s idea of the Sublime – awe and fear in the face of the beauty and power of nature – it is here. You can feel both insignificant and intricately connected by stepping into this space.

Today we drove to the most westerly point on this peninsula, and looked across the water to the isles of Mull and Rum.

Our two hour meander out there brought us twite (a new bird for me), chiffchaff, stonechat and whinchat.

At the point, pyramidal orchids and the UK mainland’s most westerly palmate newts (bizarrely in little pools on the cliffs) greeted us. We watched manx shearwaters and shags fly past.

As we wound inwards, we stopped to climb a mountain, submitting ourselves to the power and strength of this landscape that exhausts the body and nourishes the soul. The all-powerful God of Scottish nature rewarded us for our troubles, with a distant but enthralling view of a sea eagle.

This evening, at the cottage, for the third evening in a row we lay in wait for pine martens. Having figured out the best location and approach, our efforts were, after several hours of back-aching patience over the past three evenings, finally rewarded with not only the views but also the photos we had hoped for.

I’m increasingly convinced that connecting with nature in this way should not be something that we (or at least I) find time to squeeze in, to do as a ‘holiday’ but should be everyday life. As Wordsworth understood all too well, we are part of nature, and our entanglement with it is a thing of beauty. To be wild is to be human.

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Day Twenty-two of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in western Scotland)

If every day could be like today, life would be perfect, which really shows the value of going wild.

By 5am I was looking for otters. And as I’ve just been typing we’ve all dashed outside to see an otter at 9pm at night.

I’m now back at the iPad typing away having watched an otter make its way through the bay.

A few minutes ago I had a sore back from lying on the floor for three hours waiting for the pine martens with limited success. But it’s all forgotten after seeing my first Scottish otter in a while, and Megan’s first ever

And I haven’t even mentioned the extremely rare northern emerald dragonfly I spotted this morning or the chequered skipper butterfly we found, or the newts and toads I held.

Most importantly, I feel restored and refreshed, and have shared these experiences with amazing, talented, knowledgeable friends.

Megan (in western Scotland)

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I am already having a fantastic time in Scotland watching wildlife. The evening eclipsed all that when pine martens, yes PINE MARTENS!!!!!, appeared just outside the garden. Beth and I practically died of excitement – Beth cried and I was almost not breathing. It even came up onto the steps by us!

As I write now, it is early evening and we are all hanging out in the conservatory waiting for the pine martens to reappear. We think there are three individuals.

In terms of today, we went off to Claish Moss in search of more wildlife in different habitats. Very tiring walk, but totally worth it. There are no set footpaths on Claish Moss itself, as visitors aren’t encouraged since the bog is pretty dangerous to walk across due to, well, it being a bog. We went down a track in the neighbouring forest to access the reserve. There were lots of wonderful insects for me to marvel at including plenty of Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata) moths, dragonflies and best of all, a Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) butterfly! This beautiful little skipper is found only in north-western Scotland and was one of the target species of this holiday.

Coming back to this post because OTTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My first ever!! After assisting on otter spraint surveys, dissecting otter spraint for dietary analysis, seen otter prints and finding otter anal jelly, I was desperate to see an otter. It is even one of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions! When the call resonated through the cottage of “Otter!”, I was just putting my laptop onto charge. I raced through the house, almost knocking over a couple of the others and almost had a heart attack when I saw it. Otter!!!!