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Wildlife tracking for beginners

This week's nature connection session was lead by Scottish Badgers and the Scottish Wildlife Trust and was titled "Wildlife Tracks, Trails & Signs" and even though we are putting on these sessions to encourage ordinary, non-outdoorsy type (myself included) people to connect with nature, somehow I didn't really make the connection myself before the event. I don't know that I had thought about it in depth but I think I rather imagined it would be good for proper outdoors people to learn some technical stuff, that would probably be a bit beyond me! Of course you won't be surprised to hear that it wasn't like that at all!

So what did I learn? Well too much to go into detail here. But did you know that perching birds (a pigeon for example) have 3 toes out the front and one out the back to hang on with? (This did put me in mind of one of my favourite jokes: 2 birds sitting on a perch, one bird says to the other "do you smell fish?") There was also a LOT of chat about animal poo. Perhaps a bit too much for a lunchtime event, but fascinating stuff all the same. Otter droppings known as spraints are said to smell like jasmine tea. Who knew? Also, the picture above is a snuffle hole, made by a badger when he's feeding. (Thanks to Scottish Badgers for the picture.)

This article would have been a lot longer if I hadn't decided to do a bit of research on some of the links that I was given to send out as a follow up to the session. Firstly I checked out the RSPB Nature Trackers Handbook which is now on my to buy list. Flicking through it online I discovered that cormorants are knock-kneed which made me happy as I love seeing cormorants, mainly because I like a poem that my dad taught me when I was little! And now I googled that too and discovered that it's called The Common Cormorant and is by Christopher Isherwood. I never knew.

If that wasn't distracting enough, then I brought up the NBN Atlas. Run by the National Biodiversity Network, the atlas is an online tool that provides a platform to engage, educate and inform people about the natural world. You can put your postcode into the search box and it brings up a map of all the species that have been recorded in the area around where you live. It's amazing! I nearly didn't make it out again to finish this article! What a wonderful way to discover the nature that is on your doorstep, whether you live in the city or the country. You can also upload your own sightings, so maybe you'll be tempted to get outdoors and see what you can see! Find out about uploading your sightings here.

Finally I checked out the Tracker School page on the Scottish Badgers website. It's full of information about how to become a top notch tracker. There are videos about the fundamentals of tracking, pictures of animal tracks and a guide to recording and monitoring wildlife. If you missed the session (or even if you didn't) it's worth checking out. You can even download and make your very own tracker book. There is information about animal tracks, the signs of animal homes and where they've been feeding, what various sorts of droppings look like, and all in a handy guide that you can take out and about with you. So that's what I am off to do now.

I'll leave you with a quote by Aristole that I heard at the Connecting Nature Summit this week:

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous."

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