'Working on Springwatch has made me realise how many bird species we are missing out on'

Stephen Le Quesne

By Stephen Le Quesne

AS I write this, I can feel my anxiety and tiredness and my brain not being able to decide what to write about. The decision has been made then, to write as I think. What could possibly go wrong?

Upon reflection, a part of me does feel that a raw honesty is where I am at my best and where I am at my most comfortable. I do not think this way of writing is going to win any prizes though.

The reason for my muddled brain is that I am currently part of the BBC Springwatch team (as mentioned a couple of weeks ago) based at RSPB Arne, in Dorset. The work shifts are a little brutal, either 4am to 3pm or 1pm to midnight, mixed with the intense schedule of working on a TV programme that goes out live to audiences.

The day I am writing this is a day off before I shift to the afternoon routine and I have spent most of it trying to rest and catch up on some sleep, two things I am not particularly good at.

The Springwatch team are incredibly warm, welcoming and incredibly funny at times. The entire crew (all 90+ of us) are fully aware of how lucky we are that we are able to observe and record nature’s more intimate moments and be part of the daily lives of the wildlife that calls the UK its home.

I am part of the team that studies and monitors all the remote cameras. This means studying and observing behaviour, making sure we record the most important life events such as births, fledgings or the dreaded predation and death as well as delving into a bit of science and data collection. As much as possible I use the knowledge I have as a naturalist to delve deeper into the animals we see on the show.

It is an utter privilege to be allowed briefly into the lives of some of the birds we know and love, including the species that call 鶹 their home, such as blue tits, kestrels, barn owls and dunnocks.

This job does make me realise though how many bird species we are missing out on and how many we could and should have within our countryside. Species such as siskin, Dartford warbler, goshawk and osprey are incredibly rare or absent in the Island but would make our countryside a better and wilder place. I am not going to delve deep into the reasons why, but how our countryside is managed and what it is used for is a large reason for this emptiness.

One thing I have been battling while here is my anxiety (a bit of a 180 there). It is safe to say I am neurodiverse and even with all the travelling I have done and the experiences I have had (working with big cats, trekking in a rainforest etc) I can suffer from anxiety quite badly, which is interlinked with my historical depression.

I am also not great in new social situations, have a bit of a catastrophic mind and can be on high mental alert within new social environments. Combine that with long working hours and strange sleeping patterns and you have a recipe for some interesting panic attacks. I am okay though, it is just something I need to be fully aware of, mindfully lean into the anxiety and practice some self-care.

I do not want to delve too deep into this subject though as I have written extensively about it over the years. The reminder is, it is always there, constantly in the background, no matter what I am trying to do in my life.

Returning to a Springwatch link – which is of definite interest to the Island – a month or so ago Chris Packham wrote a column in the Guardian about the panic and fear-mongering around Asian hornets and how these invasive species distract us from other more pressing issues. I would have to agree with him wholeheartedly. Yes, Asian hornets consume our native bees and will disrupt our local insect populations, but there is also a global biodiversity crisis going on, which is being ignored.

If we truly wanted to do something to protect our local insects, including our bee species, then the best thing to do would be to ban pesticides and insect-killing chemicals. This would have a much greater impact than focusing resources on controlling a hornet species, which is unfortunately here to stay.

  • Stephen Le Quesne is a naturalist, conservationist, forest school leader and nature connection advocate.

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