I’m a Naturalist

Alexandra Hoadley introduces herself as the new nature editor by explaining why she is a Naturalist

My family and I were on holiday on the island of Herm in the Channel Islands. A decision to travel there was made easy by our passports being out of date, and my grandparents having fallen in love with the island about 30 years before. A lone queen buff-tailed bumblebee was lying on the path to the hotel – parched of her sunshine by the blanket of shade that enveloped her. I knew she would be trodden on if left, so I picked a leaf off a bush, carefully slid it under her and walked her into the sun. Halfway across the path, I met a rather well-to-do older gentleman looking at me as if I was mad. I looked down at the bee in my hand, then back at the gentleman. “I’m a naturalist,” I said, in half-explanation, half-apology.

A buff-tailed bumblebee worker – photo by Will Hawkes

It was the first time I had referred to myself as a naturalist. Just to add quickly, if there are any raised eyebrows at this point, a naturalist is someone who studies nature, a naturist is the other thing – I’ve had to explain this more times than I would expect

Anyway, the word naturalist always seemed quasi-religious to me. A hallowed ground where I did not dare tread without a bioscience degree or somehow being able to identify all the birds and insects of the British Isles by sound alone. Yet in that moment with the bee, I realised being a naturalist just meant you loved nature – and wanted to know more about it, wanted to be outside worshipping it as much as possible. You can be an amateur naturalist, still learning the details, or an expert who can identify a Caspian gull by its pupil – yes I have met someone who can do that. Anyway, we are all still naturalists – it is the love of nature that is the important part.

Environmental journalism is the one place where all my loves make sense, it is my Narnia – a land I did not know existed for a long time, but now I’ve passed through the wardrobe there is no going back. I am now learning as much about nature as I can, have volunteered with the RSPB at Minsmere, joined A Focus on Nature (the largest youth nature network in the country) and am looking at a masters in conservation. However, whether I can ever start identifying birds by their pupils or not, I am naturalist already.

RSPB Minsmere where I volunteered for 18 months – photo by Alexandra Hoadley

If any of you love nature, from any expertise level, and would like to write about it, I’m thrilled to now be the Online Nature Editor for The Anchor, so just drop me a line at nature@falmouth-anchor.co.uk.