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JULY 2018

Chris Packham's UK Bioblitz Campaign

Bioblitz UK

If I had to name my current favourite wildlife photographers, Chris Packham's name would be right up there at the very top. I've followed him for years, heard him speak several times and always been inspired by his photography.  I vividly remember his description of life being so busy and the time to be creative,so precious that he really needed to make a tight plan.  And then, once he had his plan, he had to narrow it down and really focus ... and then focus more closely and then more closely because the detail and the interesting things around him were so distracting!  This really rang true with me!  So many times in the past, I've been almost completely overwhelmed with interesting things to photograph that never seemed quite good enough, or the right angle of view or the right end result and it is always too easy to dash away to try the next thing to catch the eye... instead of working at it.

Anyway, I digress!  London Wildlife Trust asked me to take photos of Chris at Woodberry Wetlands where he was launching his UK Bioblitz Campaign in and amongst Carol Kirkwood's BBC weather reports.  It's quite daunting to be asked to take photographs of a superb photographer!   Chris couldn't have been more cooperative or helpful. He really is an exceptional person.  The campaign team asked to use one of the photos for their UK Bioblitz fundraising page.  I don't know of a photo of mine that has helped raise so much money before.. over £8k when I last looked!  

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I had intended to get more fully involved with the Bioblitz but sometimes life has a way of throwing curve balls and so in the end I only managed a couple of days.... but they were fantastic days!  The first day of the tour was back at Woodberry Wetlands.  What a day!  I was there the night before the Bioblitz for the batwalk... where we heard all of our local bat species and called in to look at the moth traps.  After a few hours sleep, I was there just after dawn for the moth trap opening, and the bird recording.  During the day there were dragonfly/odonata surveys, small mammal surveys, wildflower identification workshops and surveys, butterfly and insect sweeps and then at about 4pm, Chris arrived with his team and members of the public enjoyed some pond dipping and insect identification with him.  Chris dealt with the TV crews and reporters with his usual magnanimity and met and talked to as many of the locals and visitors as he could.  He was so generous with his time and enthusiasm that he didn't leave until late o'clock!  He kindly agreed to stand amongst the purple loosestrife with Woodberry Down in the background... and to pose with the hard working teams or organisers.  

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I went to Wicken Fen for my next Bioblitz experience.  That was great fun.  I had a chance to wander around the National Trust reserve for a few hours before Chris and his team arrived and to take photographs of the Bioblitz in full swing.  The enthusiasm for nature and the great outdoors was palpable and infectious.  

Chris arrived and he stopped briefly at the National Dragonfly Centre which he'd opened a few years before.  He chatted to everybody and took a keen interest in all species that were found on Wicken Fen during the Bioblitz.  Chris' team had challenged the reserve staff to try to find glowworms... male and female... and they managed it!  Chris was clearly delighted and cooperatively posed for photos with the little insects before they were released unharmed.  

I particularly enjoyed his visit to the bird ringers station.  Chris talked to the bird ringers and they were clearly delighted to share their knowledge with him but the best bit for me was watching and trying to record the expression on the faces of visitors who released ringed birds back into the air and to freedom.  It was very special.  

Once again despite the gruelling schedule that Chris and his team kept up during the 10 day/50 site Bioblitz, they were all generous with their time, interested and incredibly enthusiastic.  Impressive.  

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My final Bioblitz visit was to Lakenheath reserve and the RSPB site.  It was relatively late in the day but there was stlll a big crowd of people to meet Chris and the Bioblitz team and to share their local knowledge and enthusiasm... oh yes, and their autograph books and field notebooks! !  Chris signed books and notebooks and met youngsters and oldsters.  His enthusiasm was unwavering!  I was fascinated by the fresh water mussel expert Dr David Aldridge.  Chris interviewed him and immediately popped the video onto twitter.  

Chris made time to talk to young people at each of the Bioblitz sites... and made particular space and time for those with autism or other different abilities.  Great memories!


Particular thanks go to Chris, Tina, Michelle, Megan and Ruth for their welcome, support and friendship.... it means a lot.