Continuing on with our 'how to see wildlife' theme, we have looked at how and where to see wildlife, now we can move on to how we set about finding wildlife which is slightly different than just spotting wildlife while out for a walk.
Basic Field craft.
Getting the advantage over nature in order to maximize your enjoyment of watching wildlife is a skill that is a pleasure to learn and it will take a lifetime to perfect - if ever. Basically, field craft is the art of knowing how to behave and what to do and watch for, it could depend on the time of year or the weather or time of day.
Time of year. If you decide you want to see a particular species, than find out what time of year it is active in your area, does it hibernate? or migrate? when is it back in the UK and awake? this is the case for both summer and winter, Geese and swans for example, come to us in the winter, equally Swallow leave us in September and return in April. So determining the time of year that is optimum to watch your chosen species is a key factor in good field craft.
Season. Some creatures are around all year but are easier to see in certain times, for example Bees
are active in the spring and summer and may be seen in winter, but are far fewer during the cold months and will be hidden from view. Frogs and Toads appear in February and are much easier to see at this time of year as they are mating and appearing in pools and ponds.
Time of day. Lots of animals and birds are easy to spot at certain times of the day, you can hear the dawn chorus at 4.30am right now, if you step outside and listen carefully you will be able to separate the bird song and if you follow the sound with your binoculars you will find the singer, then see where they fly off to and you will get to know what birds are around and what stage in their breeding season they are into at this time of year, in this weather and at this time of day. It is often dawn or dusk that are the best times to find wildlife, just pick your spot and be alert for movement, you will soon find out which species lives in what area. Bats are easy to spot at dusk, but you have to be very sharp to find out where they roost. We have a bat colony in our garage and it was by chance that I saw one in the garage at 5am one morning, so it was easy then, to wait outside around 8pm and spot where they emerge from, in the eaves from a tiny hole and now we can sat and watch them circling the house every night and I know exactly where to find them roosting, but I don't disturb them, bear in mind some of the wildlife you seek are protected species and you must not touch them. Other species are armed with sharp teeth and worse, Adders will poison you Badgers carry TB and Hedgehogs fleas - so beware!
Obviously the weather is critical to all wildlife and nature itself changes every minute of the day, so it is impossible to be accurate in predicting what weather patterns will happen in advance. But get into watching the weather forecast, some points to note are:-
Temperature. In winter, wild creatures are just surviving, with minimum activity and focused on finding food, so a warm day will bring them out and will be more productive in spotting wildlife than a cold day. Conversely, a hot summers day will discourage much activity while the creatures protect their energy reserves by not moving unnecessarily, but it is a good time to view wild flowers and butterflies.
Sunshine. Will affect lots of creatures, a butterfly will settle on a leaf and spread its wings for warmth, as will birds find a warm roof tile and stretch out one wing at a time and take a bath from your wild bird feeding station water bowl
Wind. Sends birds all over the globe and depending on the wind direction, will blow some off course, so if you subscribe to a bird watching club then they will get very exited when a certain wind direction and speed coincide with the migration pattern of rare birds, messages are sent around the community and within a couple of hours hundreds of bird watchers have descended on a field in the middle of a village.
Rain and Snow. Rain will put a stop to most wildlife activity except for the hardy food foragers and river dwellers like otters, but using your knowledge of timing, wait until it stops and immediately you will see birds emerging from trees to go and find food. Snow is good for tracking and there is a massive range of tracks to learn, when there is a good covering of snow it is easy to find tracks and trace the movement of the animal to and from its habitat.