A Wild Retrospective

“Will’s open writing style makes the ordinary seem extraordinary,” – BBC Wildlife Judge.

Is it a tad obnoxious to begin a piece of writing with a flattering quote about myself? Well I’ve done it now so there we go. I am delighted to have been chosen as the runner up to the BBC Wildlife 2016 Blogger Awards, so thought it appropriate to blog about it.

A month or so ago Megan, from the magazine, emailed me to let me know I’d been shortlisted. I felt like a bit of a fraud as I haven’t written a thing in months, but it is a 2016 retrospective, so I don’t feel too bad. Besides, look… I’m blogging right now!

Megan asked me to write a little bit about my blog, some of which they put into their article, but as being concise isn’t really for me, I overstepped the word limit by roughly three times. Here is what I wrote, before the evermore concise editors precid my rambling narrative.

‘Wild South London is a place for documenting my very amatuer wanderings through the wildest parts of our sub-river Capital. It began as mainly photographic evidence of the birds and bees in my manor, but through a growing interest in urban wildlife and a new found awareness of what I’m looking at, it has become a place more for pondering animal behaviours than taking pretty pictures.’

Megan then asked for a few words about me…

‘Ever since I was a child I’ve been surrounded by animals. I grew up amongst my mum’s menagerie of chickens, goats, dogs and shetland ponies and have always found time spent with animals to be the most peaceful and genuine. Now a city beast, with two tortoises I have to find my menagerie out in the wilds of South London.’

And finally, Megan asked me to write one hundred words on my wildlife highlight of the year, which took to mean around two to three hundred, in the hope she wouldn’t notice. I also saw this as a sort of job interview, having to put on the hard sell. I waxed lyrical about an owl in an old sewage works.

‘My wanderings all start the same  – I choose a place and spend an hour or two staring into trees and through woodlands, hoping for something to jump out at me. I don’t go looking for anything specific, as I prefer to be surprised by what I see and not disappointed by what I inevitably don’t. South Norwood Country Park used to be an old sewage works, but now hosts a range of habitats, home to all sorts of birds, bugs and mammals. I was looking at butterflies, as it was May and they were rampant. Between the park and the neighbouring cemetery is a stream, home to plastic bags and other detritus. Oddly the butterflies love this edge, so I buried myself in cow parsley and green veined whites. Not long into my lepidoptery, I noticed the raucous call of two jays, metres in front of me. They were mobbing something. I raced to the scene to find a bemused looking Tawny chick peering at me with two big black eyes. A moment was had and the day was made.’

Here’s said black eyed bird and a link to the original blog I wrote on the day of the owl.


On reflection, I chose this moment far too quickly. Yes, it was a highlight, but there were so many tiny details that amazed me throughout the year I’m sure if I thought harder about it I’d develop some conflicting opinions.

Below are a few choice moments.

I plonked a defrosted mouse on a post in the hope a kestrel would be lured in for an award winning photo. It didn’t work, obviously.


I watched gulls pick up mussels from the shingle, fly them up about 30 feet before dropping them to smash them open. So simple, but I could have watched it all day.

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I went to Richmond Park and pissed off a large stag, guarding his, frankly too large, group of harlots… meanwhile managing to capture this photograph.


I tried my best to get the little junky Starlings of Sydenham, off McDonalds and onto some healthy seed mix. It was mostly unsuccessful, but I did get some nice pictures of the bemused little buggers peering into the golden arches of a seed filled chip box.

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2016 was wild. I may have slowed in my writing, but I’m still absorbing all that Wild South London has to offer. What a lengthy self congratulating post considering I didn’t win. That honour went to the far more exotic Ciara Stafford, who seems to live in the bloody Amazon. If I’m going to lose, I’m glad I lost to a genuine Amazonian with a PhD.

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