Jamie Ramsay's Tips For Wildlife Watching

"Since the first lockdown began back in March 2020, I have been taking more and more time to just go for a walk. It started as just a way to get outside and clear my head without the added pressure of running or cycling. But over time, I became more and more interested in the wildlife around me. At first, I just love spotting a deer or clocking a red kite but over time I became more and more passionate about what I was seeing and wanted to learn more about the environment I shared with my local wildlife. I found that the more I looked for wildlife, the more I started to appreciate my surrounding and allowed myself to let go of everyday nagging thoughts and worries, which really helped on a mental health front. Going for a walk to look for wildlife is free and pretty easy but here are some things I have learnt over the course of the last year that might help you spot more."

Walk at different times of the day

"I am a creature of habit and used to go for my walks at the same time every day, which was really convenient but limited my chances of seeing wildlife. When I went for a couple of walks at different times of days, I realised I was spotting different birds and animals. I was also able to see patterns in behaviours which added a whole new dimension to my walks and what I was spotting. I also noticed that when the weather changed, their habits also altered. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to spot most animals but if you are lucky you can make some great spots during the middle of the day, like animals sleeping in the shade."

Get a camera with a good zoom

"When I started getting more committed to my wildlife spotting, I wanted to be able to spy on what I was spotting a little more. At first, I thought I needed a pair of binoculars (which are great) but the more I went out the more I realised a camera with a good zoom provided me with more versatility. I use a Sony HX99 point and shoot. It is small and compact and easily fits into my pocket. With a staggering 24-720mm zoom, it is incredible how up close I can get to whatever I am watching. Being able to film that and take photos also means I can study their movements, colours, and markings after they have run away! I try and set myself the challenge of coming back from every walk with at least one image of anything I can spot. This makes me spend a lot more searching the trees and hedgerows and finding little things I may have previously missed. Sometimes the smaller birds and animals are more interesting. My favourite was a woodpecker at the top of a dead tree…"

Wear clothes that blend into the environment

"I am not recommending going full camo or anything like that but the more discreet you can be the better chance you have of sharing a few moments with whatever wildlife you lucky to spot. It is also a good idea to make sure you have a few layers and maybe some lightweight waterproofs in case you decide to hide out somewhere for a longer period of time. I have even invested in a Montane Trailblazer 3 to hold more kit and not having to take a backpack on and off (which makes noise and takes time). If it cold, then a Hotrox handwarmer will keep you hands warm and give you some additional power if your electrical devices run low."

Try and walk into the wind (and if possible go alone)

"This might sound a little over the top, but it really does make a difference. If you know where you have the best chance of spotting some wildlife, then check the wind direction and see if you can approach with your face into the wind. This will minimalise the chances of the wildlife hearing or smelling you and running away. 


Sharing a walk is always fun but going alone (and this includes leaving the pets at home) can actually be far more rewarding as you will make a lot less noise and the chance of sharing a moment with nature will be far greater. "

Do your homework and learn about your local wildlife

"The more you know, the more rewarding the experience will be. When I started, I just liked spotting some wildlife. Now I want to know when they hang out, what they eat, how long they live, what noises they make. You can also learn about which birds are migrating though where you live, which means at different times of year, there are different things to look out for. I recently spent an evening watching cranes on their migration from the colder Nordic region to the warmer climates of southern Spain and Morocco. You can also extend your knowledge to what berries, fungi and plants are edible and what their seasons are. One day you may be able to forage a meal. With so much time on our hands, it's nice to have some homework to do!"

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