Nature. There is a lot to learn and it can be intimidating, but the one thing that we all have in common is the ability to identify.
You might be sat there thinking ‘how am I meant to know what’s what, I am no expert. A bird is a bird, a flower is a flower’. The truth is, you need not be an expert, you just need to merely open your eyes and pay attention to the world that surrounds you. Am I sounding a little crazy? Okay. If you take a walk outside or just take a look from your window, ask yourself this – What can I see?
If you look at the trees you can see that they may look different from one another. You notice one is taller and the ‘leaves’ are needle like. You look around again, but this time you look at the flowers. You notice the bright vibrant yellow petals, but only a few yards away there lies one which is dark purple in colour. Right in this moment, you are identifying. You are taking that first vital step and being observant, taking in all of nature’s clues.
But I don’t know the name of anything
You have made that first step, easy right? Now it is a case of learning the names of what you see. It is easy to overwhelm yourself by going through a big book that outlines hundreds of species and there is a complicated key, which you cannot work out. Almost like one of those Choose Your Adventure books (but hard)! The important step here is start with the common species you see and there are many identification books to help you identify those which are common in your area, as well as online resources and tools.
The best thing is that it does not need to be expensive. There is a wealth of information that is free to access by anyone. For example, a quick google search of common bird identification bought this up:
Another great online resource is social media. I personally love to join various Facebook groups that have many members of varying experience. If you are ever stuck with identifying, you can post a picture, along with a brief description, such as the habitat and time of year and there is always someone that knows the answer! You can also tweet experts or certain organisations your picture and they will also help you in the identification process. For example, I am looking to improve my mushroom identification skills, but was a bit thrown by this very blue fungus whilst working in the field. However, after quickly uploading it to a mushroom identification page on Facebook, it was identified within seconds!
It is always nice to have a field guide whilst you are out exploring. However, they can be expensive, especially as it is handy to have more than one so you can cross reference and boost your confidence in correct identification. The thriftiest thing to do is head down to your local charity shop! You will be surprised at what you find. I cannot guarantee what you will find, but searching does pay off. Here are some examples of what I found:
It is also a good idea to buy second hand online if you can (it is a good way of being green too!). Abebooks is a fantastic resource for this and many other online stores offer a similar service.
I hope you find this information helpful. Everybody possesses the ability to identify, now it is time to get out there and test your memory. It is also important to remember that if you do not know or are unsure, never be afraid to ask.