A Shot of Wildlife
We caught up with Liam, founder of A Shot of Wildlife YouTube channel, to hear about his passion for UK wildlife and what the outdoors means to him.
What inspired you to start making wildlife videos?
I realised that there is a strong disconnection between people and nature. Once I was going to a school to do a talk about hedgehogs and asked a class of 90 children: “What’s your favourite animal?” They all answered, sharks, killer whales, dolphins and loads of great animals that they had only ever seen on television. Of these 90 children, only one of them said an English animal. It was a badger, and he only said it because he'd seen one killed at the side of the road.
These children, they're always outside, they're near UK nature, and they just do not know what's around them. This isn't their fault and it isn't their parents fault, they’ve just had no opportunity to start learning about the wildlife that’s around them.
That's why I make these videos on YouTube. It's always been my aim to be completely free at source, so if anybody has access to the internet they can understand a little bit about what they're hearing or what they're seeing out in the countryside.
Why do people call you Nature Boy?
I grew up as part of a big family, I'm one of six siblings and we grew up in a place that doesn't really have too much notorious wildlife - there's no nature reserves around. Whenever I had an opportunity, I would go out into the countryside or into a patch of wasteland and find lizards or find newts, frogs, toads and tadpoles etc. All the other kids called me Nature Boy, and at the time I didn't really like that, but now I look back and there were some of the greatest times.
Wildlife in our gardens
People think a lot of the time that we’re unlucky in the UK and it's like an urban jungle, but around us there is so much easily accessible wildlife.
For example, oak trees can be home to thousands of different species. They are just coming into leaf at the moment so there'll be lots of caterpillars and lots of invertebrates which encourage birds. Blue tits will have their eggs in their nests and they'll be coming here to get fat ready for when the chicks appear. You see blue tits in almost every single garden. They're all around and they're accessible to everybody - you're probably never more than 200ft from one.
One of the most common misconceptions about UK wildlife is that there isn't very much of it, or it's not very interesting, but it's just as interesting as the tropical rainforest or the African savanna. There's the battle of life and death happening in your garden, within reach - something you can go and see for yourself.
War Hero Pigeons
I have a couple of favourite animals that are quite interesting to me, which I spend a lot of time looking at or interacting with. Town feral pigeons, I love them. They're born survivors and they've got such a great history as they helped in the world wars to bring back messages. They're also super intelligent - they're one of the only animals that can recognise itself in a mirror. They deliberately pick a mate that looks different to them so that their babies look different and they maintain their genetic diversity.
The second species is a common frog, another species that's all around us. I think it’s because it’s one of those magical things you see when you're young - tadpoles growing in a tank and changing into a frog.
A lot of people have irrational fears of frogs, snakes and spiders. I guess it's sometimes taught from their parents or maybe the people around them have been scared of similar creatures. There's no spiders in the UK that could do any damage. A black widow spider or fox widow can probably give you a bee sting unless you're allergic to them, but most people would be completely fine with all spiders in the UK.
I think, in order to get over a fear of spiders, you need to be exposed to them. I don’t mean BOOM you’re in a room full of spiders and the spiders are everywhere and on you because that would probably make things much, much worse. But perhaps if you were to learn a little bit more about their intricate lifecycle, how they contribute to the ecosystem, and to the environment around you. Perhaps that might help.
Soaking it in
When I'm observing wildlife, I'm not worried about the stress of the day before and I'm not worried about the stress of the days to come. I'm thinking about the experience I'm having, the things I can hear, the smell of the place. I try to soak in as much from that experience as I possibly can.
It doesn’t matter if I’m seeing a mouse run across a field, or seeing a fox chasing that mouse across a field, or just an insect coming out of its pupae, these things are experiences that I am lucky to witness and I feel like I should be as present as possible.
I want to keep making more videos and see the channel grow. Ideally, I'll make enough money so I can drop down my working hours and put more time into wildlife education. Once that happens, alongside making videos, I intend on going back to face to face engagement with people.
I love making the videos and I love reaching a huge audience, but at the same time I love people and I love the back and forth you can get from a face-to-face interaction. I'll go into schools, nursing homes, colleges, community groups, scouts, cubs, guides etc. and talk to them about wildlife, take them to places to see wildlife, and explain to them what they're seeing.
The place to be
I’m far happier outside. When I'm in the countryside, I just feel like it's my place, it's the place I should be. Sometimes I have to sit at a computer quite a lot at home and I have this window near where I'm sitting and there’s this big tree staring at me, and I just wish I'm outside. When I have the chance to step outdoors, I take a moment to pause, soak it all in, and think of how lucky I am to be listening to birdsong and feeling nature.
Feel At Home, Outdoors in the UK's most stunning and remote locations: