This is my first book review (so apologies in advance). When I saw Ally Hoadley’s post in the ‘A Focus On Nature’ Facebook group about winning and reviewing a free wildlife book, I thought why not! I instinctively went for the two UK-related books and could not believe I was plucked out of a hat to review Hidden Nature by Isla Hodgson - I never win anything.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I received the book in the post from the publishers, but presumed it was some kind of UK guide book. Hidden Nature is based on Isla’s popular blog ‘Where The Wild Things Live’. As someone who has volunteered and worked in nature conservation for 10 years I quickly discovered that this book was not exactly aimed at me. This book is for people who are new to the world of wildlife, which makes sense as Isla is the Associate Director of A Focus On Nature - the Youth Nature Network. I therefore tried to read the book through the eyes of my younger self.
The book is funny and very well written, immersing you in stories so that you can feel, hear, and smell Isla’s experience of the world around us. As she was based in Scotland for much of her adult life, these adventures are mainly centred around the beautiful Scottish countryside. She also travels further afield to North Wales, Worcester, and shares anecdotes of her childhood stomping grounds around Whitley Bay.
Most of her stories are focused on birds and mammals, with brief mentions of all other taxonomic groups as well. Isla talks about her experiences with seals, hares, otters, red deer, red squirrels, bats, and red foxes (I’ve only just noticed she must really like red things!). The author has a fondness for all things avian, from seabirds, eagles, swallows, martins, ducks, ospreys, cuckoos, hen harriers, barn owls and common garden birds. The book provides sound advice on how to behave considerately around wildlife, a small sample of places to see the above mentioned ‘wee beasties’, and some simple examples of what the average person can do to help conserve our wildlife.
The book itself provides a better description than I can conjure up - inside the front cover it states “written by a young conservationist who refuses to grow up, it details her small adventures travelling the UK in search of wildlife encounters”. It’s not a guide book with an index, it’s a diary of her wildlife experiences to date (with the odd minor inaccuracy), encouraging everyone to get outside and experience all that UK nature has to offer. I could never attempt to write such an inspirational, amusing book and recommend this is bought for anyone new to and interested in making the natural world a healthy dose in their daily lives.
Mark David Barber is a conservation ecologist based in South Wales. He has worked for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) Trust (@ARC_Bytes) for seven years and is a trustee of Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (@ARGroupsUK). He is a passionate naturalist with a love for all wildlife not just Herpetofauna! He is happiest when out and about recording wildlife (with his two dogs if possible), enthusing others, and undertaking habitat creation and restoration with or without a chainsaw.