When I was a kid and teenager, I spent a lot of time looking for fossils, fungi and berries. It didn’t occur to me at the time to try and put a label on everything, beyond whether it was useful or edible. It was much later that I became interested in identifying what I saw around me and then in counting it and recording it. Having grown up in the countryside, when I moved to London I was fascinated by the quantity and variety of wildlife I discovered in an urban environment.
Initially, I specialised in birds and settled on a patch where I live in Fulham which includes the wonderful Margravine Cemetery and a section of the Thames just south of Hammersmith Bridge. I try to do the same walk every Saturday morning and count the birds I see along the way.
I also take part in the monthly Margravine bird count where we walk the same circuit and count every bird we see. It is very interesting seeing trends across the months and years. I also monitor the pair of peregrine falcons who have been calling Charing Cross Hospital their home since 2007, recording data regarding courtship, breeding and prey.
From birds, I went on to record other species, although I don’t yet record them as systematically as birds. Sometimes I am spurred on by campaigns such as Butterfly Week, sometimes by discovering mobile apps such as iRecord Ladybirds and iRecord Grasshoppers, and sometimes because I notice something on my patch and become interested in knowing more about it.
I used to be a research scientist and, now that I do mostly admin work, recording wildlife around me is a way to keep in touch with the research part of me, partly because I love data and trying to make sense of numbers, partly in the hope that my data will help research projects. Which is why working with organisations such as GiGL is important to me. I work with GiGL directly through my own recording, and indirectly via the LNHS. I have been a member of the LNHS for many years and have recently become the secretary of the ecology and entomology section.
Most of my recording is done at weekends, but I also keep my eyes peeled while out and about during the week. For example, recently, while running errands I spotted a small moth on lavender in a flower bed. It turned out to be a ruddy streak (Tachystola acroxantha), a migrant from Australia. That’s one of the nice things about recording, you never know what will turn up, where or when.
Nathalie Mahieu can be seen in a recent “1,000 Londoners” film.