We owe a debt to the natural history diarists of the past, from Gilbert White, whose observations and discoveries were set out in The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, to writers like Dorothy Wordsworth and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Indeed, the 18th and 19th centuries saw a golden age of nature writing, with the diary a popular way both of recording scientific information, and celebrating nature through literary endeavour.
The diary form is enjoying a revival in cyberspace. I recently came across a site dedicated to natural history blogging in the British Isles. The UK and Eire Natural History Bloggers site has links to dozens of blogs that show nature diaries are very much alive today. Blogs are so immediate, so easily shared with others, and lend themselves to that unique, personal take on the world around you.
It’s great to see such an appetite for enjoying and discovering nature, and for writing about it; it makes me wonder if this is the dawning of a new golden age of nature writing. The enthusiasm of individuals can be a powerful force in raising awareness, and in building a bank of knowledge and data.
If you’re a closet nature diarist, you could add your blog to the list to share with others. Or let us know if you are aware of other sites that bring together natural history blogs in this way. These blogs are our natural history archives of the future. My only worry is whether they will stand the test of time in this transient world. What do you think?
Sian Atkinson, Conservation Communications & Evidence Adviser