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Many naturalists can, without hesitation, pinpoint a seminal childhood moment that triggered their interest in wildlife. These are rarely events of high drama, but quiet, private, but mind-blowing tipping points.

I recently heard wildlife enthusiasts on Radio 4 remembering theirs. They included: witnessing a kingfisher catch, kill and swallow a fish in the pouring rain; identifying a rare bird from a book for the first time; losing track of time while rockpooling for crabs in Scotland.

Here are mine. I would have been between seven and 12, living in Mali. (Photo: Tom Fayle)

Lying on my stomach watching ants steaming to and fro across a dusty path in a pop-up ant motorway.

Lying on my stomach reading a book when a massive locust landed on my left forearm. I can still feel the grip of its feet, and I still remember resisting my impulse to brush it off so that I could get a good look (the jaws!).

Lying on my stomach and poking a tiny twig into a coin-sized, cone-shaped depression in the sand. It was an the trap of an antlion larva, and I was trying to provoke it into revealing itself. I only ever saw a pincer or two before the cone collapsed.

Sitting on the garden wall at dusk and watching hundreds of fruit bats flying back to their roosts.
Leaning near a stack of dirty dinner plates in the hope that the chameleon I’d found would stick its tongue out and catch a fly. (It didn’t).

I realise that there’s a common theme here. Not just lying on my stomach (though that seems important, in retrospect). But the watching, the waiting. This was back-yard wildlife, and it made me feel giddy.

There seems to be a window of opportunity to make a permanent, emotional connection with the natural world.

I think that’s where this blog – part parenting, part wildlife – is going.

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