Going wild in country

Andrew Whiteley runs Verdant Wildlife Tours around Bassetlaw w121123-8d
Andrew Whiteley runs Verdant Wildlife Tours around Bassetlaw w121123-8d

IF I told you I’d been on a wildlife tour you might be imagining me driving across the plains of Africa or thrashing my way through a rainforest.

But what about the wildlife on our doorstep?

Andrew Whitelee is passionate about passing on his knowledge of the birds and animals to be found within easy reach of home.

He set up Verdant Wildlife 15 months ago to give guided tours around Bassetlaw.

His company motto is Recreation, Education, Inspiration and he aims to offer all three within a day.

Andrew, 42, of Bilsthorpe, said: “There is so much wildlife on our doorstep and if people don’t know what to look for they might be missing out.”

“I hope to inspire people to get out there and engage with the enviroment and to enjoy it more by being able to recognise the wildlife around us.”

Andrew took me out for a morning to give me a condensed version of his full day tour and I was amazed at what we saw in just a few hours.

We headed first for Carburton Lake where some kind bird lover had attached little dishes to the fence posts which are filled with bird feed by regular visitors like Andrew.

Within a few minutes of arriving we were treated to the sight of a host of birds flitting in and out to feed.

A male chaffinch was first, followed by a great tit, a coal tit, a nuthatch and a robin.

The only one I managed to identify by myself was the robin.

Andrew said: “The chaffinch will just sit in the bowl and eat but the tits are much shyer and will fly in and out.”

He also pointed out how the nuthatch was swooping in to pick up nuts and then flying back to a tree to store them for later.

Across the lake, reflecting some welcome sunshine, was a field and woods, resplendent in their autumn colours.

Andrew gave me a pair of binoculars so that I could take a look at a heron standing in the field, with lapwings and black-headed gulls close by.

He had an RSPB bird spotter’s guide book and showed me pictures of the various birds and how to differentiate between males and females.

As we were talking a buzzard flew over the field and Andrew said that, although buzzards can take down a rabbit, they can often be found making do with worms.

Andrew is a fount of ornithological knowledge and runs a bird watching course for beginners.

Next we headed to the Hardwick end of Clumber Park where we had a walk round one of the lakes, stopping on the path for Andrew to point out a holly tree full of red berries.

He said: “The holly leaves are only spikey at the bottom of the tree where animals graze. There are male and female holly trees and only the female has the berries.”

We used the binoculars to look at the birds on the lake which included coots, moorhens, mute swans, mallard and tufted ducks.

Andrew charges £45 for a full day tour, including a packed lunch, and also does gift vouchers.

He is also doing family walks, where he will join a family on one of their regular strolls and point out wildlife along the way.

For more information go to www.verdantwildlife.co.uk.