I grew up I a rural area of Eastern Canada. I grew up in a small town with no shopping mall, supermarket, movie theatre , etc, nearby. The forest, ponds, streams and rivers were my playgrounds. At a young age I knew a lot about the local animals, flora and fauna, could make a campfire, build a shelter out of spruce and pine bows and knew basic survival skills.
When I was a kid, being connected with Nature was not a “trendy” thing. Being connected with nature was just the way it was!
Fast-forward many years and as an adult I found myself living in the big city. For the past 14 years I have been living in large cities in Korea and Japan. I have been pulled away from the Nature I grew up with for work and life reasons. Initially this was a novel, interesting and fun thing for me. Life in the big city offered me many interesting cultural opportunities I never had growing up. Museums, festivals, shopping centers, restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes…the variety was almost bind-boggling.
Once I hit my 30’s, got married and had a family, I started to miss the nature I grew up with.
Being disconnected from the world of flowers, bugs, animals, trees, bogs, swamps, etc., was starting to wear me down. I missed my childhood experiences of trying to walk across a massive bog and constantly having my rubber boots sucked off as I attempted to walk. I missed sitting in fields of wild blueberries and eating them until I almost tossed my cookies. I missed wandering along walking paths that dotted the rugged coastlines of Cape Breton Island. I missed raccoons pawing at my tent as I slept in the un-bushwhacked spruce trees outside my hometown.
A few years ago while teaching at a kindergarten in the city of Akashi, Japan my love for Nature was rekindled. My school didn’t have a playground so everyday I would take my class to a massive city park called Akashi Park. Not only did the park have big fields and playgrounds, but it had forest, ponds, streams and other ecosystems. There were giant grasshoppers, praying mantises, cormorants, raptors, ducks, warblers and hornets.
I started to become interested in the natural world again so I started to teach myself more about it. Once I realized I had daily access to a natural and educational goldmine (the park) I began to teach my students more and more about the natural wonders around them.
It began with insects. I became and am still utterly fascinated by them. The more I see the more I want to learn. Then I moved onto birds. I grew up in a household with two parents who were birders, but it wasn’t until my late 30’s when I started to care more about the environment and the world around me that I became interested in birds as well.
I mixed my newly minted fascination with nature with my social media and content creation skills. I started making videos about bugs and birds as well as blog posts. Last year I was able to buy my first real camera with the support of my YouTube and podcast listeners who had supported my on some Patreon crowd-funding campaigns.
I have since become quite interested in nature photography and sharing more about the natural wonders Japan has to offer via my Facebook page, “Birds of Kansai.”
There are many reasons I started the page.
I wanted to motivate myself to get better at taking awesome photos of birds and insects.
I wanted to share the amazing birds in Japan with people all around the world.
I wanted to build a platform to teach people about the natural wonders around us and hopefully encourage them to care more about nature.
I wanted to build a community interested in conservation and ecology.
I wanted to build opportunities to teach my students and anyone else about the natural world in hopes that they will also want to become future stewards of the environment.
In the future I plan to get more “hands-on” with the page by organizing actual meet ups. This will give like-minded people a chance to meet up, enjoy nature together and discuss ways that they can take action and conserve the environment and habitats around them. These meet ups will come in two forms. There will be a family oriented meet where families can get together at a birding hot spot and with the guidance of birders and naturalists, learn about the local habitats and the birds that inhabit them. There will also be an adult-oriented meet up that will involve hiking, identifying birds and having some beverages afterwards.
If you have any interest in Japan, nature conservation and the outdoors, you should check out Birds of Kansai and LIKE it!
Kevin O’Shea is a Canadian PYP Educator, podcaster, naturalist, and Kobe Public Relations Ambassador (lives with his family in Kobe, Japan).