Meet our members - Louise Kahan on the solace of wildlife

Meet our members - Louise Kahan on the solace of wildlife
Louise Kahan © Simone Kahan-Howell

I live in Sussex, and became a Sussex Wildlife Trust member with my daughter this year. 

I work in Canary Wharf as an executive assistant, which keeps me extremely busy.

I have always been aware of the natural world. As a toddler I was given a bucket and spade to play in the garden and would turn over every stone, collecting anything that moves, including snails and ladybirds, which my mum used to find in my room running up the walls and curtains.

Blue tit nest material Louise Kahan 

Blue Tit collecting nest material © Louise Kahan  

I was diagnosed with breast cancer during January 2018 and spent many hours inside, extremely unwell. My treatments included chemotherapy, radiotherapy and multiple surgeries. I'd get to the front door and force myself to go out for a walk. I lost all my hair and bloated up. My oncologist said I needed to build up my fitness and the fresh air would be good for me. So I went for small walks initially, 15 minutes to the end of the road and back. I managed to grow some beans in the back garden when I was having chemotherapy and was excited when I was able to eat them.  

Fire crest louise kahan

Firecrest © Louise Kahan  

I built up the walks gradually, reconnecting with nature, which has helped me tremendously with my mental health and fitness, and had a positive impact on my wellbeing. When I feel stressed, as soon as I am out in nature, it’s like everything becomes much lighter.   

I spent many hours watching the kingfishers at Wakehurst. I have met many like-minded people, with whom I am now friends.  

Once, whilst walking in West Sussex, I came across a green butterfly. I had no idea what it was. I took a photo and went home to find out - it was a Green Hairstreak. I looked up how many butterflies there are in the UK and was surprised. Many I'd never noticed or seen before. 

I met butterfly expert Neil Hulme by accident when I was photographing Duke of Burgundy butterflies at Kithurst Hill (South Downs). He introduced himself to mum and me. I bought a copy of the book he wrote with (Sussex Wildlife Trust's) Michael Blencowe, The Butterflies of Sussex. 

I'd go for walks, finding these beautiful butterflies, in places I hadn't been before, taking my camera everywhere.

Recently I watched many online talks about wildlife, butterflies etc, including the Sussex Wildlife Trust webinars.

I started to post my photos on Instagram, and Facebook groups such as Sussex Wildlife Trust's Nature Table, as well as others.

Male pied flycatcher louise kahan

Male Pied Flycatcher © Louise Kahan  

I have an app my phone called ChirpOMatic, therefore if there is a bird singing that I don’t know I use the app and it normally tells me what the bird is. 

Once, I was looking for the very rare Grayling Butterfly in SussexI went to Windover Hill, and followed Neil’s instructions, and nothing. It was very windy,  I went back in a sunny day, when there was less wind and met some others looking for the same butterfly who had had no luck. 

I stood in the shade to cool down under a small tree and one landed literally on my hand and flew around me then landed on my hand again, then flew on the tree in front of me I managed to get a few pictures before it went into the shrubs. It was such a special moment, it made my day.

During lockdown I found some beautiful places which were quiet, no one around. If I see plastic I pick up what I can. I hate seeing all this litter just chucked on the floor and along our verges. 

I spend many moments out with my Olympus camera (300mm lens) on manual and silent as I don’t want to disturb the wildlife. Sometimes I use my iPhone, but mainly I try to tuck myself near a pole or by a shrub, or just sit quietly and see what happens. You do need a lot of patience. It’s taken me ages to learn my camera, and I still get blurred photos. The great thing about digital is you can delete all those that didn't work out.  

I like to find an area and learn what you can find there and just embrace the space. 

My advice is, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get it right the first time, just keep trying. In fact I sometimes don’t even take a photo, especially if a Barn Owl is flying by -  I just want to watch it. 

Follow Louise on Instagram: @louise_capturedmoments 

Comments

  • Pearl:

    06 May 2021 12:46:00

    Wonderful to hear and beautifully written Louise. Your experience with nature has helped you heal in mind and body. Enjoy your experiences and live life to the full

  • Janice:

    06 May 2021 14:00:00

    Amazing. Totally understand how the simplicity of nature helps enormously with mental health. Amazing what you are doing and I can understand the joy it brings. Simple things are the most important

  • dawne davis:

    06 May 2021 18:52:00

    Lovely to read about you, sharing your experiences and your photography Louise. It takes a lot more than luck to capture the beautiful birds & butterflies you have photographed, and you have both the skill & patience!

  • Jenny Lindop:

    15 May 2021 06:55:00

    This is wonderful, thank you.

  • Veronica:

    25 May 2021 18:05:00

    Reading this took me to the places you spoke about, it sounds absolutely bliss, just what you needed to bring peace and healing to you.

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