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Suggestions for retirement project? (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Hi all,
Not sure if this is the right place to ask this, but I will be retiring within the next few years and I have been thinking about getting into some specific niche of nature study and really becoming proficient in the area. I'm a lifelong birder with a passing interest in other fauna and flora, and have enjoyed learning a little more over the years about the usual groups - moths, bees, dragonflies, orchids, fungi etc.
However what I'd really like to do is a bit more than just learn how to identify stuff, and to have a chance to contribute to scientific understanding of a particular group. A friend's retirement project has been mosses, and after a couple of years he's really starting to understand and contribute to knowledge of species distribution etc. I'd like to do the same, ideally but not essentially with an animal group, but not to have to kill them/extrude genitalia etc. Suggestions so far have been bats, fungi, small mammal trapping and liverworts (guess who suggested that...).
Further suggestions and reasons for them would be very welcome!


Registered User
I guess you need to find a niche in your area where the species are fairly numerous and reasonably abundant, but not many people are involved gathering the data. Mosses seem like it would fit that nicely!

Birds, Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies are all pretty much covered I'm guessing in Norfolk.
Mammals and Bats would be tricky to add to the knowledge, as there aren't many species, and citizen science projects seem to be doing good work in your area. Bat surveys have been automated in Norfolk! with static detectors being loaned out to people and results collated.

Flowers are steadily becoming automated too, with phone apps identifying species available to everyone!

So, it's probably something in the lower orders, Fungi has got to be a massive challenge, but may well be next to get "automated"! Liverworts, some of the more obscure insect groups perhaps.

The advantage you will have is lots of time available. More time in the field, more experience and more interesting finds.

Maybe start with a wide range of options, and discard them if they aren't what you want to dedicate your time to. Join the local groups, and take it from there. There may be a Bat group project local to you which you could really dedicate your time to, or Reptile and Amphibian Surveys. Not really groundbreaking, but good exercise, and you would be making a difference. A permanent Moth trap would undoubtedly get some interesting results over time. Or a Bat Detector monitored daily, night migration recording etc. Thousands of Birders, but not many go out at night;)

Otherwise it is going to be Mosses, Lichens, Slime Moulds and Slugs!!

Even with limited time, I've been able to contribute in Bat Surveys and Reptile Surveys locally.. Nothing really revolutionary, but more confirming the experts' suspicions.. e,g, optimal habitat for Smooth Snakes, Nathusius' Pipistrelle Autumn Migration across the country etc.

Or maybe even look for a local project where some land is to be improved for wildlife, and help with that. see the results as new species of all groups colonise the area. or get involved in an oversea project, which is starting to deviate now!

Best of luck with it all
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Simon Wates

Well-known member
Nobody mentions Flora. Its massive and fascinating, so much to do I don't know where to start. Its ties in very nicely with birding and gives a special insight into habitats. There can't be many birders who are keen on Flora to take it up to the extent of doing inventories etc. Its a great feeling to be familiar with (nearly!) all the plants around when out birding. When I say Flora I'm referring to vascular plants.


Well-known member
Thanks for the suggestions everyone. Maybe I'll have a crack at a range of things and see what sticks, as suggested.

Acid John

How about Diatoms? They are interesting and good indicators of different types and qualities of environment.


Well-known member
Lots to be done on the hoverflies! A manageable number of UK species (c350), some extremely attractive and many offering a tough ID challenge, a bit like birds really I suppose. Also an active Facebook group feeding directly into the national recording scheme and offering direct contact with UK specialists whose feedback is a valuable learning resource.



Well-known member
Many can be done 'in the field' or from a good series of carefully taken images. Others require 'potting up' and putting in the fridge for a while to enable close examination with a hand lens and yes, some do require the taking of specimens for microscopic scrutiny or dissection. Others (eg female Sphaerophoria spp.) can't be identified to species by any means! You can pursue it as seriously as you wish or find comfortable, as in any discipline. I really do recommend visiting the Facebook UK Hoverflies group though; a really friendly, helpful community.



Staff member
May I suggest you take a look at inter-tidal marine life? Sea Anemones or Sea Slugs? BTW the latter, more properly called nudibranchs (means 'naked lung') and related groups are nothing like garden slugs. Both these groups have limited species compared with mosses etc and are fascinating and more is being learned about their distributions all the time and they could be changing due to global warming. Whats more these organisms can be found in rock pools all year round.

Get tide tables and choose times of lowest low tides and visit an hour before low tide with a view to staying until an hour afterwards. Always keep an eye on your escape route back to dry land. Never underestimate the sea. Check out brackish pools around East Anglia and eventually you should find Starlet Sea Anemone. A rare little beauty.

A bonus in doing this is you are likely to get examined by curious seals. and in the west of Scotland get a glimpse of otters.



Well-known member
Hi Sean.

How about "A Year In The Life Of" a local park/reserve near you. By exploring what happens to all living things there, hopefully that will give you an insight into which direction you may want to go.



Once a bird lover ... always a bird lover
I think that volunteering for your local nature reserves (depending how energic you feel) is a great thing to do. Volunteering can involve many outdoor activities tree planting, fence building, tree removal (as required) and many other events to suit your requirements.

It is also a great way to meet people and build up a social circle of like minded people for social events

Of course logging rare bird life and other wildlife can add to BTO's and Rare Bird listings - amongst many other wildlife documentation.

Great ideas placed on this thread by the way whatever you have decided to do.... ;)

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