If there is one thing that has come out of the last few months it has been the chance to rediscover my own patch. Now I accept that I am lucky to live in a small village, with open countryside all around, and many did not have that luxury, but, watching the spring turn slowly into summer while spending most of that time within a few miles of home has been remarkably enjoyable.
In the course of a normal spring I might have done plenty of local walks but I would also have traveled further afield to enjoy a Scottish Island, a family visit to Cumbria and a constant thinking of where to go for a walk in the far corners of our county. This year the horizons have shrunk, the local footpaths have been explored in more detail than ever before and the day by day changes have taken on a new importance.
As the skylarks returned to serenade the daily exercise a hint of warmth showed the way into spring. A deer tentatively trotted away indicating a hidden fawn somewhere out of sight. The hedges seemed filled with yellowhammers with their distinctive song “A little bit of bread and no cheese” though some optimistically dropped the ‘no’. Song thrushes and blackbirds sang from the top of trees, a repetitive ‘tee-cher’ of a great tit then the less harsh ‘chiff-chaff’ of a chiffchaff!
Birdsong seemed to be all around. Were there really more birds? It seems unlikely although fewer cars on the roads must have saved a few lives. Possibly more likely is that fewer cars and skies almost empty of aeroplanes meant they were just a bit more obvious. And maybe, just maybe, by taking that little bit more time to listen opened up my senses to take in so much more.
So what has been the best moment? The barn owl quartering a field on the village edge or a glimpse of azure of a kingfisher on the river? The early orange and white flicker of an orange tip butterfly or the return of house martens? The first ever tree sparrow in the garden or the swathe of golden marsh marigold in the riverside field? Well it’s been all of those and plenty more. This period has certainly reminded me that nature is not about the spectacular but about the wonder and beauty of the everyday.
Work has continued throughout, perhaps even busier than usual, but it’s also been wonderful to share with colleagues not just the daily needs of the job but their own nature experience from the hedgehogs visiting the garden or the first arrival of screaming swifts. Outside work more people than ever have shared their own small encounters with wildlife, no lions going in for the kill but the local sparrowhawk coming in for a meal, no alligator in the Florida swamps but a great crested newt in the school grounds. Look closely and our own wildlife has so much variety and interest and yet so often we hanker after the grander experience.
So if something comes out of the last few months then it is surely to enjoy the spectacular wildlife right on the doorstep. The harmless hoverfly that disguises itself as a wasp, the delicate flight of the damselfly, the great tit raising a brood in a bird box in the garden or the bright blue flash of a common blue butterfly. Traffic has already returned to our roads, planes will return to the sky, the world will try to get back to a normality of sorts. Despite all this if a few more people care a little more about what they have at hand and take pride in the local environment then that will be one major positive to come out of so much disruption and hardship.