In Outside

The greatest show

Once you start opening your eyes and training them to see, you will notice all sorts of wonderful things. Whether it is the flower that grows in a crack in the pavement, the buzzard circling overhead, the damselfly zipping through the air. You may even start to appreciate that just like humans, wildlife have their preferred spots to hang out, it may be the same branch, the same telegraph pole, the same field. I used to notice all these things as a child on the way to school; there was a favoured spot of an owl and I would look for him (or her) most days. Moving back to the countryside and now the children are a little older (I’m less sleep deprived!) has reawakened this in me and each day I try to spot something. It’s surprisingly addictive and satisfying.

(Photo by Peter Gonzalez on Unsplash)

And don’t just open your eyes, but your ears as well. I have been hearing a loud bird call in my garden for some weeks now, like a dog’s toy with a squeaker in it, but didn’t know what it was coming from. Then early one morning I spotted a great spotted woodpecker drilling for bugs on our plum tree, gripping tightly to the bark underneath a low branch. Every now and then it would stop and call out ‘tchick tchick’ then continue it’s hunt for food. I stayed still and watched it through the kitchen window for a few minutes before it flew off and was lost in the foliage. But I hear it every day and I love knowing what it is now. Happily of late I have spotted a lot of hares, adults and leverets. I am heartened by this.

You may also start to notice what isn’t there. The lack of field and farm birds. How few bees there are. The decline in butterflies. We are a green and pleasant land, but our decline biodiversity is sometimes hidden because of this. This is what we also need to open our eyes to. The number of breeding farmland birds is less than half what it was in 1970. The number of breeding woodland birds is 23% lower than in 1970 (read the full report here). It is important that we don’t accept how the landscape (and cityscape) are now, because it is not how it should be. There is a danger of what’s known as ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ – whereby severe ongoing losses in biodiversity are normalised in the minds of the current and next generation and thus redefine what is seen as ‘natural’ but is actually an impoverished standard.

(Photo by leonie wise on Unsplash)

Nature is still there and given even half a chance it fights back. It’s not too late. For this reason I can’t wait to read Wilding by Isabella Tree, and encourage the wildlife in my garden (though maybe not too many more pesky pigeons and naughty squirrels). In return, nature can give us the greatest show for free on a daily basis. It’s all too easy to rush around with our heads down. But look up once in a while, and you’ll see what I mean.

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