Nature on the Doorstep

One morning this week I drew open the bedroom curtains, looked up at the skies to ascertain the weather, and found myself eye to eye with a buzzard. The bird was circling low over the shrubs and bushes, his focus perhaps on capturing a late breakfast in the undergrowth. I had seen a red kite at a distance before, whilst gazing idly from the kitchen window, and heard owls at night, but had never seen a bird of prey right above the cul-de-sac. Nature was coming closer, and I was thrilled.

Lockdowns have forced us to stay local over the past 11 months, and many of us have been exploring our own areas; getting to know paths and tracks better and searching out the green spaces. We’ve had the opportunity to look around us more closely, and I’ve been noticing changes on a micro level since the first lockdown was announced nearly a year ago. I’ve seen tiny new buds on branches that were bare, and I’ve charted their progression as they grow. I’ve noticed the change in the birds as spring approaches; the long awaited spring song, blue tits busily feeding their young, and mallards searching for a fox-proof place to lay their eggs. I’ve breathed in the scent of blossom and noticed daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops. I’ve tramped through the woodland on a freezing winter’s afternoon and listened to the crunch of my boots on snow and last year’s beech leaves.

The spring of 2020 was characterized by a wonderfully rich birdsong; full of life, lust and joy. I’m not sure whether it was particularly loud, or whether we heard it more clearly because of the reduction in noise from traffic and aeroplanes, but I’m eagerly waiting for this year’s songsters to begin. As I write, a blackbird sits on a twig outside my window. He tilts his head, eyes moving around, and hops onto a different branch, but he’s biding his time, waiting for the right moment to begin his song. Two wood pigeons and a host of sparrows also inhabit the tree; the woodpigeons occupy different branches, but when the time is right, one will shuffle up towards the other, cooing and puffing out its feathers.

Last year, I peered into the ponds on Holmwood Common and saw frogspawn. I returned days later to watch tadpoles squirming about with waggling tails, making the pond seem akin to Piccadilly Circus pre-2020. Returning from a stroll in the summer months, I spotted hedgehogs shuffling along the verge under cover of dusk. I once glanced up from the book I was reading to see a heron, flapping majestically on its way to the local pond. Goldfinches have visited my birdfeeder and I’ve paused on winter walks to notice a wren perching on a bare twig in the hedgerow. Blue tits are ubiquitous here, but their presence is no less joyous. There are wonderful green areas to explore in this area of Surrey, but just looking out of the window can bring a new sight or sound. Look up and look out and the quieter you are, the more you will see.

Frances Jones

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