Reconnecting with nature
During lockdown, we have all been looking for different things to keep ourselves occupied. In his blog, Cycling, and Gardening and Growing Volunteer, George McDermid, talks about how he’s been reconnecting with nature, and how this has improved his mental wellbeing.
The sound of my wife working in the study is a new one for this, normally silent, house. An Amazon package turned up recently consisting of a webcam, so now the sound of Video Conferencing has been added to the sounds of telephone conversations, keyboard tapping and loud curses. The usual office sounds. I get visited for the odd tea break before I’m dismissed suddenly with, ‘I have a meeting starting in a minute’.
For me, the lockdown has meant something quite different from having to work from home. I am retired so my main interactions were through my friends, who I can no longer see, and through my volunteering, which I can no longer do, and for the first time since I hung up my office cap, I envy my wife’s daily interactions with other people. I was beginning to feel that social distancing was a chasm of loneliness over which I’d never leap.
Chris Packham’s Self-Isolating Bird Club saved me. If you haven’t heard of this, he and his step-daughter, Megan McCubbin, present a live stream on social media every weekday morning at 9am and I make sure I’m near an Internet connection to see it. They chat about wildlife, mostly in their garden and they have self-isolating guests chatting via video links about what they’re doing to embrace nature during the lockdown. I became inspired to look more closely at my garden.
From a wildlife point of view, I guess the ponds are the main focus points. We have frogs everywhere and need to be so careful when cutting back thick weeds and the grass when little froglets are jumping about everywhere. When I’m gardening, it brings a smile to my face to hear the odd tell-tale ‘plop’ of a frog as I pass by. They’re not enjoying this dry weather but when I’m topping up the pond with a gentle spray from the hose, they migrate towards it like it’s party time!
We have two ponds, one cascading into the other. The upper pond, much smaller, is a magnet for birds. It’s shallow enough for bathing in and recently they have been queuing up to take turns. It’s a particular favourite for blackbirds but they do occasionally share the space with sparrows.
One of the episodes of The Self-Isolating Bird Club looked at the miniature, the tiny creepy-crawly world of insects. I remembered that I had a small microscope that attached to a mobile phone, bought years ago for a few pounds. It didn’t fit the phone I had at the time but I dug it out and lo and behold, it fitted my current phone. I was quite impressed with the results.
What I didn’t have was a Trail Camera, something to set up and trigger when it sensed movement. The Self-Isolating Bird Club presenters were always talking about them and used them to discover all sorts of wildlife. Since I wasn’t spending any money on the pub, restaurants, cinema, theatre, holidays, anything really, I decided to treat myself and acquired one. It was an easy decision where to place it first. A few years ago I built a ‘Bug Hotel’ but had no idea if it was ever used. I set the camera up to monitor any movement overnight and I got quite a bit of mouse activity!
I was delighted and continued to monitor the activity. For a ‘Bug’ hotel I still haven’t seen any bugs but I’m more than happy that the mice have moved in.
My next task is to take it to Ravenscraig Walled Garden to monitor just exactly what is going on at the little pond I helped create with the other volunteers just before lockdown. When Carol presented me with the pond mould and a few of us set about finding a spot for it and setting it up, I wasn’t to know how much intrigue it was about to create. As a plot-holder at Ravenscraig, I have been lucky enough to be able to check in on it to monitor how it is developing.
I was getting annoyed that the pots of pond plants that I had planted kept getting knocked over, and many of the other plants were being disturbed. I was wondering who the vandals were until one day I came upon this sight! Some of the carnage was like a scene from Game of Thrones! We suspect the resident crow, but I want to get footage before condemning him outright.
The good news about the pond is that I recently discovered tadpoles in it. We’re not quite sure where they could have come from but my best theory is that the plants I planted, transplanted from my own pond earlier in the year when it was full of spawn, unknowingly transported a few eggs with them. So, we may have a few frogs hopping about the next time you are able to visit.
Although I still don’t have people to interact with socially, it’s been fun to have a slightly different focus for a while and to be more aware of the wildlife visiting my garden. I’m certainly appreciating them visiting when others can’t.|