Nature as a source of solace, in times of corona

Yesterday I spent some time looking out from my front door as the school children were heading to school. They didn’t seem to me to be whining but some had shining faces and many did have satchels or their modern equivalents (see here) but there were definitely fewer of them than usual. And I wondered whether those school goers commented to each other that there were more cars parked in the streets, certainly in our street, than usual – fewer people had travelled to work.

While noticing these things, and trying to recall the Jacques speech on the seven ages of man, and musing on the changes that coronavirus will make to our lives, a Starling called or sang, difficult to know which in that particular case, from a wire above my head. Starlings are an underrated species, they are full of interesting behaviours and make some great noises and I looked at this bird, about twenty feet away from me, and watched and listened for a while.

It sat on a wire and that made me think in two ways at once. First, I have no idea what that wire is for and I’ve never really thought about it before. It looks a bit like a guy rope but I’m sure it isn’t there to stop our late Victorian red-brick semi-detached house from falling down, nor our neighbour’s half of the building. It must do something, maybe it’s a telephone line? I really don’t know and although I’ve lived in this house for about 20 years, and stood at this doorway hundreds of times, I’ve never really thought about it before. Actually, now I look, there are quite a lot of wires around the place and I don’t know what any of them are for except that several of them do have Starlings perching on them.

And I thought about perching on a wire. My Starling, still above me, and all the other Starlings I could see, made this look rather easy. They weren’t teetering and spreading their wings to correct their balance, they were just sitting there, with their claws wrapped around the wires, making it look easy. I admired the Starling for making look easy something which, when you think about it, is rather wonderful. Indeed, my Starling, in the space of just a few moments sat there, sang there, preened there, defecated from there and looked around nonchalantly – I was impressed. The more I thought about it the more impressed I was.

And when my Starling flew off, he, for I guess it was a he, made that look very easy too. It all happened very quickly but his departure from that wire didn’t look unsteady or clumsy or anything other than smooth and natural. And come to that, when my Starling perched next to another Starling on another wire (I don’t know what that wire is for either) he made that look very smooth too.

All the world is a stage, and we all play our parts on it, but we share that stage with other actors, with hundreds and thousands of species all playing their parts, and many of them, like my Starling, are a source of solace and interest, and are right on our doorsteps. Take a moment to look and listen to nature on your doorstep at this time of corona.


25 Replies to “Nature as a source of solace, in times of corona”

  1. Starlings are another important neighbour to look and listen out for. Now’s the time to copy them and get streetwise and organised.

  2. We have a wire and I know what it does. Except today it doesn’t. The electricity is off from 0830 ’til 1630hrs for “planned maintenance”. So, no radio, no internet and no ‘phone as we’re internet linked. Isolation complete on two fronts for this elderly couple. But, the Songthrush is singing and a Goldcrest and yesterday the Chiffchaff arrived. Entertainment in plenty.

  3. Their ability is impressive, especially as the wire is very flexible, unlike a branch. Presumably jungle birds perch on lianas in the same way.

    Saw on the TV a few years ago, four or five small monkeys walking along a telephone wire. Astonishing, they even they didn’t find it easy. Their tails were whipping back and forth constantly to keep their balance. Given that every movement they each made would move the wire, in three dimensions, it was astonishing. But then catching a ball is supposed to be a pretty amazing trick, though most catchers couldn’t consciously solve an equation of the movement of the ball, even given days, let alone seconds.

    1. So rich people explaining to us poorer people how great they are on cutting down on meat eating are really bullshitting us.

      1. Dennis – I sometimes wish I could send you on a course of logical argument, but thank you for your comment (as always).

        1. Maybe others need that course as much as me.
          Logic is in the link kindly put on.
          Funny how conservationists always consider they are the only ones who have God given logic.

        2. Let’s try a bit of logic.
          Quite a bit of present blame for climate change put on cattle while those peddling this go wandering around the world in aircraft and driving thousands of miles on the roads.
          Maybe it is more likely that seeing as cattle been on this earth for thousands of years and aircraft and cars really increased dramatically since the 1950s and in all probability cattle numbers are similar to the 1950s the pollution could logically be put against aircraft and cars.Love
          That seems to be what the course for logical argument came up with.D

  4. And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
    And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
    No whit less still and lonely fair
    Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

    And for that minute a blackbird sang
    Close by, and round him, mistier,
    Farther and farther, all the birds
    Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

  5. My office job which I do two days a week usually in a UK research Institute is now home-based. Very impressed that they equipped probably over 100 people with the capacity to work form home within 72 hours. Virtual video-linked coffee-break time has been arranged, but that doesnt feel odd for someone who has worked from home for 5 years
    What is oddest was the eerie silence from the road this morning.. usually fast and furious till the ‘ground-to-a-halt’ silence at 7.20am………today virtually no-one.
    Feeding the chickens – wren shouting loud, both Dunnock pairs singing away, Greenfinch nearby. I will pop outside again in a minute and expect that the MOD firing range will have drowned out the songs and calls…. that was the striking thing about cycling home from work yesterday…. usually a 4-mile ride accompanied by the noise of the M11, not just birdsong (yesterday was my first Blackcap of the year) and live-firing of guns……….

  6. I had a dark past clouded by depression, finally cured by traditional Chinese acupuncture. In all that time nature was the only thing that kept me on the correct side of sanity. Fortunately my practitioner was perceptive enough to realise its importance to me and encouraged me to talk about my observations and experiences. Nature and the thin needles brought me through. The needles are long gone, but the nature is stronger than ever.
    I was out in my veg garden this morning finally getting on top of spring preparations after the wettest winter here in 25 years. A male starling was singing in the storm-ravaged but blossoming Cherry Plum tree as I worked and I took time out to listen, marvel at the plumage and be thankful that self-isolation allows me to spend time in my garden in his company, with views over open country. If only more people could, and would, see the importance of nature to mans inner self.

  7. As according to my partners daughter (and she is a sister in Cardiff with a wealth of experience) I am one of the vulnerable ones so self isolation is the rule, she has even told her mother ( we live in adjacent cottages) that she should do all my shopping! So like Norman and I think Mark nature is going to be even more important in these coming days of solitude. I think things like the moth traps will be very regularly out, as will the camera.
    We sadly rarely have Starlings unless the weather is atrocious but the Siskins, Redpolls and Goldfinches have obviously eaten most of the local natural food and are swarming on our feeders and are both beautiful and fascinating to watch.

    1. remember that the self-isolating vulnerable (rather than the ill) can go out and exercise as long as they are alone… eg a walk or a bike ride…. its the going on the bus or going to the shop bit which makes you vulnerable to catching the virus.

      AT present, the sweet violets in the garden have an amazing scent which welcomes me every time I take a trip down the garden

      1. I know Louise and I go out everyday to walk our shared dog but as we live in a rural setting I rather enjoyed my weekly trips to Newtown and Llandinam, better get used to their absence. I’m sure once things really start to be spring like I will be out and about to several of the places I habitually visit to see and photograph wildlife. It is surprising how many of these places are virtually deserted most of the time. I will miss volunteering at the Dyfi Ospreys, the public hides at Ynys hir and my periodic visits to North Yorkshire to see friends , family and wildlife. Great views today walking the dog of Song Thrush and a pair of Goosanders.

        1. I am already missing my anticipated but not happening Eatser weekend volunteering at Ynys-Hir… you may have heard of or met the Cambridge Conservation Volunteers on one of our easter visits some point over the past 15 years. Planning cambridge excursions

  8. (Day 2). Collared doves are quite happy pottering along the 3-ply wire outside, whereas woodpigeons seem to prefer perching on the sturdy concrete post that supports it. The local starlings have much more enthusiasm for tower cranes.

    Thanks to everyone who is sharing their garden and/or rural wildlife ! it’s great to read about and I hope it carries on giving you such a lift.

  9. Hello, Mark – wildlife local to my home is providing more comfort and joy to me than ever as we slide into tough times. The viral challenge seems to have enhanced the beauty of nature and its spring dynamics. I’ve started a little project to conserve Stratford upon Avon’s swifts and the community is building momentum for the birds.
    Family and neighbours will need more than food over the coming months. Their gardens and wildlife will provide comfort, hope and a purpose to many.

  10. RSPB Minsmere and the adjacent National Trust property have suspended their charges and tea rooms. I don’t know if other parts of the organisations have done the same . I guess most followers are RSPB members but they may know someone who would like to visit . The news may get drowned by the virus talk.

  11. Stepping out in the morning and taking the air:- In central London last week the scent of fox took your breath away and was chest high all the way up the street. The lemons were fruiting, the money tree/ jade plant crassula ovata (that regular in Chinese takeaway windows) was flowering outside on the hotel balcony but I did not see a ring necked parakeet. Times they are a changing.

  12. I’ve got to be the luckiest bloke in the UK, with the sense of wellbeing, joy and the reduction of any pressure I’ve had before by just being out all day with nature on this farm.
    I started at 7:00am, with 2 moth traps, photographed the contents, thirteen new species to add to the database was very pleasing, but I’m struggling with one. Started the farms’ bird count, first chiffchaff of the year, I was checked out by the sparrowhawk and red kite, the barn owl was in his usual oak tree, and the kestrels were ‘doing it’ by their nest box. Skylarks were everywhere and a nice flock of 54 goldies flew by. The grey wags were busily nest building, as were the wrens, dunnocks and pied wags. Two pairs of buzzard were displaying and 43 jackdaws were following the cows.
    Checked the brown and black hairstreak eggs and adjusted the sleeves. Walked down to where the guys were making the ride with fencing and the creation of a new wild flower bank, looked at the adjoining open wood with all the bramble and plants and decided this is where to extend the planting of the ribwort, foxglove and dog violet I’ve pot sown and try the heath fritillary in September. The marsh frits are busy munching on the scabious, did a bit of weeding around the scabious. Found yet more frogspawn, saw a stoat, looked at the new hedgerows to be layered, checked the coppiced wood, found some more cherry trees, I didn’t know we had and got one foot stuck in the mud, photographing kingcups.
    It’s now 11:00 pm, and I’m trawling through references for ichneumon wasps, trying to id what I caught this morning. I’ve got to process in Lightroom the moth and beetle images from this morning and catalogue them to a wood reference. Sent the bird count to the BTO and started reading the farms’ winter bird survey report from last year.
    I don’t mind self-isolation if its this.

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