Wildlife Blogs – Mind Your Step… You’ve Got Wildlife on your Doorstep

Yes, I know the weather’s lousy but trust me. Turn off the TV, put on your raincoat and step outside your back door. It doesn’t matter where you live, I assure you wildlife really is on your doorstep.

We are all guilty of “armchair wildlife watching”. With programmes like Springwatch and Autumnwatch we can all get an instant “wildlife fix” without even leaving the house. Don’t get me wrong I love watching them too, but when was the last time you came face to face with something that made you go “wow”? (and no, seeing the postman in his shorts at 7am the other morning doesn’t count!)

I make sure I experience a wildlife “wow” every couple of days. The last one was an up-close experience with a cheeky young robin when I was putting the washing out. He came so close I could see every speckled brown feather on his new little body. The time before that was watching a female wolf spider (on my hands and knees) as she carried around an enormous sack of eggs on their back. Hidden in the straggly long grass by the back gate (I knew there was a good reason I hadn’t cut it!), she must have been less than half a centimetre long but the egg-sack nearly doubled her size. I’m scared stiff of spiders but somehow it was still a fantastic “wow” moment!

Up until a few years ago I knew nothing about wildlife. Then I met an old man in his 90s called Syd. He’d watched and recorded wildlife all his life. His garden was an urban oasis and he told me intoxicating stories of foxes, badgers, spotted flycatchers and bullfinches. We bought his house. In reality we bought more than a house, we bought 50 years of wildlife.

© Laurie Campbell: Slow Worm

© Laurie Campbell: Slow Worm

Not long after we moved in I had my first “wow” moment (or maybe that should be “howl” moment). I’d decided to clear out the old greenhouse. Every object was methodically moved onto the lawn until I got to the very last thing. A large upturned flowerpot sat unassumingly in the corner. As I lifted it a scaly face looked up at me from beneath. “Oh my god a snake!” I said out loud. Dropping the pot I sprinted to the house to alert my husband to the mortal danger we were in, only to be met by howls of laughter as we came back to see a harmless bronze-coloured slow-worm slithering away under the leaves. My first slow-worm.

I’m lucky I know. My garden is a wildlife safari with “wow” moments around every tree and hedge, but now that I can “see” wildlife I see it everywhere.

Take shopping for instance. Some time ago I went to my local town to do a bit of shopping. Like most busy towns it has a few benches and a few patches of grass, and like just about any town it has an old lady who feeds the birds with crumbs of bread.

© Laurie Campbell: Woodmouse

© Laurie Campbell: Woodmouse

As I dawdled to watch her throw crumbs to the sparrows and starlings there was suddenly an almighty explosion. At what seemed like the speed of light a bird swooped down from nowhere. Birds flew in every direction, scattering like an exploding firework, but the bird grasped its unlucky prey in its claws and flew away.

In the middle of a busy day, in a busy town, under the noses of hundreds of lunchtime shoppers a sparrowhawk had made a kill. I looked around for confirmation of what I’d seen, but no one else had noticed. Even the little old lady had wandered off!

So now that you’ve got your raincoat on and are standing outside the back door (yes, we’re back at that again!), take a few minutes out of your hectic day. Look at that bush by the dustbin. The one with the strange caterpillars that you noticed the other day but didn’t really look at closely. Watch the young blue-tits fighting on top of the fence and catch a glimpse of the timid wood mouse as he darts across the patio.

“Wow” moments are ten a penny really. You just have to give yourself time to see them.

By Jane Adams

Website: http://www.naturewatched.org/
Wildlife Blog: http://urbanextension.wordpress.com/