We’ve loved hearing the stories you’ve been sending to us after reading the article in Nature’s Home by Simon Barnes about tuning into nature. It really can be a wonderful way to notice nature moments happening around you when you least expect it. We couldn’t share them all in Nature's Home but here’s a few more marvellous moments with nature!
Mistaking a peregrine and pigeon race for an RAF jet in Snowdonia
As a kid, I joined the Young Ornithologists Club (the then RSPB club for young people) and each weekend would go birdwatching. I did this until I was in my mid-teens because, let's face it, there was no daytime TV or computer games back in the early 1970s. But I have to say my encounters with birds since then have been far more interesting than all my birdwatching expeditions. Perhaps I've just been lucky because I have to say I've been blessed with some memorable moments.
As a student geologist I was doing some mapping in Snowdonia on Moel Siabod. Crouching down at a rock outcrop I heard a noise of rushing wind getting louder and louder. Expecting it to be another low-flying jet trainer from RAF Valley I stood up to have a look, whereupon a pigeon shot a few feet over my head going like the clappers and a peregrine breaking off its dive and zooming back into the sky before circling and flying off. The encounter lasted about one or two seconds. Inadvertently I had saved one lucky pigeon.
Peregrine by Katie Nethercoat (rspb-images.com)
Aerial acrobatics by a spotted flycatcher from the office window
I spent my days at work in an office in Tunbridge Wells. Thankfully, this particular office was a converted house with an incredible garden. When I spotted my first spotted flycatcher doing aerial acrobatics to catch insects, I was over the moon. Imagine my excitement to discover the flycatcher nesting outside my boss’s window! Watching the babies grow and leave the nest made for a very special year in my life of encounters with birds.
As Simon Barnes said, ‘Awake! Listen! Love’ indeed!
Spotted flycatcher by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Battle of Britain: Sparrowhawk vs pigeon
I was walking towards Norbury Park in the Surrey Hills with my camera and binoculars in my backpack under the assumption that I wouldn’t see anything photo-worthy on the suburban roads that lead to the park. Big mistake!
Two pigeon-sized birds flashed across the road in front of me at eye level. It took me a moment to realise a feral pigeon was being pursued by a female sparrowhawk. The sparrowhawk caught the pigeon and had it under control on the road surface. This happened a few meters in front of me and I knew if I made a move to get my camera out, I would possibly scare the sparrowhawk.
I slowly attempted to get my mobile phone out o to film the scene, but as I did so the pigeon escaped the clutches of the sparrowhawk and flew directly at me. For a split second I wasn’t sure what to do and froze in position. The pigeon flew past my right arm arrow-straight.
The pigeon didn’t appear to be hurt and I was marvelling at his getaway when the sparrowhawk flew in pursuit a meter or two behind. I saw this drama unfolding behind me with the pigeon trying desperately to flee the clutches of the sparrowhawk by flying up and then down, like a scene from the Battle of Britain. The pair then went over a hedge, where to the best of my knowledge the prey was caught. How do I know this? The cacophony of noise coming from onlooking magpies and jackdaws suggested to me that the sparrowhawk was successful.
What struck me were the contrasting emotions that I went through during this encounter. . Exhilaration at having witnessed the pursuit. Desperation in the pigeons attempts to escape. Uneasiness at the brutality of the natural world. Plus disappointment that I didn't have my camera out. But as Simon Barnes said: ‘Birds can turn up anywhere and you have to be ready.' Lesson learned!
Sparrowhawk by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Spotting common lizards while inspecting a bug hotel
A couple of years ago my wife and I visited RSPB Arne and near the entrance to the nature reserve spotted an attractive-looking bug hotel. Walking over to inspect it we found little sign of any insect occupants but then caught sight of this pair of very replete and satisfied-looking common lizards apparently taking a post-prandial nap in the spring sunshine on one of the hotel's verandas. We realised this might be linked to the lack of visible bug life!
Common lizards by Peter White
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