RSPB Scotland’s David Hunt gives us a glimpse into his new home working routine and some of his exciting new colleagues…. magpies, geese, swallows, dinosaurs, knights...

Spring in the garden: A home working adventure

“Daddy….Daddy…you’re talking too loudly!” 

It’s fair to say that like many people up and down the country, my working environment has changed somewhat in recent weeks. This latest intervention from the newest member of my team, my four-year old ‘assistant’ son, with his two-year old sister in close attendance, was during one of my recent telephone meetings. Clearly, I was distracting the artist as he put the finishing touches to a fine-looking dragon. 

The domain of our female blackcap this winter

This point in my calendar is usually one at which I’d be gearing up to explore some of the wonderful upland landscapes that my Loch Lomond, The Trossachs and Tayside work area holds. Black grouse, curlew, hen harrier.ok, perhaps species that I’m less likely to see from our Falkirk garden. But despite this year being a little different, there is still so much to see. My new working environment still provides something different every day for us all to look at. Over the last couple of weeks, we have watched ‘Mr and Mrs Magpie’ over the road flitting back and forth with bigger and bigger sticks for their now mighty fine-looking nest. One clearly too large stick deposited on the roof of the house was the source of much giggling from the kids! 

A few hours of work achieved…and its garden time! Superheroes, bikes, chalk, bubbles – we’ll do it all! A pause for a snack and we are joined by some recent risers, queen bees. We watched our favourite, a bonnie looking buff-tailed bumblebeeseeking out potential nest sites and enjoying the warmth of the sun. I don’t think I’ve (ashamedly) spent so much time watching bees as I have done this spring! A clatter of bills and everyone looks up. There go the magpies again! 

bee on leaf

Queen buff-tailed bumblebee in the garden

Spring in the garden is so much more than arrivals though. Back at my laptop, a distant “wink-wink” has me eagerly sprinting to the nearest window and craning my neck to the sky. A skein of pink-footed geese, up there with my favourite of sounds, drifting high towards the Forth. Perhaps starting to think further afield and dreaming of their distant Northern breeding grounds? Back in the garden, we’ve only just said goodbye to another winter wanderer. Since early January, we’ve been treated to a daily appearance from a female blackcap. She flits from here to there, nipping amongst the marauding house sparrows on the feeders and indulging in the multitude of apple cores that the kids enjoy slinging out of the back door for her. Oh, and for Mrs blackbird too. We can’t forget her. I wonder if she’ll be treated to such a plentiful bounty at her nest site on continental Europe this summer? There’s a garden here waiting for you on your return next winter if you fancy!  

“Are you finished yet Daddy?” “I just need to send one more email….” 

“Are you finished NOW?” And we’re off. Back into the world of….dinosaurs and knights! I had just about caught up with the two wee howling lizards when I instinctively looked up. There, battling the fresh southerly wind but unmistakable against the blue April sky, the year’s first swallow. Quick stop the game! Look up there! Well, our swallow might not have spent the winter with dinosaurs but he or she might have seen elephants! And lions! A fleeting reminder that despite everything, spring is still springing into action and life is slowly starting to return northwards. Anyway, I best get back to being a knight! 

We’re very lucky to have a garden. A space that not everyone has.  For us it is our small adventure space. A portal into the natural world. When you get a minute, stop and have a listen. Never has there been a greater time to hear the hum of a bee, the yelp of a herring gull or the sound of the daffodils swishing in the breeze. Hmm, hang on. It all sounds very quiet inside. Quick! Back to my laptop whilst the peace lasts!!