“What is this life, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”

These words were committed to paper over 100 years ago by the poet W.H.Davies and are proudly displayed in a quiet and tranquil corner of our reserve. They seem especially apt on a reserve as tranquil and peaceful as this one. I know that I’ve found myself doing a lot of standing and staring since I arrived at Coombes Valley. I’ve simply been transfixed by the beauty of the reserve. Whether it’s a red deer galloping across a field on the far side of the valley, an orange tip butterfly lazily flapping from flower to flower or an adorable gosling paddling its way around our pond, there is always something new and different to see here.  

Orange tip feeding on wildflowers - RSPB Images

I haven’t just been staring though, I’ve also been listening. Specifically I’ve been listening to the birds, in what has so far been an unsuccessful attempt to memorise the songs of some of the species that can be found on the reserve. You might find it odd that somebody who spends as much time in and around nature as I do can’t identify the songs of species as familiar as greenfinch and coal tit. It’s certainly a source of personal embarrassment, but I’ve got several months here and that’s just one of the things that I hope to learn. So far I’ve mastered the fluty tones of the blackbird and the incredibly loud yet still soothing melody of the song thrush.  Of course I mastered Chiffchaff straight away.

Chiffchaff among blossom - RSPB Images

It’s not just bird song that I’m trying to learn though. Our meadows and woods are full of strange and exotic looking plants, most of which are entirely unfamiliar to me. I don’t know my cowslip from my primrose or my speedwell from my harebell. So if you come out to Coombes Valley and see a bemused looking man leaning closely over a flower and squinting intently, it’s probably me.

Cowslip - RSPB Images

Fortunately, when learning about nature, there is simply no substitute for immersing yourself in the natural world and letting the sights and sounds wash over you. I guess I’m just going to have to spend a few more days (hopefully sunny ones) out on the reserve. I hope you will too.