This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. I find this ironic as I’ve been feeling I’ve sunk to my lowest the past few days. My mind has been racing with thoughts of worry and helplessness, I felt like I was losing control. I slipped into my routine of lockdown quite easily with the message of ‘Stay at Home’ being simple to follow, now a change in the message just presents more uncertainty.
When I come to these battles with my mind I reach for escapism. With a blistering headache which wouldn’t allow me anymore screen time I sought escape from the outside world and went on my daily walk. Fresh air always seems to help calm my nerves. Walking through the park the scent of cow’s parsley and the noise of rooks nesting in the trees greeted me. I pressed on further down stream to find some quiet. On my way I paused. I could hear incessant chirping in the hedge next to me. Out flew an adult robin, perching itself next to the path and then out followed his young. The little brown dumpling of a fledgling, all noise as he proceeded to sit in the middle of the path blocking my way. I stood and waited, as did the adult robin, who was wary of my presence. “Chirp Chirp Chirp” the fledgling stared right at me, continuing to vocalise his demands. I observed him for some minutes until he returned to the safety of his hedge, the adult followed, and I continued my walk.
It wasn’t long before I stopped again, under my favoured willow tree, where I found my first pair of moorhens. I’ve come to find these birds quite endearing; I know their behaviour can be brutal but there’s something so graceful in the way they move through the water flashing their white tails feathers at you, a warming to stay away. I was very excited to see one of the adults with a chick. It’s must be fresh from the nest with its down coat and stump like wings. Thorough binoculars its face was wrinkled and could be called ‘ugly’ but there’s no way you can’t find it cute as it stumbled through the water over the reeds. The adult saw me coming and sped up along the stream, I continued in the same direction following the path and found the other adult with six chicks, taking their total brood to seven. I watched as one of the adults fed a chick an emperor dragonfly- could it get that monster meal down its tiny throat? In my amazement it did.
I stopped and sat by the stream on a wooden bench built into the side of the bank. I’m thankful that I can now linger here, take time to stop and observe the visitors to the stream. Damselfly’s dancing around me, I’d seen large reds depositing eggs while resting on the lily pads the previous day. Today the blues have joined them in droves, the vegetation covered in adults resting, some paired some not. I can see pond skaters still on the water’s surface, whirligig beetles racing around them. Do they ever run out of energy? I hear a quiet squeak from the grass beside me. I watch as it moves. I imagine the small mammals that must be moving around, how the grass looks more like a jungle from their view and me a scary giant. I wonder what they are saying to each other. As soon as I turn back to the water the smallest grass snake I have ever seen has left the bank and took to the water. No larger than a pencil this young snake slithers over the lily pads, sticking out his tongue to smell the incoming breeze. Where are you going? I watch until his disappears.
I took in a deep breath, the pounding in my head easing. I feel a sense of calm. The world keeps turning, nature keeps going and nothing will postpone these creatures. Day or night their routines stay the same, spring has urged them on. There’s buzz in the air with dragonflies leaving the water, fledglings parting from their nests and flowers bursting into bloom. I’m grateful for this time, in the knowledge that however uncertain the future looks for us, nature will be here to comfort and allow us to seek escape.
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