Guest blog by Stu Precious, Membership Fundraiser

 

Hi, my name is Stu. Usually, by day, I’m a Membership Fundraiser for the RSPB and as part of my workload, I can often be found in the Visitor Centre at Minsmere. However, like the vast majority of the rest of us, I’m now effectively under house arrest until some semblance of normality returns. 

I am fortunate in having a safe place within walking distance of my apartment in which to keep connected to nature, and that’s what I’d like to concentrate on in this blog post. 

It’s no more than a ten minute walk from my Bungay apartment to an amazing community space called Falcon Meadow. Now as a provincial market town with a strong tourist fascination, Bungay isn’t exactly what you would call inner city and for the most part devoid of wildlife. It’s just that before the lockdown, the traffic and associated noises and bustle in the town usually sent most birds skulking into the bushes, so not much was heard or seen. We see so much on the media about the silence of city centres at the moment. I did experience something similar in 2016 when visiting Finland at midsummer. As Finland’s summer is so short for six wonderful weeks the whole population stops work, packs up and moves to the country. The cities fall silent and are eerily empty. 

How very different today was. Expecting to be met by a deserted silent suburbia, I couldn’t have been more wrong or pleasantly surprised. From the moment I left my building to re-entering it, a constant chorus of bird song accompanied my every step. From cheeky little house sparrows sat in guttering and eaves of cottages to parties of jackdaws noisily singing the songs of their people on chimney tops. Full spring choruses erupted from trees and bushes in people's gardens. It was as though the birds were proclaiming that they were now the masters; ‘Stay in your houses humans, It’s our time now’. Being in the country, we’re not subject to vast amounts of air pollution, but even the very air smelt fresher. But the biggest surprise and delight for me was at the meadow itself. Mildly distracted by parties of great, blue and long-tailed tits, I crossed the weir into the main meadow. 

  

Falcon Meadow runs along the bank of the River Waveney just outside the town. When I can’t get to Minsmere, this is my go to place to keep connected to nature. It’s a diverse habitat, the majority of which is meadow grassland. It is bordered on one edge by the Waveney with low banks and bulrushes, frequented by mute swans, mallards and other water birds. Along it’s other edges, it is bordered by water-filled channels suitable for water voles. These channels are shaded by mature broadleaf trees. The level of biodiversity is off the scale. Although not seen today, it has at least one kingfisher territory.

It’s a haven for insects and other biodiversity. Last week I spotted my first small tortoiseshell butterfly of the year. And today - although a little early, a bumblebee-like insect was out and about. No long stiff proboscis present - so not a bee fly - and the markings were somewhat unusual; virtually black with only one yellow band. After some prolonged research, I’m led to the opinion that it’s  not inconceivable that it was a very early specimen of a field cuckoo bee. I cite this hypothesis as it completely ignored the scarcity of clover and daisies already out and seemed instead to zero in on a burrow and disappear. However I digress. 

Small tortoiseshell butterfly by Ian Barthorpe

No, today’s delight was in the amazing number of robins present. As I walked around the meadow - on both sides of the river - I counted no less than 12 of the little darlings, many singing at the tops of their voices. In fact a couple of individuals were so obliging that they allowed me to film their entire virtuoso performances. Whilst one - whom I had spotted in full song - was somewhat camera shy and refused to sing a note whilst I was pointing the camera at him. He simply sat high in his tree and looked down on me with disdain in that familiar way that robins often do. Another two (a pair) were hopping along an overhanging branch engaged in courtship. 

Robin, by Steve Everett 

There’s been a lot made in the mainstream media over recent days about our world changing forever. I don’t know what kind of world we will go back to, but I hope that it will be a world that is able to stop and listen to the birds and wildlife all around us, and give them more space just to be them. It’s fantastic to have them around us, and I’m pretty sure that they like being around. Whilst it’s difficult for us to - as the saying goes - ‘Keep calm and carry on’, nature has no difficulty with this; for them it’s business as usual. Sing loud and long, find a mate, make a nest, lay some eggs and raise your brood. Many have argued that less human activity makes their job a lot easier. It’s not hard to agree with this line of thinking, but when we finally emerge from our enforced concealment, let’s not be a society quick to return our world to what was. Let’s take this opportunity to be a society that’s open to explore what can be, and in that be prepared to give nature a bigger home in our world. 

Thanks for reading.

Robin by Ian Barthorpe

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