Three months into lockdown, and how are you all doing?
Of course, it was well predicted that a global pandemic would happen sometime, but it feels like most of us were poorly prepared, probably not believing it would happen in our lifetimes.
I wasn't prepared for a time when, in three months, I have left the house less than ten times, and where I've only been able to see my elderly mother once.
But I feel very fortunate not to have lost any of my immediate friends or family, and to have kept working throughout.
And my luck extends to having a garden, my go-to place to escape, to unwind, to be distracted from everything going on. I head out there several times a day, even if just for five minutes to clear my head. Something will always grab my attention.
It might be something I've planted blooming for the first time and starting to draw in the wildlife I intended it for. My Melancholy Thistle, for example, is such a glorious flower shape, a New Romantic mop-top of purple-dyed hair atop its little head. It is the opposite of melancholy to me, rekindling memories of it growing wild in places such as the Teesdale valley. And it is such a hit with the bumblebees.
Or it could be seeing new life, such as this Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly on my Grevillea shrub. Having emerged earlier in the day, they seem to take a good few minutes to draw breath, to compose themselves, before lauching off into the skies.
Amazingly, despite the large numbers of spent larval cases (exuviae) of Emperor Dragonflies I've seen clinging to Yellow Flag stems in my pond, I never saw a single one emerge, so adept are they at doing so overnight and flying off at first light.
However, for my House Sparrows, the daytime emergence of young (teneral) damselflies provided them with a feast. Several broods of chicks were raised almost entirely on what can only imagine is a slightly crunchy diet, and the low numbers of mature damselflies at the pond is surely a reflection of this. This year, you'd have thought my sparrows were waterbirds, so much time did they spend there.
At the start of lockdown, all the garden birds were just starting to build nests, and here we are with the circle of life turning so quickly and gardens now filling up with baby birds, such as this young Blackbird.
And, sometimes, it is just a matter of noticing moments of beauty and tranquility, such as these Marsh Marigolds in the pond, with the reflections of the tulip bed behind.
What a time it has been, one I don't think we will ever forget! I feel the greatest sympathy for those who don't have an outdoor space, and the greatest relief for those of you that do.
I feel hope too, having heard stories from so many people about how the living world right outside their door has helped them cope. Long may we continue to find time to notice, and be thankful for and determined to cherish all the benefits that nature offers us.
Once one sparrow is in the water, the others just can't seem to resist, don't you find?! Sounds like a torchlit foray might also be needed to encounter one of your little urchins (as they used to be called)
Especially look for smaller ones at this time of year, those of the Common Darter :)
Great article! We’ve really been enjoying the huge sparrow families that seem to have moved into our garden. We’ve even bought a bird bath which the younger sparrows love. We suspect we have hedgehogs in our garden too thanks to the RSPB poo identifier! I notice we should be putting water out for them so will do.
Interesting article. Many thanks Adrian. You're right about how lucky we are at this time to have a garden. I'm going to check my flag irises for dragonfly larval cases!
And just hearing your story has put a smile on my face, June, so thank YOU :) Song Thrush arias - now there's a free concert for any world-weary ears!
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654