One of the most pleasant aspects of taking an interest in bushcraft has been a developing interest in watching wildlife.
I have always been fond of watching wild animals but previously it had been a very passive interest – taking pleasures when they presented themselves rather than actively seeking them. But bushcraft has fostered in me an active interest in going out to sit, wait, and watch what I can. In truth, I have found that going out to watch wildlife has formed more of my outdoor time than anything else, for quite a while now.
In real terms that has meant birds more than anything. Mainly because birds are easier to watch (small mammals are far more secretive), but pleasure is found in whatever comes by.
Our back garden is ringed by trees and hedges and, though it is an end of terrace house, there aren’t many over-looking houses because the gardens are quite big. Therefore there is a lot of space and privacy for birds to fly from tree to hedge.
When working at home I often sit with my computer on a desk, upstairs, looking out over the back garden, as I am doing as I type this.
This means I have a good view over our garden, the next door neighbour’s, and the house opposite. And I get to see many birds. More often than not I have a pair of binoculars beside me (mainly because they live on a shelf beside the table) so when something interesting lands in the garden I can get a good look.
We mainly get all the usual garden birds – robins, house sparrows, starlings, collared doves, black birds, crows, magpies, great tits, pigeons, chaffinches, etc. I have noticed a good number of blue tits, despite suggestions that numbers are dwindling. I have also seen frequent song thrushes, though not as many as I remember seeing as a youngster.
Chaffinches and robins are two of my favourite birds, so I am glad they are so common. I have also regularly seen goldfinches, a greater spotted woodpecker, bull finches, green woodpeckers, mistle thrushes, wrens, swifts, swallows, and green finches.
We’ve also had some relatively exotic guests as well – a sparrowhawk has landed on the far fence a few times, and a heron frequently flies over and sometimes lands (the neighbours have a pond with koi carp in it!). And this morning I saw a goldcrest flitting from one tree to another. I have often heard its call but never seen it until today. In fact, as I type, it’s just gone flying back to the spruce at the bottom of the garden, sitting on a branch in the sunlight. Until recently I had never seen one before, unaware that my garden was home to one (or more).
Other birds I often hear but have yet to reveal themselves are the familiar hoot of a tawny owl, and a cuckoo. There are other bird calls I hear but don’t recognise so there are other possibilities about as well.
It rained last night, but now the sun is out and shining, and steam is coming from the fences and bushes. Into this bright light and mist the shadows dash left and right, pausing briefly on a branch or twig, just long enough to offer a glimpse, before taking to wing again.