Wednesday 15 July 2020

Beauty Everywhere: Engaging with the Natural World

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Covid-19 has curtailed many of the activities that brought meaning to our lives. However, for many of us it has provided an opportunity to engage more with our immediate surroundings. Wherever we live and no matter our personal circumstances we can all invite the natural world into our lives.

Garden Visitors

Working from home has given me the chance to observe the wildlife in our garden more than ever before. Several times a day I step away from my laptop and take a stroll around the estate — aka our small overgrown garden.

We keep a variety of feeders stocked with sunflower seeds, peanuts, fat treats, and mealworms and have been blessed by visits from a wide range of species including blue tit, great tit, goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch, bullfinch, blackbird, robin, wood pigeon, starling, house sparrow, wren, lesser spotted woodpecker, and magpie. The feeders have also attracted a grey squirrel, a rat, several mice, and a black cat that goes by the name of Milo. Our garden has been visited by a young hedgehog in the past few days.

Out and About

I’ve not been more than a couple of miles from home since the start of lockdown but I walk for exercise every day and have discovered treasures I never knew were on my doorstep. These include a sheltered spot beside the Ouseburn stream which is almost completely hidden from view despite being no more than a few hundred yards from the main road. It’s the perfect place to sit and relax. I often take my notebook and journal or do some creative writing. I’ve found a woodland path through a narrow stand of trees on the edge of the ever-expanding housing development, surprised heron along the stream, and watched swallows harvesting midges on the wing. From time to time I’ve set myself a specific challenge while on my walks. One day I photographed as many “small things” as possible; the tiny plants, insects and details that are so easily overlooked. Another time, I challenged myself to photograph as many different colours, patterns, and textures as I could find.

Garden Free Wildlife

If you don’t have a garden you might think there’s little scope for encountering nature, but window feeders will attract birds and you can grow plants, herbs, and vegetables in a window box or in pots on your window sill.

Wild London has factsheets and instructions for a wide range of indoor activities including planting window boxes, buying a window bird feeder, helping birds avoid window accidents, making your own binoculars, and wildlife yoga.

The BBC has ideas for engaging with and helping wildlife from the comfort of your home and Friends of the Earth offers tips on how to help wildlife when you don’t have a garden, focusing on neighbourhood and community projects. These may not all be possible at the present time but there is nothing to stop you planning ahead for when restrictions are lifted.

Mindful Moments

Indoors or out, sometimes we all need a little peace and quiet. BBC Springwatch has twelve short mindful moments videos (“No music, no commentary – just the beautiful sights and sounds of nature.”) If you fancy something a little longer, you can unwind with twenty minutes of peaceful footage from Springwatch 2020.

For All the Family

Open to children between 6 and 15 years old, Green Blue Peter badges are awarded for sending in “letters, pictures and makes that are about or inspired by the environment, conservation or nature”. There are over 200 attractions in the UK that give you free entry as a Blue Peter badge holder.

Bird Aware Solent has a Lockdown Learning page with links to wildlife-based learning activities for the whole family. Wild London have a fantastic range of fact sheets and ideas for outdoor activities including gardening for wildlife, insect and wildlife spotting, making a hedgehog house, building a garden hide, and taking a stag beetle survey! For rainy days or if you don’t have a garden they have plenty of craft ideas too, such as making leaf tiles, model butterflies, saltdough creatures and butterfly paintings.

Quizzes and Fact Sheets

Test your wildlife knowledge with these three quizzes from the BBC Springwatch team: brilliant birds, incredible insects, and marvellous mammals. Wildlife Watch has a wide range of full-colour identification sheets (PDF) to print or take on your phone or tablet when you are out wildlife spotting.

There’s an App for That!

There are many free apps for the budding naturalist so check out these selections compiled by the NHBS (Natural History Book Service) and BBC Springwatch.


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