Having a moment with nature

Our Communications Manager, Alan Wright, reflects on the power of nature to inspire our emotions throughout the year.

Wildlife has the ability to stop us in our tracks, to make us stare in amazement, to make us laugh or cry.

I am still trying to understand why our bush at the back, which is normally full of noisy birds, suddenly falls silent. It’s eerie: the squabbling of sparrows, starlings and assorted tits suddenly and sharply ceases. Is it because they have heard me watching? Are all of their little heads cocked in my direction? Or is it a local cat on the prowl... even a sparrowhawk? Then as suddenly as it stopped, the noise will start again as if nothing had happened.

TV naturalist Simon King speaks of hearing a sparrowhawks oncoming path in woodland, marked by the silence of the small birds who sense it is coming.

A skein of geese flying overhead at sunrise

Skein of geese by Guy Edwardes

Today, I heard a commotion in the woodland behind me as I was walking the dog in the meadow. I knew it was geese, but then I realised it wasn’t in the woods, it was high up as a skein of 40 or 50 geese flew overhead in their fantastic V-formation. They were chattering as they arrived from overseas, headed towards comparatively warmer places to spend winter in the UK. Our Lunt Meadows nature reserve is one of their favourite winter boltholes, as well as the Heysham Peninsula and the area around Morecambe Bay.

What do the geese chat about? Is one of them a great entertainer on that long flight from Scandinavia, keeping the gossip going? There'll be plenty of time to contemplate their great migration as thousands more arrive over the coming weeks.

This year I have, for the first time, seen herons in trees by the river. I know they nest in trees but had never actually seen these magnificent birds perched on a branch. All summer I have been admiring at least one local adult heron, but this week I saw one with some juvenile plumage, which means we must have had nesting birds nearby - very exciting.

A couple of weeks ago I filmed a brown hare wandering around our Brockholes Nature Reserve. It certainly wasn’t shy, giving me the privilege of a fairly close encounter. I felt a pleasant shiver down my back as I remembered the spectacle of filming the Brockholes hares for Countryfile in 2017.

Hares are wonderful animals, but I am easily pleased; just as delighted at watching a rabbit sunbathing in a meadow as a pair of hares boxing. Today I relaxed by watching two starlings taking in some rays; their feathers shining in the sunlight.

We have had lots of encounters with roe deer this year, including watching one leap gracefully over a fence as it spotted us walking closer. It obviously believed the fence was a safety barrier because it then let me take pictures fairly close by - what a privilege.

A weasel poking its head out from some rocks

Weasel by Elliot Smith

Some of the highlights of this year have included watching tiny frogs and toads hopping across my path, listening to cuckoos and woodpeckers as traffic levels dropped during early lockdown, and spotting a weasel hunting along the river bank. I also found an injured hedgehog, having not seen one for years. Tragically it had to be put to sleep, highlighting the urgent need to make our modern human world more hedgehog-friendly again.

As the year rolled on I got to watch young bats testing their wings in a polytunnel at our Brockholes Nature Reserve, as Reserve Manager Lorna helped raise them to adulthood as part of her volunteer work for Natural England. Outside, the seasoned pros hunted for insects in the sky around me, and thousands of your watched your own local bats swooping around street lamps after insects.

Now autumn is rolling in I can't help stopping to admire the colour of the changing leaves or study some amazing fungi.

Winter will have its own moments: some subtle and others completely spectacular. The nights be drawing in and the temperature dropping, but we can all find solace in the murmurations of tens of thousands of starlings or clatterings of hundreds of jackdaws flying across our skies to their roosts.

Our Nearby Nature report revealed that most of us feel closer to wildlife during lockdown. Let’s keep that relationship going, because our nature moments make us feel so much better.

Read the Nearby Nature report