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May 252020

In our last newsletter (below), we appealed for people’s experiences (and even photographs) of nature and wildlife – and most particularly birds – during the lockdown, enabling us to maintain a strong connection to the natural world at a time when some of us were having to spend extended periods at home, never too far from our front doors.

The first offering in response is from committee member Gary Atkins.  Below he describes the highlights of his springtime walks mainly along the lanes and footpaths surrounding his home in Hulland Ward …

“ I’m usually champing at the bit to visit as wide a variety of places as possible when spring arrives, with the exciting prospect of migrants arriving, but this year right at that key moment I, like so many others, had to be content with walks around my local patch.  And very refreshing and rewarding this turned out to be: slower, sometimes longer walks, taking more care over what I was observing and occasionally taking time to photograph them.

Essentially, I discovered that both in the garden and in the surrounding countryside within a few miles’ radius of my home (I was luckier than some and able to exercise each day), there was still plenty to see, including species I’d forgotten were on my doorstep – the Lapwings and Curlews in the farmers’ fields, Yellowhammers singing on tree and hedge tops barely half-a-mile (as the bunting flies!) from my front door, Skylarks blasting out their familiar flight songs in just about every direction I set off … and Grey Wagtails breeding alongside a small stream in a shallow valley nearby.

There were some special bonuses, too, like a Red Kite (below) that hung almost motionless on the wind just  40 feet above my head as I crossed “the Mountain” on the edge of Kirk Ireton village and, of course, the gradual arrival of all those migrants – Chiffchaffs, then Blackcaps (it took me three weeks to get a decent shot of one …. below), a Redstart, Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroat and, during a more recent sortie down Wyver Lane, a couple of Sedge Warblers.  I’m still waiting for a confirmed sighting of a Garden Warbler!

As a result of the lockdown, I spent more time in my lounge and conservatory than usual, too, and was rewarded by seeing a Blue Tit first of all shyly investigate then finally enter my sole nest box for the first time ever (to my knowledge, that is … though sadly no breeding ultimately took place in there once again).  Pheasants and, more often, Red-legged Partridges also turned up to hoover up the seed scattered by raiding parties of Sparrows and Starlings.

In some ways, despite barring travel, it felt like the lockdown actually brought me a little closer to wildlife in that I took more time to study what popped up in my vision (and not just birds, but butterflies, dragonflies and other insects, too) and sensed more accurately the spring cycle of new life as it emerged.

Whether that will continue I’ll have to see, as the temptation to go a bit farther afield to experienced different and more varied habitats (and build my year’s bird list!!) is strong.  Whatever, I think the focus is likely to be exclusively British wildlife for the next 12 months or so! ”

This Red-Legged Partridge was one of two regular visitors to my garden, until the Starlings were quickest to polish off the fallen seed.

Snapped during a walk around Bradley Dam, I was surprised to see TWO male Mandarins accompanying this female with her brood of eight ducklings (not all in sight!)

If anyone else has any lockdown wildlife experiences and thoughts they’d like to share please contact us.


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