Just like everyone else, I still find it hard to believe I am actually living through what feels to me like a bizarre disaster movie. I feel the same mix of negative emotions – fear, anger, anxiety, loneliness – that I am sure we all do so I won’t rehearse them all again. I’ll just say we are all in it together in every way except actually being able to be together.
So, how has my lockdown been going? First, I’ve been reading my copy of Wonderland: A Year of Britain’s Wildlife, Day by Day by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss on a daily basis. The 22nd April entry reminded me of the joys of the dawn chorus walk. We duly went for ours on 22nd April and came home to a full cooked breakfast, just as in the book. The dawn chorus is a magical thing, even if you can’t get outside to experience it, I urge you to open a window about half an hour before sunrise at this time of the year and enjoy it while you can.
Andrew and I came to a decision very early on that in a world where all of a sudden “Everyday is Like Sunday” (as Morrissey sang in the 80s) we had to make a new normal and try to shape our time. We resolved that we would walk every day whether we felt like it or not. We are fortunate that we live in a small village (Gawcott) surrounded by miles and miles of fields and hedgerows. These were previously totally unexplored by us but we have now subjected them to intense scrutiny. And some amazing and unexpected finds have been made. Firstly, the field that I can actually see from my study is absolutely alive with yellowhammers yelling their “little bit of bread and no cheeeeeeeese” song, and skylarks pouring out their incessant song while I search for the little black dot they have become. My neighbour called out to me one day from his window: “Did you see it? Did you see the snowy owl?” He’s not much of an ornithologist as he obviously meant “barn owl” but he’s seen it and I haven’t! It’s on my “most wanted” list though and I keep looking. There was one fantastic evening when we saw a hare zooming over the field. We were amazed we had hares so near to us. I’ve picked 4 trees and have been taking a daily photograph of them all since 31st March to look back later and be reminded of the “lost spring”. I can’t help wondering if I’ll still be photographing them as the leaves turn to gold and fall.
We’ve done lots of ordinary walks but a couple of crazy ones too. On 8th March we walked at 3:30am to see the much hyped “pink moon”. It was a fantastic full moon but it wasn’t pink! I discovered later that it’s called “pink” for some vague extraneous reasons, nothing to do with colour. Our village Facebook page also advertised times of the ISS (International Space Station) passing and we made a point of looking out for that too. Yes, I know it’s been going for over 30 years but I’d never somehow found the time before.
The President of Bucks Bird Club, Dave Ferguson, very kindly sent a copy of the local Butterfly Conservation group’s magazine to a large email group as a neighbourly gesture in the lockdown. He said please pass it on to anyone who may be interested so I am pleased to do just that. I enjoyed reading it and there are a lot of interesting ideas for enjoyable things to do. I was particularly interested in the article titled “Enjoying moths at home without a light trap” and plan to give it a go.
I know when it’s Saturday because I’ve been joining in with an initiative started by Si Nicholls, that well known MK birder! He calls it the #biggardensit. The idea is for birders to record as many species as they can in the hour between 8am and 9am STRICTLY from their own living spaces. A species can be counted if it is seen visiting, flying over, heard, seen distantly (even if 2 miles away sitting on a puddle). Good optics and great birding skills are useful aids! It started on 28/3/20 with mainly Bucks birders. By 18th April it had grown to 56 birders over 11 counties who between them clocked 90 species. I’m sure Si would be delighted to welcome more participants and the project is set to continue for every Saturday in May. If interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org And if you’re curious, on 25th April my score was a modest 18 while the top score was 40 (shared by a Bucks birder and a Cornish birder).
Finally, I will share one of my concerns about the pandemic. I am sure we are all aware the virus originated in Wuhan, China, in the so called ‘wet markets’ where all sorts of live animals, wild and domesticated, are killed in dirty conditions and sold for consumption. These markets were supposed to be banned and many of the wild animals are in theory protected by law. The virus probably originated in bats and passed along a chain of other animals until it mutated and jumped to humans. The science journal “Nature” reported the most likely vectors were some illegally smuggled pangolins.
Covid-19 is not the first disease that has originated in wildlife and spread to humans – a couple of other examples are the SARS epidemic and MERS. Voices are beginning to be raised calling for the UN to add a new Article – Article 31 – to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognising the right to a healthy environment. It certainly gets my vote. Enough is enough.
26 April 2020