June, 2013

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Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • All things bright and beautiful.

    Blogger - Aggie Rothon

    We set out in a rush to take the dog for a walk this morning. Time had run away with us and my little boy hadn’t even strapped his school shoes on when we left the house. I gave him a piggy back instead and he chattered away in my ear as we strode out towards the field. It was a relief to realise that, on stepping outside, the urgency of the school run had dissipated and the morning was all to be enjoyed.

    A shawl of beaded mist shrouded us as we crossed the cattle grid. The field was speckled with buttercups gleaming from an undulating sea of meadow grass. We reached down to touch the coolness of the dew silvering the grass stems. My son plucked a seed head. Its feathered ends glowed as though it had been dipped in to purple paint. ‘It’s beautiful’, he told me and I felt elated that he was able to see nature for all its worth.

    To realise the beauty of the small and usual is just as important as an urge to glory in the glamour of the ‘natural icon’. Sometimes it is the species that we overlook as ordinary that need our help the most. The starling is one of our commonest garden birds but its decline elsewhere now means that is listed as a bird of serious conservation concern. Often ignored, on close inspection starlings are magnificent birds. Their iridescent black heads shine purple-green as they dart in a business-line manner through town centres and parks. A hundred starling breasts are shot through with silver as a flock of the birds clamour and whistle from church steeples. As Mark Cocker says in his book Birds Britannica ‘(the) almost year-round delivery makes the (starling’s) performance one of the most underrated of all our common bird songs.’

    Unfortunately however, many people think of starlings as pests, perhaps due to the fact that they are a species that live in flocks. Type ‘starling’ in to Google and plenty of opportunities to buy starling proof bird feeders will pop up. Yet take a trip to the centre of Norwich or to Strumpshaw Fen nature reserve and starlings can’t help but appeal. Their thoughtful chatter from the rooftop of the St Peter Mancroft church in town and the swooping magnificence of a winter flock of starlings over a reedbed is as my little boy would say ‘beautiful’.

    To give declining starling’s the best chance of future success give them access to your feeders and put up a starling nest box in the garden. Let’s not wait until these birds have disappeared completely before we appreciate the extraordinary nature of their ordinariness. 

    As featured in the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 22 June

  • Urban Jungle

    We turned the corner and saw the snaking queue of caravans, estate cars and some very exasperated passengers. Vehicles piled with bedding, camping gear and toys, and windows wound down to relieve the stuffy heat pouring into the cars. This was a typical bank holiday Monday travel nightmare! And we were right in the middle of it.

    Creeping along the single carriageway was not the way i had intended on spending the last few hours of my precious Monday off, but we didn’t have much of a choice. It seems that, like everyone else in East Anglia, we had leapt at the chance to escape the city for the weekend. But, on returning to Norwich (‘the big smoke’) i sat and pondered why, when faced with the opportunity to have some free time, do we all make a mad dash to get as far away as possible? I love the feeling of leaving for an adventure as much as the next person, but as we unpacked the car from our hectic weekend, i couldn’t help but think of all the things that i love about living in the city and how little time i dedicate to appreciating it.

    My bike ride into work is kicked off with the sound of screaming swifts – a soundtrack that has become so familiar it now feels like an integral part of my daily routine. Without them, summertime in the city just wouldn’t be the same. The terraces lining my street act as a playground for these acrobatic birds and the months they spend in the UK are made all the more wholesome for their appearance. On the slightly larger end of the bird scale, is the peregrine falcon. The fastest animal on the planet, and he just so happens to be hanging out in Norwich for the summer. The catherdral peregrine has become something of a superstar in recent years and i always make a conscious effort to divert my city wanderings through the catherdral grounds hoping to catch a glimpse of the peregrine. Swooping high above the city-scape looking for food, the parents and their chicks are a favourite topic of conversation around the dinner table.

    Whether it’s a small patch of delicate wild flowers, an enthralling bird of prey or a butterfly floating by, there is plenty of charm in the city.  Taking the time to explore your local patch is incredibly worth while and certainly beats sitting in traffic! Perhaps, on my next bank holiday, I should think twice about leaping to escape the city when there is so much to enjoy right on my doorstep.  

    As featured in EDP, Saturday 1 June