There are many beautiful sounds birds make in the morning. I’m sure most of you reading this will be familiar with the dawn chorus, one of the top wildlife phenomena of the year, kicking off as early as when the days start lengthening after Christmas. But the sound-scape I’ve been enjoying recently as I get out of my car in the morning is a little more subtle.
Bleary eyed, I emerge to drumming. Two great spotted woodpeckers enter a percussive battle for territory across the car park, and I can’t help but stop and listen. The mist that often blankets the undulation around the Lodge HQ certainly adds to the atmosphere and atavistic feeling of nature carrying on regardless – in this case of the morning rush of staff.
Ringing of a great spotted woodpecker at the Lodge HQ in 2015 - I think he's enjoying the head scratch! (photo: Graham Slade)
My hunt for a lesser spotted woodpecker last year was unsuccessful. I’ve never seen one, but hope that changes this year if one shows up at the Lodge again. Using the superb RSPB bird guide and from speaking to experts, I was able to learn to identify the difference in their drumming. Great spotted drumming tails off at the end, in a kind of diminuendo, and the lesser spotted drum is more of a rattle, ending abruptly. Handy to know, and I’ll be employing that knowledge this year in my search.
I don't have a photo of this one... yet... this is the year! (Illustration: Mike Langman)
I reckon I like wood almost as much as woodpeckers. Being out in nature is relaxing, and that’s now being backed up by evidence that indicates a strong link between experiencing nature and our wellbeing. For me there’s something similar going on with handcrafts, and I’ve really noticed this having got into wood carving early last year.
Some of my kit and a couple of "blanks". (Photo: Jack Plumb)
You can pick up all the tools you’ll need for between £50 and £100, depending on if you’re happy to start with an off-the-shelf hand axe or go for a bespoke carving axe. The other basic tools are a carving knife and a crook knife (on the right in the image above), both readily available online. It’s a very satisfying hobby, and once you get the knack your spoons will make great gifts. Here’s a video of me starting off a spoon.
Warning: I'm self-taught, so be careful not to copy any dodge technique. (Video: Jack Plumb)
More importantly than what you do, is if you’re doing anything similar at all. Whether it’s nature watching, knitting or spoon carving, take some time to focus on just one thing and clear your mind!