Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Moment with Nature

Recently I was asked to describe a "memorable moment with nature". I've been lucky enough to see many exciting, inspiring and unusual nature moments, but sometimes it's the little ones that make the biggest impact. Here's one of my favourite moments.

A few summers ago I spent two weeks as a residential volunteer at the RSPB's Fairburn Ings nature reserve. It was fantastic! One evening I decided to walk back to the volunteers' house the long way, across the reserve, rather than the shorter walk along the road. On my way I stopped at one of the hides that looks out across the lakes, as I was determined to learn to ID at least some of the ducks by the time I left.

As I settled down to sort the Teal from the Tufted Ducks I heard a noise that definitely wasn't a duck...

It was so loud that I turned round to see which bird had flown inside the hide, but there was nothing there. I looked outside around the door, but there was nothing there either. One final look inside and in the darkest topmost corner of the hide I saw four little yellow triangles bobbing up and down. A closer look revealed a tiny birds nest, with four even tinier baby birds cheeping away inside. This was lovely, but I still didn't know what that noise had been, and now I had the added mystery of what these were too!

Not wanting to disturb them I left the hide and settled down on the grass a few meters away from the entrance. I was hoping one of the parents would return to feed the babies. A couple of minutes past and I began to think it was time to go, but then the bushes by the hide rustled and I heard that song again...

Suddenly a small brown bird with a pointy tail hopped onto the top of the brambles, it was a wren! As quickly as it appeared it dashed into the hide, and then moments later back out and off into the woods to find more food for it's young. It hadn't even noticed me but I was enthralled.

I sat motionless, eagerly waiting for its return, completely absorbed in this tiny piece of nature. Every few minutes it returned and repeated its routine, singing in the bushes, hopping onto the brambles and then in, and out, of the hide and back off into the woods. I was transfixed and sat there watching for 10-15 minutes before I could drag myself away, back down the path in the calm summer evening, towards home, with a huge smile of my face.

After a day of membership events and meeting visitors, it was almost a shock to remember that reserves aren't about the people but the wildlife they protect and give homes to. I visited the hide, and saw the wren, a few more times before I finished at Fairburn, but none were as magical as that first chance encounter.

Moments with nature aren't always about rare, colourful or big species. The wren definitely isn't at 9-10 cm long and  the commonest UK breeding bird. The really special moments, that you carry with you forever, are the ones that take your breath away, that make you stop in your tracks and want to share it with everyone else. I did a lot of brilliant things at Fairburn, but the wren will always be my favourite memory.

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