Category Archives: Nature

Study of the natural world

The mystery of Amber

Can you love a wild animal?

Amber the fox, happy to just be.

Amber the fox, happy to just be.

Do you remember a special event, perhaps a birthday? Are you excited when you anticipate the event, and if there is a mystery, even better?  It is the same for me these last few mornings, will I see her again? I speak of Amber the fox who adds to my excitement of getting up in the morning.

I think I am in love, if that is the right word.  Can you be in love with a fox? It has only been the last few days the elusive creature has stayed around long enough for me to observe and photograph her.  My friend thinks Amber is pregnant, so my imagination sees fox cubs running around my garden in a few months.

I love the floppy ears of Amber, her pensive sad and shy eyes.  She is beautiful in a sort of magical way, fragile, naïve and caught between trust that she is safe and the wary nature of a creature living in a dangerous world.  She desires the warmth of the sun rather than the cold darkness of her den situated I think behind the garden fence.

Since the two days I photographed her sitting in my garden, I look out for her.  Yesterday she was not there, and I felt a twinge of loss.  I saw her today sitting amongst the fallen branches of a conifer tree, watchful, that same enchanting expression.  I feel her fragile presence, something small in the vastness of the universe, insignificant and tiny against the multitude of enemies arrayed to destroy her.  If it is true that she carries fox cubs, it adds to the enchanting mystery, something waiting to manifest into the universe, little fox cubs that may one day play in my garden.

The boy and spiderweb

Concentrate on what is essential, nothing lasts.

Busy people running in circles, fail to see the essential in life.

Busy people running in circles, fail to see the essential in life.

As I sat in Colchester Castle Park I noticed a 3-year-old boy and his mother passing by. The boy in delight pointed to a spiderweb, but his mother busy with a smartphone ignored the boy.  Many times the boy mentioned the spiderweb, and each time the mother ignored him.

Forty years from now I doubt mother or son will remember this spiderweb incident that I record.  I doubt even if the mother will remember what it was she was doing on her smartphone at the time.  It could be that the mother was dealing with an important matter on her smartphone when her son drew her attention to the spiderweb, but often as is the case with smartphones it was a trivial issue.  What matters was an opportunity lost where mother and son could have shared a magical moment of delight in a spiderweb, a moment that could have stayed with the mother as a magical memory into old age.

Impermanence is a fact of life, nothing lasts, thus the smallest moments shared like between that mother and son become like treasure, sadly wasted to worthless distractions such as Facebook updates via smartphone.

The fox and a book

The fox returns and I give it a name: “Amber.”

I have now called the fox in this photograph "Amber."

I have now called the fox in this photograph “Amber.”

The fox returned to my garden this morning, perhaps taking a liking for the warm sunny spot it enjoys sitting in.  I have named the fox Amber, and it allowed me to take more photos of it.

The fox reminded me about a blog post I wrote more than a year ago about a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery called “The Little Prince” which has an encounter between the prince and a fox on the subject of friendship.  I purchased the book today described as follows:

“The Little Prince is now a legendary character, the symbol of a humanity that is responsible and generous, bringing a message of hope and fraternity, emblem of a spirituality that seeks out the essence of things, that which lasts, that which gives meaning.”

The humour of nature

Does nature have a sense of humour?

Are humanity only shipping containers for bacteria to colonise space like dandelion seeds ship out on the wind?

Are humanity only shipping containers for bacteria to colonise other planets, like dandelion seeds ship out on the wind?

Millions of years ago the T-Rex meat-eating dinosaurs might have hunted the ancestors of humanity; now, the T-Rex has evolved into a chicken and our ancestors into KFC-loving chicken-eaters.  Nature seems to have a dark sense of humour.

When I observe that life loves to go-forth and colonise, like dandelion seeds upon the wind, what if our planet is a living organism and has similar intentions of sending forth its own genetic code to colonise other planets? What if human beings, who consider themselves the superior life form on earth, are mere containers designed to ship bacteria off to other planets? It would be funny to think hubristic humanity is no more than shipping containers designed for shipping bacteria to other worlds, it would be typical of the sense of humour of nature.

Catching a fox

After two years of hunting I catch a fox with my camera.

After two years of frustration  I finally photograph a fox which appeared out of nowhere in my garden.

After two years of frustration I finally photograph a fox, which appeared out of nowhere in my garden.

Nature is a shifting tapestry of life, often catching me by surprise with magical manifestations of wildlife that abruptly vanish before I can catch a brief record of its passing through my life.  It is a matter of chance that I get lucky with my camera, and I was in luck today.

This morning a fox manifested in my garden.  The fox sat looking at me, it had a forlorn look about it, but the fox was content to sit and watch me as it sun bathed in the warmth of a tranquil garden.  I had my camera with me, so I made up for two years of frustration by firing off dozens of photographs of my elusive wary model.  The fox made my day.


The cycle of life and death in nature.

A storm killed the parent tree last year in Colchester, its children live on.

A storm killed the parent tree last year in Colchester, its children live on.

In October last year I wrote about the loss of my soul mate an oak tree called the “Castle Tree” killed by a UK storm.  I rescued thirteen acorns from around the fallen tree, planting them in pots hoping that I could salvage something from the death of the tree. In the last few days three oak saplings have appeared in the pots.  I have witnessed the cycle of death and life via the “Castle Tree” and its children.

Breakfast in nature

Share your life with nature.

A local squirrel enjoying breakfast of peanuts in my garden.

A local squirrel enjoying breakfast of peanuts in my garden as I enjoyed my own breakfast, both of us watching each other.

I attempt to share my life with nature at every opportunity, so this morning I enjoyed my breakfast with a squirrel.  I placed monkey nuts into a tub, left hanging on a tree in my garden.  The local squirrel found the nuts and attempted gymnastically to retrieve the nuts one by one.  We spent 15 minutes watching each other as we enjoyed our respective breakfasts, the squirrel in the tree and I sitting at a seat in the garden an arm’s length from each other.

Sustainability and climate change

Consumers are sustainable if offered incentives and benefits.

Offering people a benefit or incentive to become sustainable works.

Offering people a benefit or incentive to become sustainable is the only way to achieve positive outcomes on climate change.

Early morning, and chaos.  Builders are putting up scaffolding around my house, it is chaos.  The cat is sick over my laptop bag.  I escape and wait for the local library to open.  A passerby comments that I had not done my homework last night, I blink a few times, do I look that young? In the library, panic as someone cannot find their bag they left a few minutes before; the library staff had taken the bag thinking it is a bomb.  My cellphone rings, a customer wants me to deal with a last-minute project.  Welcome to my chaos.

Amongst all this chaos the media, politician and activist bombard the consumers with messages of fear and doom of global warming.  Everybody is by now jaded, one more item of fear and manipulation in a tsunami of fear and marketing that daily seeks entrance to overstimulated minds.  Important perhaps to academics in their ivory towers, and rulers who see a good thing in marketing fear, the common person on the street has to live their lives, and their attention is upon mundane activities like paying the rent and getting their kids off to school.  Climate change is at the bottom of the list of concerns of everyday people, along with the rest of the fear-monsters of everyday life.

The scaffolding around my home is part of an interesting social experiment in sustainability.  Solar panels will appear upon the roof of my house, part of a scheme that though underwritten by a loan, will start to make money.  The solar panels offer free electricity during the day, my home only pays for the electricity at night.  My home sells the excess electricity it makes to the electricity companies who run the national power grid.  It is a win-win situation, a reduction in electricity bills, a scheme that will pay for itself, and the government-electricity companies paying the consumer for the electricity their solar panels sell to the electricity grid.

It is no point hoping for change in consumer habits by top-down control and fear marketing.  Offer the consumer a benefit, something that satisfies a need, such as the scheme my house is now involved in, the sustainable activities will drive a change in behavior, thus achieve positive outcomes the advocates of climate change desire.

More worker bees, less queens

Decision-making from the point of view of nature.

What is good for a bee is good for a decision-making structure in human society.

What is good for a bee is good for a decision-making structure in human society.

Nature has a teleological approach to its information processing and decision-making structures, clearly allocating functions to a hierarchy of units whether it is a group of cells in the body, a bee-hive or a wolf pack.  In the same way the effective running of a business requires there be only a few leaders, but a larger number of customer-facing workers to manage and meet the expectations of customers.

My town of Colchester is going through a review of the number of elected councillors that would best serve its needs.  Colchester council has a decision-making structure called a cabinet numbering only 8 of the 60 councillors, who make most of the important decisions, the rest of the councillors have little say in what goes on in the council.  From a business and natural point of view I think the cabinet-style of decision-making is good, as too many managers can wreck an effective organisation.  The Colchester cabinet is like the queen bee, and the rest of the councillors are like worker bees.

Like the worker bee the 52 councillors outside of the Colchester eight-strong cabinet have little say in the overall hive, but a hive cannot work unless there are a lot of worker bees to serve it.  The 52 councillors are important as the customer-facing lines of communication between a fast growing Colchester population and its central body the council; they are the eyes, ears, face and contact point between resident and council.  There are proposals to cut the overall number of councillors from 60 to 51, in an area that will jump from 176,000 to 207,000 population in a few years.  Some argue for leaving the number at  60, I went against everyone and entered an argument to the official review commission opposing any decrease in councillors, and increasing it to 69.

I come to conclusions based on what I see in nature.

Sustainable decision making

Small changes have major impacts to an ecosystem.

This tiny UFO on the ground is a rare glowworm.  Nobody knew these glowworms existed in Gosbecks in Colchester until I discovered them by chance.  Glowworms will benefit from street lights being switched off in Colchester, they also prefer long grass, so are impacted by people cutting grass.

This tiny UFO on the ground is a rare glowworm. Nobody knew these glowworms existed in Gosbecks in Colchester until I discovered them by chance. Glowworms will benefit from street lights being switched off in Colchester; they also prefer long grass, so people impact glowworms when they cut the grass.

A report revealed that noise can impact both plants and animals, changing the entire ecosystem they inhabit as a consequence.  My town of Colchester can no longer afford the electricity for street lights, so they turn most of them off at night, which is a boon for wildlife, because artificial lighting impacts their natural cycles; the local rare glowworm population in Colchester will benefit.

Introduce a new cat into a garden and there will be an impact upon the local rodent and bird population, and a knock-on impact upon plants and animals related to the rodent and bird activities.  Even the local cats change due to the new felid addition, changing the behavior as a result, which impacts everything else they interact with.

When much of the agricultural land in the UK is a desolate wasteland thanks to European rules many animals and plants suffer, bees starve.  Ironically the love of the British for their gardens offer a refuge for bees and birds who might otherwise starve in the countryside.  Grave yards, railway and motorway embankments undisturbed by humanity become the new homes of every refugee plant and animal.

I hope that one day my definition for sustainability: “action in harmony with nature,” is universally adopted and then implemented in all decision-making.