Tag Archives: wildlife

Camping in nature

Connect with nature in a tent.

Nature is ready to meet and play with adventurous campers.

Nature is ready to meet and play with adventurous campers.

I write this in a thunderstorm in a tent.  I feel secure as the wind seeks to send me off like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  The rain beats its drum upon the tent canvas, as the beast roars its war cry in flashes of white across the heavens.

It is hot.  My relief from the heat is this tent, many times cooler than the poor people living in their over-warm houses tonight.  It was so warm I worked in the garden this evening.  There were large orange “Day Lilies” nearby making me nervous, they close their flowers at night making sudden jerky noises, but I fail to catch their movements, just their quivering in the still air.  My imagination runs wild, they will pull me in amongst them and eat me.

The times I camped in winter  I find it is easier to warm this tent, and stay warm, than the larger space of a room, or an entire house.

Camping in nature comes with certain expectations.  You will be sharing your space with the local wildlife.  I get used to the spiders, ants, beetles that take up residence, the spiders even have built nests in this tent for their babies.  I occasionally leave the tent in place so long some plants grow along the guy ropes.  Be prepared for visits from the local animals, which recently for me included foxes, frogs and hedgehogs; they all are curious and like to share your home comforts. Also, expect surprises, nature is playful: foxes chewed through my guy ropes one night so that the tent fell down on me in a rain storm; a falling tree could have crushed me last year; I woke in flood water a month ago; I have a regular sport chasing out various creatures; I suffer from collisions from passing, mating or fighting animals.  Just now, in the rain, frogs are hopping on and around the tent.

Camping has helped me connect with nature, you cannot help but learn the harsh and beautiful faces that nature presents.  Unusual and unique adventures await the camper.  It is a beautiful experience to wake up as the first bird sings the new day in, followed by others into a full dawn chorus.

Sharing breakfast with blackbirds

Sharing with nature.

Blackbird in song.

Blackbird in song.

Each morning in the last week I start the day writing a blog post that appears one or two days ahead, it is Sunday.  I sit as the cat Pebbles washes herself in another seat, I think I shall put names on the seats: “Alex’s seat”; “Pebbles seat.”  Pebbles is now enraptured with a plump pigeon walking around outside the window, her ideal breakfast.

I no longer cook, something I have not done for over four months since the fried puffball I foraged by a river.  The morning breakfast consisted of sardines, milk, digestives and a Scottish drink called Irn-bru.

I usually crumble one digestive and scatter it on the grass in the garden, an offering to the birds.  This morning there appeared in the trees both a female and male blackbird who took an interest in the digestive I had scattered upon the grass.  There were other blackbirds on a shed roof behind conifers, at least two young fledglings that the parent blackbirds were feeding, taking bits of biscuit to them.  I scattered more digestives upon the ground, so sharing breakfast with a family of blackbirds until they were no longer hungry, vanishing to their home nearby.

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.

Attracting wildlife to you

Give animals what they need and they will come visiting.

Offer wildlife what they need and they will come visiting as this blue tit did in my garden.

Offer wildlife what they need and they will come visiting as this blue tit did in my garden.

It is deep winter in England, and I am happy to see a major trend where anyone with access to a tree or garden hangs out food for birds.  Retail stores at Christmas devote shelves in addition to Christmas junk a vast array of equipment and food for feeding wild garden birds.  In human population areas the garden birds thrive in  winter thanks to large quantities of food put out for them.

In the garden of my home a large bird feeding station offers a variety of food for birds, and they come offering plenty of opportunities for my photography.  Because the cats also enjoy the visual eye candy the birds offer, they are vigilant and it proves challenging at the moment to get clear good photos of the birds, especially the blue tits.

If you can attract animals to your home area then it offers a great opportunity to connect with nature.  Offer food, shelter and anything else an animal needs to survive and it will come, offering you many wonderful experiences with nature.  I envy the home in Brightlingsea earlier this year that attracted a black bird to raise young in a nest in a hedge next to the front door.

Plant the right flowers, the bees will come; install nesting boxes and the birds will nest there; leave food out and the birds will become regular visitors.  In the small urban garden I live at I have encountered foxes, hedgehogs, all kinds of birds, and I shared peanuts with a squirrel that came visiting this morning.  Leave parts of a garden wild and it offers opportunities for animals to make their home there.  Living close to animals makes life brighter and helps connect with nature.

The connection with nature

I feel in my encounters with nature a connection with the universe.

Once you get close to wild animals, doors can open and you are never the same again.

Once you get close to wild animals, doors can open and you are never the same again. (Photo source: unknown)

The blogger mike585 of the blog WILDEN MARSH is a photographer and blogger who spends many hours watching and taking quality photographs at his local wildlife haven.  He is a passionate enthusiast who relates his latest encounters with the creatures of the night in his blog post entitled “Strangers in the night, exchanging glances” I asked him how he feels to be so close to these wild animals, and I quote his response:

“Being close to the marsh animals, whether it is during the day or in the dark evenings, is always exciting. I never know what’s going to turn up next, Alex. The truth is that I’m so familiar with the marsh and the tracks I find there; that my mind invents scenarios about what the animals might have been up to last night. I wonder where the badgers go when they leave their setts. Do they run from one place to another? Do they waddle along in a ‘devil may care’, sort of aimless way? Are they driven across the Reserve by their noses, in a stressed hyperactive feeding frenzy, or do they forage close to home? I imagine similar things about the muntjac deer, foxes and otters. I have a strong interest in the animals as individual characters. I know, more or less, how they behave in general, but I find myself drawn further and further into their world. I am there with them, if only for a couple of hours, as they go about their normal business. I like watching the interactions: seeing a muntjac walk by, and a fox crossing its path moments later. I like the see how the fox reacts to a muntjac being so close, and how the muntjac is affected.”

Mike has established a connection with nature through his interaction with the wild creatures of Wilden Marsh.  He has become part of their narrative, drawn into a magical landscape of animal and plant, and I sense in his response his deep connection and love for those animals he photographs.

In my feeding swans or squirrel, or my encounter with the butterfly in my house last night there is a connection, which goes beyond the animal to something else.  When I look into the eyes of the swan, partaking for a brief moment an interaction of touch, communication and shared experience, a door opens to me, the entire universe is shining through that door.  That moment I drink from something huge, deep and alive.  Once you have opened the door, tasted of that moment, you never forget, and then you are drawn in ever deeper into a something that is alive, creative and deep.

The prize goes to the bold and inventive

Be bold and inventive to succeed in life.

This bold and inventive Colchester swan is likely to survive this winter.

This bold and inventive Colchester swan is likely to survive this winter.

Winter struck with a vengeance in Britain with my town of Colchester buried in snow and freezing temperatures.  It is at this time I think of the wildlife, so I took time out to take food out to the swans in Colchester.

I have a process where any money I find on the ground goes to buying brown wholemeal bread that the supermarkets discount down as far as 10% of the original value at the end of the day.  The bread goes into the fridge waiting for a spare opportunity for me to visit the swans of Colchester Castle Park to feed them.  During this hard winter moment I knew the swans would be challenged in finding food, so I visited them yesterday (Sunday) and today. I also took my camera to take my first photographs of 2013.

Nature is a great teacher, the birds of Castle Park taught me an important lesson about being bold and inventive.  In life those that are unoriginal thinkers and passive tend to be forgotten, enjoying few lucky breaks; used and abused they get the scraps of life.  The champions portion of the feast always goes to the bold and inventive.

Amongst wildlife in the deep of winter the passive and unoriginal die, falling to starvation, cold or the predator.  It can be a shock to witness wildlife be so brutal when it comes to food, territory or mate, but the prize goes to the bold and inventive in those struggles.

I stood on the river bank on Sunday feeding two swans.  It was a feeding frenzy as a hundred ducks descended upon the feast.  Swans are slow, ducks small but fast.  The swans used their size and power to drag ducks by the scruff of their neck from the food.  The swan brutality to the ducks was shocking but the swans were able to get at some of the food on offer as a result.  By their vast numbers and speed the ducks gained half the bread on offer to the swans.  One inventive duck came up to my leg, tugging at my trousers; in this inventive bold way drawing my attention to its existence so that I fed it. This tugging and pecking at my leg continued the whole time I was feeding the animals, putting me in anxiety that my leg would take a bruising if I did not feed the duck, so it won plenty of food to save my leg.

I returned to a different part of the river to feed other swans today.  I cleared the ground of snow on the river bank so swans or ducks could see the grass upon which they could feed.  I had more bread for the swans, and this time had a problem of fifty or more seagulls.  The seagulls are fast and aggressive, so when I threw bread to the swan the unfortunate bird was mobbed by a dozen or more seagulls that stole its food.  Ducks and seagulls use numbers as well as speed to compete for food against swans, who are slow at reacting.  I changed tactics throwing a snowball into the river which all the seagulls chased, giving opportunity for me to get food to the swans.  The swans were aggressive with each other, biting at each other’s necks for the food.

In times of plenty many swans are nervous about taking food from the hand, but these were hungry bold swans, and I was able to get them to take food directly from my hand, so eliminating the problem of the seagulls.  In cold weather it hurts when a swan bites your fingers as it goes for the bread, but I eventually got the hang of it.

I came away with a clear lesson yesterday and today from the wildlife, the prize goes to the bold and inventive.

Sustainability action 3: picking up rubbish

A dead mouse in a bottle was a graphic reminder how discarded rubbish harms wildlife.

Animals like this Colchester rabbit are at risk of harm from discarded rubbish.

Animals like this Colchester rabbit are at risk of harm from discarded rubbish.

An individual can take sustainable action by not taking energy out of the environment such as by using solar power; they can put energy back into the environment by planting trees; or they can repair damage to energy systems by eliminating disruptions like removing discarded rubbish.

I walked to an ancient nature park called Hilly Fields in Colchester armed with two bags to pick up rubbish.  The discarding of rubbish does harm to the animals, plants and the environment they depend upon.  In Britain we have a Queen, who resides mostly at Buckingham Palace in London; on Hilly Fields is the former royal palace of the first recorded King of Britain, called Cunobelin, recognised and recorded as such by the Roman Emperors from the time of Emperor Augustus.  The Queen has no trouble with litter at Buckingham Palace, but at Hilly Fields it is a different story.  Whilst Hilly Fields was reasonably clean, I still came away with two full bags of rubbish.

As a graphic reminder of the harm rubbish does to wildlife I came across a discarded glass bottle. Poking out of the end of this bottle was the head of a dead mouse.  The mouse had got into the bottle, became trapped, and died.  Less than five metres away from the bottle with the dead mouse was a litter bin.  I was angry.  A lazy, ignorant, careless human being had rather than using the litter bin steps away had thrown the bottle on the ground, a living creature paid for that carelessness with its life.  All actions have consequences; small may be our actions, thoughts and words, large can be the impact.

A few hundred yards from the dead mouse Druids from two thousand years ago had buried a cauldron, known as the Sheepen Cauldron in honour to their earth goddess.  These Druids would be horrified if they knew how their Colchester descendants treat the earth, the very location where they walked with respect, by dumping rubbish across it, leading to pollution of the ground and the death of animals.  Those who live in the modern age tend to view our ancestors as backward savages, but I wondered who really is the backward savage.

I find my sustainable actions open doors to other activities.  After returning home I wrote an e-mail to my local Colchester councillors asking for signs to be put up in all Colchester nature parks telling people to take their rubbish home with them.  A letter is planned for the local newspaper.