Winging it in wildlife identification and losing it with a garden pest
It’s been wild, the past month. Not Prince of Wales Road on a Saturday night wild. Not even Ibiza at the Blickling Proms wild. But finding out the difference between a beech and a birch, a hawthorn and a blackthorn, wild. Yes, that wild.
I’ve been doing 30 Days Wild. It’s all about trying something wild every day for a month (again, more giving-it-a-go than living-it-large wild.)
The concept is from the Wildlife Trusts but it’s not about having to start every day at dawn on a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve, listening for the boom of a bittern or watching for a swallowtail butterfly; or spending the month foraging for food and camping out under the stars – delightful as parts of this (the parts which don’t involve eating nettles and sharing a bed with insects and rainwater) might be.
‘That is a step too far for me, especially while it’s so dodgy to walk on the gravel.’
As with all the challenges I set myself, rules can be altered, bent and backdated. In the likely-as-Hellesdon-freezing-over and Framlingham Pigot-flying scenario of me attempting a round-the-world challenge of any sort, I’d be the one declaring that Norfolk is the centre of the world and therefore a circumnavigation of the county is an acceptable alternative.
The idea, I think, of 30 Days Wild is to take more notice of the wild stuff around us, and therefore appreciate it more and be more willing to look after it. This morning two goldfinches flew from a garden tree as I cycled to work. The golden glow of seeing the glitter of their wings was almost matched by the glow of being fairly sure they actually were goldfinches and I’d managed to do some proper grown-up wildlife identification.
Some days simply seeing things in my suburban garden has counted towards 30 Days Wild, although the cat (or dog or fox or black-shuck-like-devilanimal) doing its disgusting business on the gravel drive is driving me the wrong type of wild. A more dedicated naturalist would learn about identifying animals by their droppings but that is a step too far for me, especially while it’s so dodgy to walk on the gravel.
So I spot wild flowers and pretty sunsets. I’ve been put in charge of teaching my two-yearold granddaughter the names of wild plants and animals and figure that as she can identify every one of her multitude of tiny plastic Disney princes and princesses, she can tell a forgetme-not from a foxglove.
She’s taken this naming things to heart and after a recent holiday, arrived home with the news that the sea in Barcelona i s salty, the sand tastes of chocolate and the word for ‘cat’ in Spanish is ‘flip-flop’. Wild. And wildly inaccurate.
Back from the beach to the beech and birch, and I can reveal that birches have silvery bark and catkins, and it is vital to remember the position of any blackthorns you find – because they are essential to the production of sloe gin.
I’m definitely getting the hang of appreciating the wonders of nature, apart from the flip’flop threatening any cat on my gravel.
ABOVE: Birdwatching gold - a goldfinch