So here we are in the strangest of times!
The long predicted global viral pandemic is upon us, creating social, economic and health disruption on a scale unseen in decades. Worse still, some families will be saying their goodbyes to loved ones. often long before they had expected to be doing so.
This is not the post to debate the causes of the pandemic, albeit the tolerance of cultural norms and traditions for fear of 'offending' the societies that undertake those practices by criticising them for the part they played in bringing us to this situation (wet markets in traditional Chinese culture), will surely be worthy of some Facebook keyboard warrior rantings at some point!
No ... the purpose of this blog post is to suggest something that we could all do to bring some positivity to our virtual incarceration in our own homes.
It's accepted that engagement with nature and the wild world brings significant physical and mental wellbeing improvements.
It matters not whether you have a garden the size of a small county or a postage stamp plot, letting the 'outside' into your 'inside' is generally a good thing.
It's possible to add a dash of excitement from a truly wild spot, as a walk in the woods, through the countryside, along a river or up a mountain, seems to me to be custom made for social distancing.
Some may recall a well intended post on these blog pages last Spring, promising a project to capture the sights, sounds, smells and experiences of the wild world experienced here at Harris Acres.
Well, like all good intentions of those afflicted with a chronic lack of natural 'follow-through', that post was the first and last in that vein in 2019.
The good news is that I did continue to take photographs as the seasons changed and perhaps now, facing a 'compulsory' isolation, or at least the need to remain at a distance from our usual social gatherings, would be a good time to look back at the last couple of years of sightings for inspiration in the coming weeks ... perhaps, months.
My plan is to capture anything interesting, beautiful, extraordinary or ordinary that perhaps might not have been noticed had I not been here to see it otherwise and to encourage all my readers / followers (numbering in their ... well a few at least!) to share what they see too.
I might be using state of the art kit, but (as Sarah proved many times on our recent Safari) a simple point and shoot with an iPhone tragically and frequently, beats my fancy kit to the better shot.
The trick is to take pleasure in the everyday sights. It's not every day that you see a Sparrowhawk and a Magpie in a dogfight above your house ...
... but it happens!
Its not every day that you spot another dogfight between a Buzzard taking defensive measures in the face of a Kestrel confrontation ...
.... but it happens!
If you keep your eyes peeled, you might just catch a beautiful Green Woodpecker using your nice lawn as a feeding station full of delicious Ants ...
It's not all about the birds either. Mammals, wild flora, amphibians, insects and all manner of life is there where we live if you look hard enough ...
If you are exceptionally lucky and 'eagle-eyed', you could even catch a glimpse of a truly scarce sight in the skies around your house, as I was overjoyed to do so last Autumn.
I was c 80% sure that I had spotted an Osprey flying North over the house in the Spring on its way (probably) up to its nest in Scotland, but was too slow to grab the camera to gather the evidence that I was right.
Imagine then, the thrill of spotting what looked again like an Osprey flying south in the Autumn on its way back to its wintering grounds in Africa!
This time however, the camera was within reach and although the bird was in the far distance by the time I managed to get the camera pointed in the right direction, I did manage to grab a few shots that proved the remarkable presence of this amazing raptor flying over rural South Warwickshire.
The picture below therefore, is my all time favourite ever taken on our land, even though you can barely see the subject (other than to identify and record its presence) and it certainly won't be winning any wildlife photography prizes.
That's kind of the point of this blog really. Wildlife has a way of bringing its magic into your world whether its a dramatic bird of prey migrating and traversing continents, a confiding Robin keeping you company whilst you dig the garden, or this little Marsh Tit landing on a tree near the house ... magic every time.
So then ... lets all keep our eyes peeled and our hearts open whilst we while away the days in social solitary confinement.
The Bird Man of Alcatraz, might have been more tightly confined, but I'm sure we can all learn to appreciate those small moments of wild connection in a way that helps keep us sane, fulfilled and refreshed for when the world returns to 'normal'.
As a final piece of inspiration to keep your eyes peeled at all times, how about this shot, taken through the kitchen sliding glass doors of the moment when I looked up from preparing the nights Dinner to see a young Roe Deer in the back garden.
I'm not sure who was more surprised of the two of us and I'm not expecting you to have the camera ready in the kitchen like I do, but then again it would probably have been a better photograph if I'd used my iPhone.
I'll try and post anything I see on Facebook over the coming weeks as garden visitors pop in to keep us company here at Harris Acres.
It would be great if you could all to respond by simply sharing what you've seen with a comment, or if you were lucky enough to have camera or smart phone close to hand, perhaps a picture.
So its bye from me and my favourite garden animal
... Woody the Cat!
Take care, stay well and enjoy the garden safari.