At the very end of 2013, early one morning I promised myself that in 2014, I would devote as much spare time as I could to getting out and about in nature; something I have always had a passion for but never quite given enough time to.
Now at the end of 2014 I can look back and feel pleased that I did just that. In fact, it’s fair to say I probably surpassed my own expectations and wow, have I seen some fantastic wildlife this year! And that’s without going too far out of my way in the north east.
There have been loads of stand out, special moments for me; birds like Water Rail, Peregrine, Pied Flycatcher and Barn Owl (none of which are mega rarities but which are nevertheless great birds for me), a few close encounters with Fox and Roe deer and seeing more butterflies than I can ever remember seeing in one year.
But in some ways it was the unexpected things that were even better than that. One of the highlights of this year has got to have been a volunteering day organised through work (how ironic!) at Scotswood Natural Community Garden, where I got to see their resident Great Crested Newts. The garden really caught my imagination, being almost entirely managed by volunteers and providing such a valuable space for nature in a really unexpected place. Well worth another visit in spring I reckon.
Something else that will probably stay with me forever (and it’s work related again!) was the Fox that took up residence in the shrubbery in the office grounds towards the end of summer. Every day at around 5pm I would go for a cup of tea, look out of the window and there it would be, lazing around in the late afternoon sun, well-concealed from any viewers at ground level but perfectly obvious to someone on the first floor!
But for me, all this has been tinged with some sadness, especially as the year progressed and I began to appreciate that our wildlife, our environment and its ecosystems are not a little damaged. Some of the things I have seen and read about this year, like the rare birds that crop up from time to time, are all the more amazing because they are just shadows of the way things once were.
In spring and summer when I walked alongside field boundaries and hedgerows with scarcely a wildflower to be seen, it started to dawn on me that things aren’t really as they should be. In many ways, this is a tragedy that most of us don’t even realise has occurred, but in others it shows the truly amazing power of nature to cling on and survive.
There are still many awe inspiring places for nature, especially up here in the north east, and given a little time and space, with perhaps just a bit of help from us I am sure nature can recover from some of the damage we have inflicted.
In 2015 I am going to try and get out even more than I have this year (family and work commitments permitting!) and get to some of the places I didn’t manage to visit in 2014. And wherever I can do something good for the local wildlife or the environment in general, then I will. I am sure there is plenty more to see and loads more to learn in the next twelve months.