It’s a belated Happy New Year actually, as we’re three days into 2011 already. I’ve had a great time with friends and family over Christmas and the New Year and things are settling back into a more normal routine.
The cold weather broke a couple of days after Christmas. Christmas day was on Saturday; by Monday the temperature had risen above freezing for the first time in weeks, and by Wednesday the fields were clear of snow. It was a relief (not least to my heating bills) but after a thaw everything is muddy, damp, foggy and just dirty. Part of me misses the crisp cleanness of the ice.
I have been even quieter than usual in terms of getting out and about in the countryside. This isn’t just laziness, it’s the way my life is organised at the moment. Mrs BWM works a shift pattern that includes weekends, so as often as not I look after Scarlett at the weekend. Scarlett gets up at 7.30am or so, has lunch at 12.30, an afternoon nap between 2.00 and 4.00pm, and then off to bed at 7.00 or 7.30pm. This means I have two ‘windows’ to go out with her during the day, one in the morning and one after 4.00pm. Unfortunately, at this time of year, it is too dark to go wandering around with a small child at 4.00pm, hence we haven’t been out much. Besides, it really has been too cold for a toddler. Much better to stay in and watch In the Night Garden on TV.
We had a little stroll today though, just around the local fields in expectation of the longer and warmer days to come. The local birds seem to be waking up after the cold. We saw thrushes, finches, blackbirds and tits. I always think of blue tits in particular as garden birds, so much so that it seems odd to see them in the wild. At one point I swear I heard a green woodpecker ‘yaffling’ in the trees, but this may have been just wishful thinking.
The damp, muddy ground was ideal for tracks. Not as good as snow, but I was able to get a good idea of the animals that had been about. The fallow deer had passed through, plus the normal muntjac. There were many rabbit tracks – these look quite different in sand to the way they do in snow. Often all you will see is the clawmarks, quite unlike the broad pads that show up in snow.
Encouragingly, the badgers are still present in this field. I followed the tracks of a fairly small badger for half a mile or so along the path. It’s sort of comforting to know that they’re still out there, even when I’m too busy to get out and see them.
It was only a short stroll, but it’s given me the impetus to try to get out more. My family takes priority, of course, but I need to find a way to make time to get outside. My interest in the local wildlife was originally stimulated by the desire to get outside and experience the countryside on my doorstep. I think I need to re-discover that.
This being New Year, what I think I will do is to put together a list of wildlife ‘resolutions’ that I want to achieve over the coming year. I’ll need to give these some thought, because I need to be realistic (let’s face it, I’m not going to see a Golden Eagle or a Scottish Wildcat here in Mid-Bedfordshire), but at the same time I think it would be good to have a goal.
Let me ponder this for a while, and then I’ll come back with my list. Let’s see what I can come up with.