Our Patch: Unexpected Discoveries

By on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanI used to have a horrible job working as a motor claims handler in a call centre.

There were few redeeming aspects to it, but I do recall a conversation with a lady asking if I worked by the sea.

seagull

I was a bit puzzled, explaining that yes, Liverpool city centre was right on the coast, and asked what had prompted her question. She replied that she could hear gulls calling – and as soon as I listened, I could hear them, too. I had totally taken for granted the fact that there were shorebirds all around us – we could even see them nesting outside the window – and that although I worked right in the banking hub of a huge city, there was wildlife all around us.

This week, on my way to Whiston Hospital, I looked up at a rooftop to see a heron standing there.

heron_house

It made me wish I’d taken my camera, but also made me remember once again just how lucky we are to live here.

There are species around us that almost shouldn’t be, such as this juvenile heron in the middle of a housing estate. They aren’t here by accident; they are attracted by us and what we do, intentionally or not, to attract wild things to grow and live with us. You might be surprised what you can attract to your garden with a simple bird feeder, scruffy area or pond, and for those of us who do, we get a lot out of it.

Driving past the shops on Milton Avenue, I had to brake for a grey squirrel scooting across in front of me, much to the bemusement of a toddler in a pushchair, desperately trying to alert her mum to what she had seen just inches in front of her. They are here because we feed the birds, and ever the opportunist, these cheeky rodents are happy to accept a free meal.

robinQuintessentially wintery, the robin is starting to reappear, and this one was in the grounds of my children’s school.  There was so much going on – cars and footsteps, squeals as excited children left school to greet expectant parents – yet this bird was unfazed, hopping about its business in all the hubbub as though we weren’t even there.

Jack Frost paid us a visit over the weekend, ensuring my girls were excited seeing how ‘sparkly’ the world appeared in the sunshine. frostWhilst trying to capture images of the sparkle and mist, I disturbed a Snipe in the trees. I have come across them before, but again, wouldn’t expect to see this wader, with its dumpy body and very long bill, in the woods just opposite a very busy crossroads.

The rest of this week has involved attempting to decide what the magpies are up to. They have started nest-building, a task which seems to be earlier each year, and there are large and very noisy groups of them behaving raucously and generally making trouble.

I have mentioned previously my soft spot for Corvids – the crow family. I don’t know if it’s because I feel they need a champion or because they are just so bold and intelligent, but I can’t help be intrigued by their antics. There is a magpie which lives close to our house, and it performs some amazing feats. It clings to brickwork, like a woodpecker on a tree trunk, whilst it collects spiders from their nests. It hangs upside-down on gates to remove insects hiding there, and it can fit in any gutter to get a drink of water.

magpieMagpies and their lack of camouflage are a bit of an intrigue to me. It would seem that black and white are just too glaringly obvious, particularly when the iridescence of the blue tail catches the sun, yet we can be almost on top of them before we see them, at which point we are usually sworn at in typical corvid fashion. There are other pied animals, but few so bright and obvious as the showy plumage of the magpie. I wonder how their camouflage actually works – but it does!

So the nights draw in, and winter coats, hats and gloves all have name tags in. Soon summer will be a memory, and I wonder what little gems the season to come has in store for us.

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital. In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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