Life

Tony Bailie's Take on Nature: There's an abundance of wildlife on our doorsteps

A starling on a rooftop

A MURMURATION of starlings swoops in over my house every evening, clustering into a tight-knit mass and then dispersing in an aerial ballet.

It is psychedelic experience, as thousands of them form into ever-shifting shapes, like fast-moving black clouds, just outside the window where I am working.

I drove to Nobber in Co Meath last winter to witness the spectacular murmuration that was taking place there and during my evening breaks from work at The Irish News offices in Belfast often walked over to the Lagan to see another one.

But until last week I had no idea what was taking place on a daily basis above my head at home, where I am now working. Nor that magpies are building a nest in a clump of bushes just beyond the back fence. They come into the garden and grab twigs, bits of moss and even the splinters of clothes pegs and the like, give them a shake as if to size them up, drop them and look at them from various angles.

Everyone’s world has suddenly become much smaller but nature is still flourishing all around us and I have noticed things on my doorstep that I took no heed of before as I rushed off to tramp along the coasts or into the mountains.

On the roadsides and urban hedgerows close to where I live the buds are coming out on the branches of bushes, shrubs and trees and on some the foliage has already broken free.

The landscape is alive with wildflowers – primroses, daffodils and snowdrops bring splashes of colour among the more mundane but signature Irish perennials like whin, nettle and cow parsley.

To help with these challenging times the RSPB is encouraging families to keep themselves occupied and has launched a daily breakfast birdwatch. It is calling on people to use #BreakfastBirdwatch on Twitter and hopes to create a friendly, supportive and engaged community who are able to share what they can see in their gardens, on their balconies, rooftops and spaces from their own homes, all the while keeping within restricted movement guidelines.

A spokesman said: “With the arrival of spring, there is so much incredible nature returning, blooming, growing and thriving outside, and while we are in the midst of an unparalleled crisis, we must not forget the power of nature, including how watching nature can be so positive for our mental health and wellbeing.

“Throughout the coming weeks, Breakfast Birdwatch will focus on different themes and different species, helping to identify what our supporters have seen and heard, and answering questions along the way."

?It will take place each weekday between 8-9am and participants are asked to use #BreakfastBirdwatchand #RSPBNI to share updates, photos, videos, questions and comments.

There will be different themes, focussing on different species and helping supporters stay creative with ideas such as drawing and poetry. Another RSPB resource is the Wild Challenge online awards scheme.

?By completing fun and engaging activities, ranging from bug hotels and bird boxes to making a compost heap and planting for wildlife, participants can then log their achievements on to the RSPB Wild Challenge website and collect bronze, silver and gold awards.

?There are more than 30 activities to choose from and each comes with helpful ideas and resources to help families on their wild adventure. For more information, visit rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge

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