Village Voices Nature Note: The Sign of Summer

01 Jun 2021
I’ve been keeping a log-book. Literally. I’ve been very restricted in my walking recently by a hip-problem (now fixed, I hope), but I found a mossy old log by the river I could just get to and rest on, completely out of sight. I’ve been sitting quietly on that, making notes on what comes by. It’s a quite different kind of nature-watching from the one I’m used to – striding out freely and actively exploring the world. But it turns out to have its own compensations when you adjust to it, which you have to do mentally as well as physically. Your world has shrunk to a radius of a few yards, but it’s still teeming with life. And instead of pursuing nature you just have to be still and let it come to you. Which it does, surprisingly quickly.

After a few minutes, I hear a rustling very close by. A beetle? A mouse? No, it’s a wren, working its way busily through the undergrowth, picking up tiny insects invisible to my eye with deft little pecks and pounces. I don’t move a muscle, trying to look like an extension of the log. The wren’s nearly at my feet when it senses an unusual presence and flicks a little way off to continue its rummaging, but not before I get my best-ever view of its subtly variegated dead-leaf colours and the stiff little cocked tail.

Now a moorhen paddles slowly by in the river and a male blackcap sings from a branch – so close that its pure fluting song is almost too piercing. After an hour of immobility, I’m almost a woodland feature. A seven-spot ladybird lands on my hand, some wood ants investigate my boots, and the wren makes another pass, more boldly this time. And now a butterfly settles right next to me in a patch of sunlight – a male orange-tip. What a beauty! This is the first I’ve seen this year and it really does capture the spirit of spring with those sunshine orange flashes on its wings. Soon there will be lots of them on the wing searching out their favourite plants, garlic mustard and lady’s smock, both them just coming into flower with perfect timing. The orange-tip’s Latin name is Anthocharis, flower grace, and the French call it L’aurore, the dawn, a nice suggestion of a new beginning.

Some people walk by just the other side of the river, another interesting species that doesn’t notice me, or much else. There’s a move to re-wild our landscapes, but I emerge from my immersion in nature feeling that we could all do with some rewilding ourselves. We’re part of nature too.
Jeremy Mynott