Nature can heal the heart during the bleakest of times


Winter has properly and really arrived at the Mourne Coast, with wind and waves surging, as we rush to tie every little thing moveable down and weight bin lids with giant items of granite. Our entrance home windows are salt-stained as sea spray has travelled with the gusts.

The willow tree now naked, splayed branches let in new mild and a contemporary window to the sea. The cordyline or New Zealand Cabbage tree in our backyard has set to seed and a hoard of starlings are ceaselessly nuzzled towards the branches feasting on the new meals supply. At first I assumed the tree was “just” an alien species, which wouldn’t contribute to any hopes we had for a wild backyard. But in summer season it flowered and like a magnet attracted a whole lot of bees and hoverflies.

Each day, our smaller backyard birds have been out and in like jack-in-the-boxes, looking for shelter towards the ferocious winds, a relaxation spot between fowl feeder and open skies. It acts as a landmark for guests, taller than our home, and it’s the very first thing I see as I wait to alight the bus after an extended day at college. It’s actually not a sentinel oak, however it’s an element of our new life and our house; comforting and now, acquainted.

Many individuals dislike jays, typically seen as pests, they’re really one of our most necessary birds

Although the coast is teeming with life, the harsh winds are laborious to bear on each stroll, so now we have sought the shelter of woodlands. Even amongst the bareness of winter woodland, the cover spreads out like a coverlet and all the birds emerge like shadow puppets. Tollymore Forest in Bryansford, close to Newcastle, calls loudly to us right now of 12 months, when the crowds have considerably abated.

The wonderful gold of autumn continues to be resonating underfoot, the spindly tree-lined paths present a haven towards the parts, and the bountiful wildlife we see each time we slowly take the longest routes is such a soul tonic during the colder months. Immediately upon listening to the gushing of the Shimna river, my heart beats slower, anxious ideas are drowned out by water movement and, with each step, waves of fear about college, deadlines and the world itself start to refract, pleasantly engulfed by bark and birdsong.

We strike up straightforward dialog amongst the 5 of us, and Rosie our rescue greyhound trots alongside beside us. Her muzzle is now silver and though she’s not as glowing as she as soon as was, she’s solely left behind for lengthy mountain walks. Her sniffing spots are at all times great alternatives to cease and go searching.

I’ve left my binoculars in the automotive, however when your entire senses are tuned, you can see and listen to a lot extra. Garrulous, grizzly garglings erupt from the treetops and two jays converse in spirited tones. Flickering blue amongst copper plumage, feathers flash from department to department till they helter-skelter round the trunk to emerge on the riverbank, to snuffle amongst the leaf litter.

Many individuals dislike jays; typically seen as pests, they’re really one of our most necessary birds. They are pure engineers, orchestrating the pure regeneration of oak tree populations by caching acorns in simply the proper spot for seedlings to thrive. Jays can develop a forest, and alongside thrushes, who plant seeds of hawthorn and brambles to guard the rising oak seedlings, can create total ecosystems for a lot of a fowl, insect and mammal to flourish in.

Eurasian Jay perching in Autumn sunshine. Photograph: iStock

Not a human hand is required, no plastic tree guards, little or no illness from imported vegetation and all of it cost-free. I’ve actually no thought why pure regeneration isn’t extra widespread, specifically close to current woodlands. Perhaps revenue from tree planting is a clue?

Jays are simply so stunning to look at. The most vibrant of corvids, they transfix us for a wonderful lengthy whereas. A gradual wind murmuring, the river cascading, what could possibly be extra joy-inducing?

At the “Meeting of the Waters”, the magic second when the Shimna and Spinkwee rivers be a part of, a dipper bobs, three quick sharp curtseys earlier than flitting off, leaving us breathless. Our eyes are tremendous sharp as we speak.

The resurgence of pink squirrel is one of the most enjoyable and optimistic conservation success tales

With barely time to course of this second, out of the blue we hear loud chattering from the cover as branches barely shake, and russet kinds take form. Two pink squirrels! Chasing and sprinting overhead, they spark guffawing and amusement under. What a commotion, what a stroll.

At this time of 12 months, pink squirrels are making ready for the breeding season. Courting begins in December with charged cover prancing, and kittens are born round February to March. What a sight they make, barely seen except you’re woke up to the small gestures of the pure world. People are taking a look at us, we appear to be gazing the invisible, if solely everybody might see.

The resurgence of pink squirrel is one of the most enjoyable and optimistic conservation success tales. Their inhabitants has steadily elevated from the brink of extinction with the assist of devoted volunteer initiatives resembling the Tollymore Red Squirrel Group – and, of course, with the help of their ecological ally, the pine marten.

Predators of the invasive American gray squirrels which have threatened to utterly decimate the native reds, the recolonisation of pine martens throughout the island seem like helping the rise of our iconic pink squirrels. Invasive species are disastrous for nature, particularly in native woodlands. What is nearly misplaced, can be saved, however we should at all times stay vigilant and engaged.

Back house, nonetheless stuffed with the heat of a wildlife stroll, under huge granite skies as seagulls swerve and swirl, I’m writing my final column for some time. A caesura, to catch my breath, deal with my college research and as soon as once more, hone my abilities as a younger naturalist out in the subject. Nature will at all times proceed to encourage and luxury; I hope that you just too discover as a lot deep solace from our bushes, rivers and wildlife as I do.

It has been such a privilege to share my world and that of my household with you during these previous seven months. Spilling my churning ideas out onto the web page has allowed expression to heal my heart during the bleakest and most wondrous of times. I’ll be again later in the 12 months although, refreshed and full of tales to share.

Wishing you all an exquisite begin to 2022.