Welcome to our 2015 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! For each day in the lead-up to Christmas, we have a post from an A Focus On Nature member on this year’s Advent theme: “The Gift of Giving”. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Three years ago, I moved with my parents from our suburban cul-de-sac in Horsham to a 19th century cottage in rural Shipley. Not long after the move, while driving down the bumpy lane towards home, I had one of my most memorable experiences with wildlife. The surrounding woodland was thick with snow and everything was very bright which is why the sudden contrast of a large, dark bird perched on a low-hanging branch caught my eye instantly. I pulled the car over and got out slowly for a closer look. The snow muffled my footsteps and I managed to get within a few feet of the bird just above me before it decided it didn’t care for my company and took off, gliding soundlessly deeper into the forest.
The bird I had this close encounter with was a buzzard. I had to look it up when I got home as, at the time, I had very little wildlife knowledge; I couldn’t have told you the difference between a blue tit and great tit back then. I was at a time in my life when I was completely lacking direction. The career plans I’d had since I was 15 hadn’t panned out as I’d intended and I was feeling pretty lost and dejected. Seeing that buzzard in the snow sticks in my mind because it was a turning point in my life, when a seed of interest was planted that has grown into a fully-fledged passion.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have lived these past few years completely immersed in wildlife. Our garden backs straight on to woodland and I’ve seen a real array of birds visiting our feeders. I took the time to learn about each new species I saw, gradually building up my knowledge until I felt confident identifying each avian visitor we had. Even now, I still get a thrill out of seeing a great-spotted woodpecker chiselling away at the peanuts, or a nuthatch scaling down a tree trunk like a feathery ninja, and these are birds I never knew existed until our move. I’ve had some amazing close encounters with other wildlife as well, particularly with roe deer which frequently walk across the lawn in front of our house. On several occasions, I’ve been able to stand in our front garden and observe does with their young only a few feet away from me. I always feel extremely grateful after those moments.
Late last year, I came to the realisation that I really wanted to do something worthwhile and that I no longer wanted my passion for wildlife to just be a hobby. 2015 has been the year I have really gained some drive and ambition, involving myself in volunteer work for various organisations and studying for a diploma in Zoology, so that I can go some way to sharing the joy the natural world has brought to my life and bring to other’s attention the importance of understanding and respecting what we share our planet with. I want to pass on the gift that was given to me.
As I’m writing this, we are packing up the house to move again and so I will have to say a bitter-sweet goodbye to my current local patch which I have grown to know and love over the past couple of years. I have no hesitation at all in saying that it has gifted me with so much. I found a focus in my life which I was severely lacking before relocating. I’ve made important discoveries about myself thanks to the wildlife that has made itself known to me and now, whenever I see a buzzard circling above me, I am always reminded of that moment back in the snow.