If you’ve looked at the dragonflies and damselflies in the ‘On the pond’ post, you’ll already know that we have this amazing little nature spot close to our house. It’s pretty special just to sit and watch the activity on the ponds, particularly at this time of year when the southern hawkers are about. These massive dragonflies think nothing of flying right up to your face for a very close look. But keep your eyes peeled and you are very likely to spot other interesting and, sometimes, unexpected sights.
Yesterday, I had two special viewings: High in the sky, two kestrels engaged in aerial acrobatics as, I assume, one was defending its territory. The episode lasted only a couple of minutes but it was great to watch. The surprise was at 8am. As I approached my favourite pond, a flash of electric blue caught my eye as a kingfisher flew away. I turned around and watched from a distance as the bird returned to sit on a post and show off its orange breast. It stayed only for a minute but announced its return later in the morning with its high pitched piping call.
This was a great find because we don’t often see kingfishers in this area. A couple of years ago, my neighbour had one taking newts from his pond but last year there was no sign. I’m hoping this one will stay.
I’ve noticed I’m not the only one who spends time by the pond and I am reminded of an article I read a few weeks ago about how watching wildlife can be good for your mental health. For a start, it gets you off your butt and out into the fresh air. Sitting, quietly watching, is a key strategy for seeing animals but you’ve got to get walking to reach some of the best places. My photography has taught me a great deal of patience as I spend hours waiting for the moment – and how to deal with disappointment when my patience goes unrewarded. I even get out in the night and experience our environment in the dark. It’s different! This is when the foxes, badgers, bats and owls appear, when otherwise we would be in bed. Sit quietly and there are all kinds of interesting noises.
Wildlife watching increases our education. As a wildlife photographer, it is important to learn about the behaviour of subjects so you can plan your photo shoot for the best advantage. Finally, it’s a great way to meet other like-minded people and share with them your interests.
In these days when there seems to be an increase in mental health issues, particularly among young people, we should be encouraging our friends and families to get out and experience the outdoors more often.
Addendum – I’ve just read an article in BBC Wildlife magazine by Joe Harkness, the author of ‘Bird Therapy‘. Joe went through some pretty horrendous mental health issues and found birdwatching helped him address his demons. In the article, he says, ‘All of these things (medication, supportive workshops, counselling) helped me to find a path to a state that resembles wellness, but, as the blurb for Bird Therapy says: Nothing came close to my experiences with nature and, in particular, birds.’