Silver linings have been a challenge to glimpse these last few months. To find someone not feeling pummelled by the constant upheaval is a real rarity but with a little effort, it is possible to see that these unusual times have offered us all equally extraordinary opportunities.
Staying home and staying local were directives which initially struck fear. However, being forced to slow down has led to the rediscovery of simple pleasures and it is recently reading Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald that has proved a fantastic reminder that the great outdoors offers us all a way to salve our wearied minds and bodies.
In the warmer months, walks through Penny Spring Woods and Longley Nature Reserve offered magical glimpses of cuckoos. Quieter roads meant that the gentle, soothing owl hoots filtered in through open windows in Almondbury whilst long walks up through the fields towards Castle Hill lead not only the most spectacular vistas, but also the thrill of watching birds of prey riding the thermals scoping out their prey.
However, given the battering we’re getting from a brutal combination of Beast from the East and Storm Christoph, the attraction of being outdoors is understandably waning. And here is where the RSPB and their Big Garden Watch comes in. At any point between the 29th and 31st January, they’re hoping as many of us as possible can spend an hour counting garden birds. The real joy is that there is no need to jettison leisure wear, wrestle the kids out of their pyjamas or deal with a mountain of muddy weatherproof gear- this can all be done by peering out of a window. Register at rspb.org.uk/birdwatch and you can either get a guide sent through the post, or display your eco credentials by downloading a pack. The website is a goldmine of information, ranging from the ‘Which garden bird are you’ quiz, to details as to how to go about submitting your findings.
With many of us buckling under the pressures of work, home schooling and a host of other conflicting demands, this is a perfect opportunity to kick back for an hour and delight in a robin’s joyful bobbing, marvel at a goldfinch’s stunning plumage or ponder if a plump wood pigeon is a victim of the same ‘snaccidents’ as the rest of us. Simple stuff.