I came across some wild things today, going about their lives amidst the bustle of the human-sculpted landscape we live in. They were wild birds; a flock of 15 Redwing, some Starlings and two Great-spotted Woodpeckers, they looked as though they would have been doing exactly what they were doing regardless of humanity’s existence or not.
They were gathered on a square patch of green land surrounded on all sides by suburban housing, it isn’t a very large area of land, probably 20 metres by 20 metres, but it has several tall and mature oak trees growing out of it as well as some scrubby Hawthorns. Most of it is grass though, and it was the grass that was interesting the Redwings and Starlings.
The Starlings were shuffling about in a small group by themselves, heads to the ground, with their beaks constantly probing the damp turf. It was the Redwings that interested me; they were scattered over the lawn quite widely, they didn’t get in each others way and they seemed to be hunting entirely by sight. They stood bolt upright, heads high, scanning the ground intently for movement. Every few seconds or so they would take a few hops forward, scan the ground again and then maybe lean in close to the grass before pouncing on some wriggling morsel.
As I watched the thrushes a movement in the nearest oak tree caught my eye, I glanced up to see not one but two Great-spotted Woodpeckers clinging to the bark – a male and a female. The male was busy searching for food in the deep cracks in the trunk, while the female flew over to another oak, as he was quite close I watched the male – admiring his neat black, white and red plumage. His dagger-like bill is a precision instrument and he was using it to prise apart the hard bark and hammer into bore-holes made by burrowing invertebrates.
These weren’t rare species, nor where they hugely exciting species, but they were wild creatures all the same, one a resident of our woodlands, the other a Scandinavian tourist making use of our mild climate. It is little moments like this that make me smile, that make me happy, seeing nature surviving despite our best attempts.
What struck me was that this tiny patch of green land (which barely shows up on a map) hidden in the backstreets of a suburban town was, despite being seemingly inconsequential, a little haven for a group of animals that were using it to find food for the day. Even small patches like this can be important to something, yet year after year they shrink bit by bit as blocks of modern flats or ‘affordable housing’ springs up in their place.