Tag Archives: Springwatch

My Springwatch footage is a little disappointing…

The second brood of chicks in our camera box hatched yesterday (I think). Brilliant – we get to watch some more chicks grow, and hopefully fledge eventually! But the footage so far has been a bit dull.

I’m not complaining that the newly fledged chicks and their hard working parents aren’t doing enough – we can hear that plenty is going on. But the nest blocks the camera’s view, so while we can hear the cheeping, our picture is just a canopy of nesting material. Springwatch don’t seem to have these problems!

A view of nesting materials in our camera box (there are chicks underneath, honest!)
A view of nesting materials in our camera box (there are chicks underneath, honest!)

We had this problem (although not to the same extent) with the first brood. Hopefully over time the nest will get a bit trampled on by the growing chicks, and we’ll be able to get a glimpse of them. With the last brood our view got better as the chicks got bigger.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to try and interpret the sounds. There are at least two chicks, but that’s all I know.

The last brood of chicks fledged on 12th and 13th May, so the parents haven’t lost too much time in getting on with the next brood. Let’s hope the weather is kind to them, and there’s plenty of food around.

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Dangers of sentimentality

It’s easy to ascribe human characteristics or behaviours to wild creatures. It helps us to relate to them. Books that anthropomophicise wild animals, like the wonderful Wind in the Willows, can also kindle an interest in nature that may lead on to a life-long love. I put the start of my own interest in nature down, at least in part, to Kenneth Graham and Colin Dann. Patrick Barkham, in Badgerlands, attributes a change in attitudes to badgers in large part to the gruff, unsociable but dependable Mr Badger of Wind in the Willows.

I have to admit getting sentimental about wildlife, particularly creatures I see every day, and give names to. It’s hard to resist talking down to the dormice we find during our box checks. Their cuteness sometimes leads me to forget that they are wild creatures, adapted to the life they lead and part of a whole ecosystem that has evolved together. Anthropomorphicising wild creatures can blind us to a deeper understanding of wildlife, and the forces that drive their behaviour.

Programmes like Springwatch get us rooting for individuals. Will the chicks survive to fledge? Watching the process happen in our own nest box was even more engaging. But it’s easy to forget that everything in nature is connected. A sparrowhawk catching one of ‘your’ garden birds is a mini tragedy, unless you are the sparrowhawk or its chicks.

This may make me sound heartless, but part of what I love in nature is the way it all fits together. I like that nature is red in tooth and claw. I like watching the daily battle for survival between predator and prey. Sometimes I pick a side (often the predator, I’m afraid – I don’t know what that says about me).

But I don’t think this means there’s never a case for intervention. In fact, humans have already intervened so much in the ecosystem (eg. introducing non-native invasive species like mink; destroying habitat) that if we are to protect our native wildlife further intervention is needed. And not all human interventions of the past have been negative – some wild creatures have thrived in carefully managed (rather than neglected) woodlands, or would cease to exist if chalk meadows were allowed to return to scrub.

A purely sentimental love for wildlife also prevents us from communicating effectively with policymakers and others who aren’t interested in nature for nature’s sake. We need to be able to engage with them in a language they understand (economics and hard facts) if we are to adequately defend our wildlife.

Sentimentality is great for getting people to care for our wildlife, but to protect it we need to move beyond that to something based on understanding as well as emotion.

Having said that, even the most hardened naturalist deserves the odd “that’s so cute” moment…