In case you haven’t noticed, today is the first day of June. It’s also the first day of 30 Days Wild, an excellent scheme to get us all outside and having encounters with wildlife every day for a month. I signed up in a flurry of optimism a few weeks ago because I think I’m Liz Bonin. I imagined myself spending June in a birding hide somewhere, or skipping through ancient woodland singing madrigals.
Today it dawned on me that I’m not Liz, and I’m not Michaela Strachan, either. I’m a busy person who lives in a city and works at a sedentary job in another, even bigger city. Even worse, I’m not going to be in the country for the entire month: I’m going to be in (you’ve guessed it) a city somewhere in Europe for about half of it. Where the heck am I going to find any wildlife?
Fortunately, my definition of wildlife is a broad one. If it’s alive and we humans aren’t deliberately cultivating or farming it, it counts as wildlife (this is legit, by the way, because I did biology at college and I should know – honest). It includes plants which have managed to find an existence outside gardens and parks, and the insects, birds and fungi all around us. So all I really needed to do to have my very first wild day was walk home more slowly than usual.
In a walk lasting 50 minutes (as opposed to my more usual brisk 35), here’s what I saw:
Mosses and lichens growing on walls. Some of the lichen was actually growing on some of the moss! Just look at that beautiful yellow colour (I’ll write about that in later blog posts because it’s a bit special).
A whole load of overgrown verges just bursting with plant life. There weren’t many insects around since it was fairly cold, wet and windy, but I did see a lot of flowers.
A derelict school where plants of all kinds had pushed through the cracks in the damaged path, and grown under the fence.
Quite a lot of slugs and snails (some of which reminded me of a really fun citizen science project that ran a few years ago).
A tree stump teeming with camera-shy ants and showing beautiful spalting.
A wild patch left unmown in my local park. Once again, this was hard to capture on camera, but it was beautiful. The long grasses waved enchantingly in the wind and their numerous awns gave them a pretty, fluffy appearance.
So what are the take-home messages from my first wild day?
1. Wildlife lives all around us, so having a wildlife encounter really is just a matter of taking the time to notice what’s already there. Some of it is so commonplace and familiar that we hardly see it, and some of it is so small that we need to take the trouble to find it. Not much trouble, mind, but some nonetheless.
2. Untidiness equals diversity. I saw far more different plants in untended verges and derelict grounds than in any of the (admittedly lovely) tidy gardens I passed. And I’m sure there were many more insects and other animals keeping a low profile among the chaos than I managed to find.
I enjoyed my walk a lot. Maybe I should do the same activity for each of my 30 days wild, or at least the ones where I’m working. Instead of just plugging in to an audiobook and trudging home at top speed, I’ll take the trouble to notice the wildlife around me at different times of day and in different weather conditions on my walk home. It’ll be kind of an impressionist approach to nature.
How will you be spending your wild June days?