In line with the guidance surrounding the coronavirus, I am, like many of us at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, now working from home – although for the time being I hope to keep being able to visit Norfolk’s wonderful County Wildlife Sites (CWS) to carry out surveys and provide management advice.
In this respect, I am hugely lucky, as the view from the table I have set up to work from overlooks a County Wildlife Site, an area of common land in South Norfolk. It is a grey day outside today, but there are signs of spring wherever I look; especially on the common, where four of the Norfolk Horn sheep have recently given birth. At less than two weeks old, the lambs are just starting to stray from their mums and play together, racing in circles and leaping on the straw bale I have put out as shelter. In difficult times, they are a wonderful tonic.
The common is largely rough grassland and scattered scrub, with several ponds; no one is ever quite sure how many ponds, as in a dry years, some are just grassy hollows. In a wet year, like this one, ponds suddenly appear from nowhere, the slightest dip becoming a pool. Each pond is different in character too – the largest one is now half covered with reeds, which I am loathe to dredge out as from late summer until spring, these are home to a murmuration of starlings. Pied wagtails roost here too and once in a while a flock of reed buntings come by.
The trees that are scattered on the common still look stark and wintry from my makeshift desk, but when I venture out later, I know I will find them full of buds. The hawthorn bush at the end of my garden is the only one I can see with a few leaves and it has become a song post for a blackbird, filling the morning with song. In the garden itself, the usual mob of sparrows is charging about, making a fuss. They remind me always of packs of children rushing around, making a noise, then moving off somewhere else in a flurry. Right now they are mingling with blue tits and great tits, squabbling over the feeders hanging in the apple tree, which, with its circle of bulbs underneath, is another welcome reminder of the season.
Despite the loveliness outside of my window, I will miss seeing my colleagues at NWT everyday, but we are all learning how to share our work and wildlife stories online now instead. In the meantime, like all of us, I am looking forward to some warmer days and planning to make time to enjoy wildlife close to home.
Helen Baczkowska is a Conservation Officer at NWT.