OPINION: Nature on your doorstep - a view of Donegal through the coronavirus crisis and beyond

Daily column by journalist Siobhán McNamara, Monday, March 30, 2020

Bee on crab apple blossom PHOTO: Siobhán McNamara

Bee on garden crab apple blossom PHOTO: Siobhán McNamara

It’s amazing how much is going on in the natural world without our really paying attention.

More often than not, it is only when a fox runs out in front of us or we see a badger plodding along at dusk that we remember there is a whole lot of activity going on around us.

Evening birdsong might grab our attention, the first bees of the year are a welcome sight and the flit of a brightly coloured butterfly will certainly catch the eye.

But to get a grasp of what is really going on, you need to go out and look. The good news is that you don’t have to go far.

I remember a project some years ago which encouraged people to mark off one square metre of their garden and monitor the number of species that were there throughout the year. You don’t have to be that specific, or that scientific. But for anyone who is at home with time on their hands - and maybe curious children - there has never been a better time to get to know the inhabitants of your garden, hedgerow or local area.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre has fantastic online resources for identifying species, covering everything from tiny insects and flowers to native trees. The friendly folk at the centre love nothing more than finding out about biodiversity in every corner or Ireland and recording it.

They usually have a number of specific projects on the go. At the moment they are interested in hedgehog sightings, as well as dragonflies and damselflies among other things. If you want to get involved, you can go onto their website or download an app where you can submit your findings and help form a record of the biodiversity of Donegal.

Getting out and looking closely at the small things opens up opportunities for bigger, more exciting sightings. Many ditches and ponds are home to frogspawn at the moment. It is fantastic for children to watch tadpoles grow from specks inside the transparent eggs, then hatch and develop into tiny frogs. 

Red squirrels are making a comeback in much of Donegal thanks to some excellent conservation efforts and they can now be spotted in many parts of the county.

I was hanging out washing a few days ago when I heard the cat-like call of buzzards. They were so high that it took a while for me to spot them. Every time I see these magnificent birds of prey ride the air currents with their long wings in a slight v-shape, my heart soars. I am still living in hope of looking up one day and seeing the golden eagles which have made their home in the Bluestack Mountains.

In the meantime, I’m happy to sit on the doorstep with a mug of coffee and watch the birds gathering nest material, see the occasional March hare and if I’m lucky, the flash of a red squirrel in the nearby trees.

Because sometimes, it's all about the little things.

Read next: It's OK to be sad or scared but it's OK to be happy too - daily column by Siobhán McNamara

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