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Trees without leaves

During lockdown I have benefitted hugely from connecting with wildlife, from spotting the birds visiting my garden to setting camera traps in my local park. I think many of us have found nature to be a sparkling beacon of hope during this otherwise quite stagnant and difficult time.

One of the things I like to do is to take pictures. Usually finding specimens to photograph is easy, I head to a nature reserve or one of my favourite coastal spots and I find tonnes of birds or scenic views to capture. However, lockdown restrictions have made this quite tricky, I don’t live local to any nature reserves or a stretch of coast that isn’t a port. I live in a very urban area so I thought finding something worth snapping might be quite difficult but then I realised that was because my idea of wildlife was very limited, and mostly towards the big things…

One day on a local walk around the roads near to my house, I made an effort to look at the small stuff. I spotted some lichen on a wall, it looked like a modern art masterpiece. This was nature’s art, and wow, it was really quite special. And it looked great from a distance but it looked even more amazing when I got up close, there were patterns in patterns and swirls and specs which weren’t visible from far away. I looked at that wall and I realised, I’ve never really looked at lichen and thought “That’s beautiful”, it’s one of those things that I just pass by on my way to spot the oystercatchers or herons etc.

I carried on walking and the next thing that I investigated was moss. Once again, the realisation dawned on me that I really didn’t know much about this stuff, and yet it grows on nearly every surface! It lines the walls and pavements of the city and it does it so quietly that no one sees. I wanted to get a good photo of moss, one to do it credit so I decided to bend down on the pavement (looking like a crazy woman I’m sure) and picture the moss from beneath. I couldn’t believe how cool it looked with the trees in the background, the moss was a tiny funky forest of its own.

All this made me think about perspective; I walk around usually, just looking at everything from ‘head height, straight on’. Over the last week I have been making an effort to look up on my local walks, to enjoy the view of leafless trees from below, the structure of branches getting smaller and smaller from the central trunk. Each tree has its own special pattern and not just that, but with new buds starting to appear and soon, leaves popping out, each tree’s signature pattern is constantly changing.

I’ve been getting up close to some tree trunks too… Have you ever noticed that different sides of tree trunks often have different communities of lichen growing on them? Sorry, I’m going on about lichen again, its just so beautiful and diverse. Next time you are looking at a tree, have a look at it from different angles – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Plus, you don’t need fancy photography equipment either to capture some interesting shots! I took all the photos in this blog using my smart phone. Yes, they won’t be winning any awards or appearing in next year’s wildlife calendars but they are good enough for learning and good enough for me.

Covid has changed our routines hugely and, for many of us, it has changed the locations available for connecting with nature. But this doesn’t have to be bad… I’ve seen ‘little wildlife’ in a new light over the last few months, I’ve learnt the names and some awesome facts about lichen and mosses and I’ve had fun taking ‘arty’ photos along the way. Wherever you live, nature is your neighbour; you might just have to look up, bend down or look close to find it!

Ranger Lizzie