Dorset Wildlife

Experience a different walk

What would happen if we stopped watching wildlife and sensed it in other ways? In this month’s nature column, Jane Adams goes on a sensory walk at dusk.

What smells and sounds did you notice the last time you went for a walk? Did you make a point
of touching a leaf or paying attention to the breeze on your face?

It’s amazing how easy it is to let your sense of sight dominate the way you perceive nature.
I often find myself describing an interesting plant or bird I’ve seen to my husband, but can’t for the life of me remember when I last told him about a scent or texture.

So, this month I’m on a mission (you’re welcome to join me). I’m going to take more notice of my other senses, and to help me I’ve started walking in the nearby woods at dusk.

image by Jane Adams

Spangle galls

There’s no getting away from it, walking in the woods after sunset can feel a bit spooky.
It took me a while to calm my nerves, tune in to the scuttling and scrabbling of the unseen wood mice, and not jump out of my skin when a tawny owl screeched overhead. But the more I do it, the more I love it. The other evening I sat under a favourite oak and, having scooped up a handful of fallen leaves, I started to run my fingers over their surface. Some crumbled, but others were covered in circular lumps about the size of a small flat pea. This oakleaf braille was spangle galls; knobbly hard protection for eggs laid earlier in the year by tiny wasps that develop into larva inside the galls, falling to the ground with the leaves in autumn. The larvae continue to develop through the winter, and emerge as adults in the spring. Later, the scent of a fox that must have passed by just minutes before stopped me in my tracks. Breathing in its heady musk, I could imagine the animal’s steady gaze and alert ears, its russet coat and thick bushy brush.

image by Jane Adams

I’m not suggesting an evening walk is right, or even possible, for everyone, but even if it isn’t, give your eyes a rest and think about appreciating nature with your less used, but nonetheless important, senses.

by: Jane Adams – Naturalist. bTB Badger Vaccinator. Nature writer. Photographer. Bee Watcher.

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