ALTIVOLANTIS ON THE KINGDOM OF THE SHORE
To represent familiar objects as to awaken in the minds of others a kindred feeling concerning them.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE 1815-17
When making a study of the natural world it is rare to find that the perpetrator of such an undertaking had an idea apropos of nothing before. There was never a definitive beginning; it all began imperceptibly at a very early age when the family holiday was spent staying with my grandmother. An enamel dish of water set down in the garden and table scraps saved – this from a person who did not believe in waste of any kind and, moreover, could ill afford any – made space in her life for birds. With a treasured copy of a dull brown Observer’s book and a shy child with an inquisitive outlook, a life-long interest in the avian world was thus set in motion.
As the time has passed and the hunger to identify more and more of not only that which is feathered but also the flora and fauna – all that bejewels and beguiles man’s living space – there has been an expansion of a small library of field guides and, perhaps more importantly, the keeping of notebooks.
Maintaining a nature diary when the subject is vast and ever changing has never been an onerous task, for what may have seemed an unusual event one month could simply be the start of a new pattern set within a greater matrix, revealed invariably as more data is collected with the passing of the months and the years.
As with most things, practice while it may not necessarily make perfect, does at the very least change perceptions. In the early period whilst birds and butterflies warranted a sighting of the whole to make a positive identification, with experience, knowledge and understanding (habitat, time of year) partial sightings can now be relied upon for correct authentication.
In theory, therefore, the catalogue of species should be ever increasing but as can be seen by the information here assembled, there is a natural ceiling that obviates this.
Indeed by spotting birds and more, without artificial aids and a developed instinct – much as the early naturalists did – species recognition is regulated by the capacity of the human eye.
Experience proves that the longer a single locality is studied the more is found in it.
RICHARD JEFFERIES 1885
By way of instruments, however, I have used the same wire-less digital thermometer in the same location together with the same aneroid barometer. Outside of the measured period of this book 2001-2015 the use of a second wire-less digital thermometer, made by a different manufacturer, and installed a mere eighteen feet distant to the former has identified no meaningful difference but simply revealed an anomaly of 0.1 degrees celsius.
The (Voices) period recorded is arbitrary.
Fifteen years of information gathered from one location, however, should provide a sample big enough to show the seasonal trends in both birds and butterfly appearances and also the shifting patterns as to when a season – winter, spring and so on – takes place across the calendar. The much awaited arrival of the summer migrants and the day they are first sighted bears as much relevance to the number of daylight hours at a given point in any given year, as the type of weather encountered during their passage from foreign climes. Despite considering what was once the unfathomable it still remains a great source of wonder that some of the visitors to these shores seem to arrive within days of their arrival recorded on previous years.
One has a strange propensity to fix upon some point of time whence a better course of life may begin.
JAMES BOSWELL 1773
Nature and/or the natural world never ceases to amaze and the more it is studied the more delights and fascinations it reveals to the enquiring eye and mind.
At the time of writing no doubt some record or other has been cast into the public domain by the meteorological office who seem to want us to believe that imminent catastrophe can be read into their statistics and the oft vaunted “since records began” sounds doom laden until the records thus challenged have only been in existence a hundred years or so. Even whilst acknowledging that some weather records commenced three hundred plus years ago, in the wider perception of the earth’s history even a thousand years is but a trifling measure.
Men thus circumstanced soon come to soothe the fervour of their zeal by an ingenious distinction between theory and practice, between that which is eternally true, and that which, though eternally false, they conceive to be the best that can be adapted to the corruptions of mankind.
WILLIAM GODWIN 1791
To collect information, however, through observation and diligent writing of the same allows anyone to capture and make their own records within the parameters of their chosen locality. This is the excitement of being a nature watcher. On the one side it is the expectation that a certain occurrence will take place at a certain time of the month or year and the obverse that something unusual/different/perplexing will appear, that makes men foolish in believing in always.
This then is VOICES TO THE CLOUDS, not merely a study with a fifteen year compass but a collection of gathered nature notes set in context with the writings of arguably England’s greatest naturalists Gilbert White, John Clare and Richard Jefferies.
Perhaps it may best be described as another slice of the natural world that has been extrapolated from the “toilsome drudgery of amassing observations.”
The absence of the singing of birds, the hum of insects – invisible in the brilliant beams above, vast legions of insects crowd the sky, but the product of their restless motion is a slumberous hum – and that noiseless noise among the leaves, born of the very sigh that silence heaves, which lives in the summer air.
DOROTHY WORDSWORTH 1798 RICHARD JEFFERIES 1882 JOHN KEATS 1817
Voices To The Clouds Birds Butterflies Climate widely available online but to enjoy a 25% discount, purchase your book from LULU.com