Saddlebags and Blue Tits.
“Grannie! Grannie! They’re back.”
Alexander put his little hand into mine and dragged me into the garden.
“Look! Look! The bees.” he shouted excitedly.
I have been providing extended childcare for my two year old grandson while his parents juggle working full time from home and his Mum ( my daughter) also nurses a very painful back seven months into her second pregnancy.
Amidst the grief, misery and fear, my pandemic has meant I get quality time with Alex. We have immersed ourselves in the natural world. Our garden and small paddock has been our Serengeti and Amazon jungle, with creatures small and smaller. The purple flowered bush ( don’t know the variety) has sounded like an aerodrome with dozens of bees doing what bees do, collecting pollen in saddlebags on their hind legs. He has squealed with delight when observing the bees crawling along the foxglove footprints, disappearing into the flower head, then having to reverse out again. Sometimes the saddlebags are so full the bee has trouble walking and takes on a swinging gait to get around. No matter how small, be it a beetle no bigger than a pin head he has watched and held them in his little hands, and been enthralled to be in his jungle paradise. Going for even the shortest of “Boris” walks has on occasions taken hours, as he soaks up everything around him like a sponge, his enthusiasm infectious. We have been on bear hunts and my heart is full of joy as he runs free amongst the long grass with only his unruly hair visible. The sound and sight of traffic a temporary distant memory replaced by birdsong and rustling amongst the knotted undergrowth.
Then there have been the blue tits. A few months before the pandemic my husband died unexpectedly, but before he died he erected a nest box on the side of the garden shed. He cut a hole from the inside of the shed and fixed a window and door to the back of the nest box, hoping we could observe the domestic arrangements of the blue tits in the spring. Sadly for him it was not to be. However they have not disappointed, and we have been able to watch these delightful little birds at close quarters from inside the shed. Six chicks hatched out and Alex has watched every day in awe and wonderment how they have been fed, how they seem to grow every minute. We have drawn endless pictures of bright yellow beaks opening and closing, what a beautiful privilege it has been, and a wonderful wildlife memory for a much missed Grandad.
I hope Alex continues to embrace and be interested in his natural surroundings wherever that might be as he grows up in a very uncertain world.