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A less than silent Spring

Reflecting on the unexpected benefits of lockdown, our churchwarden Oliver, a keen amateur zoologist, offers his thoughts on encountering the natural world when all else is still.

In these strange times, many people have been cheered with a re-connection to the natural world around them, perhaps prompted by the increased visibility of animals with few people on the streets (witness the herds of deer seen in East London!) and the exceptional weather encouraging some spectacular late spring flowers.

Birds, in particular, have been a source of comfort for me during the seemingly interminable lockdown. Even in suburban West London, I have been lucky enough to spot wheatears, lesser whitethroats, red kites, and skylarks – whilst others have noted rarities such as spoonbills in Walthamstow, golden orioles in Epping and honey-buzzards in Bexleyheath.

At St Giles, we are, of course, privileged to have the Phoenix Garden as a next-door neighbour – with its nesting robins, blackbirds and tits, 15 species of bee and the only frogs in the West End – to say nothing of the surprising existence of a rare lesser spotted woodpecker in Russell Square (unseen by me, despite my best efforts, but he is there!). Even in the most urban environments, fascinating animals and beautiful plants remain to be found. As I write this, a charm of goldfinches (perhaps the most generous of collective nouns) is chirruping from the tree outside my window, still resolutely refusing to visit the feeder.

Luke tells us to ‘Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?’ (Luke 12:24). These words put me in mind of the glorious arrival of our swifts, swallows and martins, now back with us for another summer after their uncertain and dangerous journey from sub-Saharan Africa. If God can bring a small bird thousands of miles to a safe harbour, then he can bring us through this crisis, to meet once again at St Giles.

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