Saving lives


What was I doing at eight o’clock in the morning driving along our country lane? I am shielding so this is unheard of. The sun was just rising on my right, with the rosy glow, as I turned off left to the west. I was going for my COVID jab, at last.

I had my NHS vaccination letter a few days ago. You can go on the coronavirus website, once you get this letter, and look at places near you which are offering the jab. The places were a long way off. Should I book one? I have always boasted that I would go anywhere, even in the middle of the night, if necessary. I had to have a think.

But before I could deliberate too much my GP surgery rang. There was a vacancy for a vaccination the next day, early morning, at our local hospital. Would I go. Yes, I would! I rolled into the car park and went straight in to register and then was vaccinated. And then I wept.

It was not that it hurt or that I was scared, it was the thought of all the people involved from the laboratory to the doctor. The wonder of it all and the relief, after ten months shielding, was overwhelming.

“Are you ill?” asked the alarmed doctor.

“No, no but thank you,” I tried to reassure her. I went to wait for fifteen minutes. That first step was over for me and for the rest of my family.

I went home to more mundane matters – the Big Garden Bird Watch. You watch the birds in your garden for an hour and record the species and their numbers.

The plain house sparrow with its busy flock was the winner here. Then came the blue tit and the great tit. Surprisingly, the long-tailed tit came next, always in a hurry, in a flock of five. The starling, so often a nuisance, is rarely seen here. We have only one. I know it is the same one because it has a white tail feather. It keeps on returning, but not in a flock.

There are other birds missing this year – the greenfinch, tree sparrow and siskin. Reading the statistics from the last 40 years I see that the sparrow population is down by at least 50% as is the blackbird. The starlings are down by 80%.

What is happening? Is it climate change, pollution or lack of food and nesting sites? Whatever it is, I know now that it is not as mundane as I thought. The birds are telling us something – like the canary in the coal mines all those years ago.

Perhaps this coronavirus is telling something too.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star, Talking Point with Vicky Turrell)

Fieldfares from Scandinavia eating windfall apples with our blackbirds


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