A walk on the wild side in lockdown Lanark

Local wildlife photographer Daryl Smith has been finding inspiration a lot closer to home as wildlife grows bolder during lockdown.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula). Photo: Daryl Smith

Since the start of lockdown, we have been hearing stories in the media about wildlife making a comeback in unexpected areas around the world: pumas roaming empty streets in Chile, wild goats taking over towns in Wales and different species of marine life swimming in the now clear Venice canals.

While many of these sightings appear to be extraordinary and possibly a little exaggerated, the reduced human activity and presence has definitely given some animals the boosted confidence to venture a bit further and stay a bit longer.

Lockdown has largely reduced vehicles on our roads and people on our streets, which in turn has reduced noise and disturbance. Our local wildlife has sensed this and is taking full advantage of it, whether it be looking for new places to find food, explore new territory or even find a mate, as it is breeding season after all. Whatever the reason, it has made the current situation a little lighter for nature enthusiasts like myself.

Around my hometown of Lanark, I have been told about unusual sightings of otters strolling down main streets, foxes running around in parks also and roe deer wandering around outside shops and schools. All of them during daytime hours.

Fox (Vulpes vulpes). Photo: Daryl Smith

As a wildlife photographer I put a lot of time and effort into finding wildlife, especially the elusive species. I study their behaviour to gain a better understanding and subsequently achieve better photographs. But lately, even I have had a few unexpected wildlife encounters which I strongly believe only happened due to the reduced human presence.

A couple of weeks ago, while on my local daily walk, I got the pleasure of watching a male osprey soar overhead, scanning the water for the fish it preys on. I usually have to travel to the Cairngorms or the Loch of the Lowes to get good views of ospreys. But with the decreased amounts of walkers and the absence of fishermen, I got even better views in my hometown. The osprey even felt comfortable enough to stick around hunting for three consecutive days. I have seen ospreys fly over Lanark before during their spring and autumn migration, but only very short glimpses.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Photo: Daryl Smith

Nesting birds have also taken full advantage of lockdown. Reduced human presence has opened up new opportunities for them. It seems wherever I look there is a new nest. Each location more bizarre than the last. The most bizarre nest location I have discovered this year is inside the van we use at work. A few weeks back I got in the van to be welcomed by a robin sitting on the dashboard. I left the door open for her to fly out but she would not budge. Coming to my senses and realising there was only one viable reason for her to not fly away, I looked in the back to find a nest with five freshly laid eggs hidden inside one of the side panels. My colleagues or I use the van on a daily basis, but luckily due to the current restrictions, nobody had any real reason to use it anytime soon, so we let her and her mate use the safety of the van to raise their young. Over the past few weeks I have watched the young robins hatch and fledge the nest. In the coming days they will become independent and we will get our van back.

Robin nest inside van. Photo: Daryl Smith

Lockdown has shown me that we share this world with wildlife more than we may realise. Wildlife is thriving with our temporary absence and I just hope when we ease back into normality, that we can be careful and respectful enough not to disturb it. So while you are out on your daily walks I encourage you to look out for wildlife, even in the most unlikely of places. You never know what you might see.

Daryl Smith, wildlife photographer

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Local wildlife photographer Daryl Smith has been finding inspiration a lot closer to home as wildlife grows bolder during lockdown. Since the start of lockdown, we have been hearing stories …

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