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Nature Can Beat Lockdown – Michael McLaughlin

Snowy winter scene in Glasgow

During my first year of studies with SRUC on the BSc Wildlife and Conservation course, the world has been gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and everyone has had to spend much more time indoors or in their local area. This can put pressure on our wellbeing and I’ve found it vital to get outdoors and explore my local area. The old sayings that “fresh air is good for you” have really come into play this year. I thought I would document my findings in this blog and tell everyone to use the power of our natural world to get through these difficult times.

I am very lucky to live right beside the river Clyde in Glasgow and the top picture is the view from my living room window. The silver birch taking centre stage is certainly beautiful and this is amplified by the snowy winter we have all “enjoyed”. I have watched this tree change throughout the year and walked past it daily to get a closer look at the changes. Little things like this have proved very important during lockdowns and provide a little lift when we most need it. The dusky pink sky is beautiful on frosty mornings too!

I like to jog in the morning too and I try to get out for at least 30 minutes regardless of the weather. Here I am with frost stuck to my beard on one of the coldest mornings of the year. Exercise is so important during lockdown when we can feel down about spending too much time on the sofa.

Student Michael McLaughlin pictured with frost stuck to his beard.

I have a particular interest in trees and have enjoyed trying to identify them during the winter months – this is much more difficult as we use the leaves normally to confirm our ID skills. One of the units in my first year is Classification and Identification of Organisms and we were provided with some documents to help us ID trees.

A sketch identifying the leaves of different British Trees.

I have been using these to get out and about. We can use winter twigs and berries too to ID trees. During the pandemic, it’s become a bit of an obsession of mine to try and learn as many trees as possible and using YouTube as well as class material has proved quite successful but there is always much more learning to be done.

I don’t claim to be a good artist by any stretch of the imagination but as part of our ID unit, we are producing a logbook of species we have observed and identified throughout the course of the year. We have to add an annotated sketch of the animal or plant and explain some key characteristics about it. As you can see below, my drawing skills definitely do not do these wonderful creatures justice but I enjoy sketching them anyway.

An annotated sketch of a Bullfinch

This Bullfinch was sitting quite happily in Queens Park, Glasgow and didn’t seem to mind me creeping up on it to try and capture a decent picture.

Also, you can see below that my silhouette photo of this little treecreeper made for a lovely photograph but I needed to added detail to show how I identified the bird. Again, I am definitely no artist!!

A silhouette of a Treecreeper on a thick tree branch.An annotated sketch of a Bullfinc

Getting wrapped up warm and going for a long walk really clears the mind and snow always makes this even more fun. A short drive from Glasgow and you can find yourself in the countryside with nothing but fields, woodland and wildlife surrounding you. This escapism is what makes the great outdoors so appealing to everyone and more accessible than you might think. My partner and I spent hours exploring Langlands Moss Nature Reserve in East Kilbride. We saw lots of wrens hopping around and got to really appreciate some very tall Scots Pines – again the snow really makes the place look like a winter wonderland. I also managed to step on what I thought was solid ice and plunge my foot into freezing cold mud! I do not recommend doing this.

Student Michael McLaughlin sat on a fence in some snowy woods

The Campsies are also within easy reach of Glasgow and, so, provided a great day of hiking and exploring. The college winter break provided me with lots of time on my hands and with cafes closed, friends and family visits out of bounds and travel restrictions – I feel lucky that I have so much greenspace and stunning landscapes at my fingertips.

Michael standing atop a snowy hill looking out into the distance

Lastly, I wanted to bring things right back to home with more snaps of creatures that I have spotted in Glasgow Green and Richmond Park. Both of these parks are minutes from the centre of Glasgow City Centre with its pollution and (normally) busy roads and streets. I find it amazing that stunning wildlife can thrive on the doorstep of Scotland’s largest city and I enjoy watching it everyday. This pandemic will pass and it is now just a matter of time but it is not easy. We have all been cut off from loved ones and students and college staff have had to change their working, studying and social lives drastically. This is unfair on all of us but nature can provide better the perfect anecdote to any winter blues and I challenge everyone to get out and explore safely!

A picture of Glasgow Green at dawn with beautiful orange and pink tones in the sky

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