How to translate birdsong and find fantastic beasts
PUBLISHED: 18:19 18 December 2018
Norfolk nature writer Simon Barnes reveals how to look beyond the everyday to find a world of magic waiting.
Can you conjure badgers from the twilight, translate birdsong, read the footsteps of animals or charm snakes from the undergrowth?
Can you make invisible things visible and find fantastic beasts in your home country?
Simon Barnes has loved the natural world from childhood.
Spellbound by the wildlife he sees all around him, the Norfolk conservationist, bird-watcher and writer has devised 23 ways to discover nature. His journey into the deep magic of our real wildlife is enhanced by excursions to the fantasy worlds of Narnia, Hogwarts and Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
“We’ve lost the habit of looking and seeing and listening and hearing,” he says, but adds: “We too can say the spell for making hidden things visible… Mammals you never knew existed will enter your world. Birds hidden in the treetops will shed their cloak of anonymity. With a single movement of your hand you can make reptiles appear before you. Butterflies you never saw before will bring joy to every sunny day.”
Simon’s very practical spells rely on drawing our attention to the wildlife all around us – in city and suburb as well as the countryside. He begins with a tree which grows everywhere from gardens to wasteland, but comes with its own summoning spell. The buddleia summons butterflies and you can enhance the joy and beauty of a butterfly sighting by learning the names of the five most frequently drawn to the tree.
Simon, who lives near Loddon, is a big believer in the magic of naming things, and then appreciating each tree or flower or bird more, because you know its name.
His new book, Rewild Yourself, helps readers distinguish between the different types of duck, find the routes used by deer or otter, sit still and quiet enough to see a kingfisher, tell the names of birds from their songs and shape a piece of tin to tempt reptiles. It casts 23 spells to open eyes, ears and hearts to the natural world all around.
Rewild Yourself, 23 spellbinding ways to make nature more visible, by Simon Barnes, is published by Simon and Schuster in hardback for £14.99.