My day job as a General Manager of a leading Norfolk waste collection service mostly keeps me contained and constrained within an urban and office environment, which is why I hold my countryside time so precious. Today, they let me out of the cage to conduct a bin-condition survey with one of our key clients following a contract renewal. The venue was the University of East Anglia, on the fringe of Norwich and adjoining Earlham Park. The UEA is a centre of environmental excellence, drawing academics and students from all over the world. It’s grounds, which include a broad (lake) and border the River Yare. Walking the campus today with my client, counting and inspecting waste bins, I had (as a shooting naturalist) one eye on the wildlife. How I wish I had taken my DSLR! One bird I struggle to photograph in the wild is the jay. In the wild, a furtive species. Today, on more than one occasion, I stood within six feet of foraging jays. Magpies were hopping around near the bin compounds. Carrion crows and grey squirrels sat staring at me within ten yards. Rabbits? The UEA flower beds, shrubberies and lawns heave with rabbits feeding openly in the summer sunshine. As I watched, crooked old academics and vibrant young students passed by them all without even a glance and none of the creatures seemed to feel threatened. I captured a poor picture of a browsing rabbit with my mobile phone and it ran, immediately, feeling threatened by my attention. On the estates where I have shooting permission, all these would be considered vermin, yet here they thrive unchallenged. They are ‘loved’ by the institution and part of its culture. As they say, one mans weed is another mans flower.
Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, June 2015