There are two answers to this, one of which is long, rambling and phiosophical. It will tae some work before I inflict that one on the blog-reading public! But there is also an answer which is more practical and concrete, and ready to my mind.
Short answer, of course, is ‘a hell of a lot!’ This year I have tried to record the species of birds, trees, flowers and animals that I see in my small territory, (all the big easy species, that is. Grasses, mosses and insects will have to wait until I get the big things clear in my head) and this really brings into focus not just how scrappy my observations are, but how little real attention I pay them.
I haven’t had too many surprises, nor seen much that I haven’t seen before – though I realise that there is a treecreeper I’ve been classifying under the heading of rather energetic sparrow. But I’m more aware of the context of what I’ve seen.
For instance, the gulls. There aren’t any species that I was missing, but now I notice that the black-backed gulls congregate on the flat mossy roof of a warehouse beside the river – and they are nesting there just now, while the blacked- headed ones live up by the Auld Brig in winter, but don’t hang about much now the good weather has come.
I’m noticing the dominant birdsongs – starlings in January curlews and oyster-catchers in March, blackbirds and chaffinches this month – and nesting behaviours, and realising that the sparrow chat, which is fairly constant, has changed just this week, as the first nestlings are beginning to make their demands known.
I’m realising that I’ve been absorbing this knowledge for a long time, but it’s only now that I want to record it, that I’m getting the significances – that the line of poplars beyond the orchard was planted as a wind-break, that birds won’t come to a feeder placed too close to the fence because that’s where the sparrow-hawk sits, that the lavendar bushes aren’t doing so well in their new hedge because where the horsetail is growing, the sub-soil will be too wet for them.
So there are no big thrills, just a growing sense of being at home here, of knowing who my neighbours are, and where I fit in.