Posted 18 July 2013 by Andrew Gardner
Yesterday, while cycling up a Sussex country lane that I use regularly, I came upon a tiny shrew scuttling across the Tarmac. I'm not brilliant at telling rodent species apart but its pointy snout was clearly visible, and on the bike it was easy to avoid running it over. In the past I've stopped the car at that same place when I've spotted, just in time, something small and furry about to cross and potentially get under my wheels, but from the cocoon of a vehicle it's hard to spot wildlife properly. It's so much easier from two wheels.
On a similar note, the other day, on foot, I saw a very impressive stag beetle in a residential street in Horsham, West Sussex I stared at it for some time, wondering what on earth it was doing there - visiting someone for Sunday lunch, perhaps? It was definitely on a mission of some sort. I've reported the sighting to Sussex Wildlife Trust as I gather stag beetles are quite rare; perhaps it had been disturbed by ongoing lamp-post replacement work.
As a horse rider as well, I've also noticed over the years that you see a lot more wildlife from the back of a horse than almost any other way. Shy species like deer and badgers aren't afraid of horses' hoofbeats, so as long as you're not chatting loudly you can find yourself in the privileged position of being right in among the wildlife.
My point is that you see and hear so much more if you leave the car behind. I realise it's not possible for everyone, but if that's the case then at least try to stop, open the doors and look and listen for long enough to appreciate your surroundings. Listen to the breeze, the birds, the insects and the rustlings in the undergrowth of small animals going about their business. Many of our pretty Sussex cottages and premier holiday homes are ideally placed for access to the countryside and seaside, while we also have luxury town apartments and it's amazing what you can spot in an urban environment.