Nature note

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The Independent Online
NATURE NOTE

For anyone who wants to watch wildlife, the most important precept is to keep still. By walking straight through a wood, you clear the ground ahead of you; but if you sit down and remain motionless for a while, you become part of the scenery, and greatly increase your chances of seeing some memorable sight. Out in the country, nothing attracts attention like movement. To a static observer, one flick of a deer's ear will betray the fact that a large animal is standing in a thicket, otherwise unseen. Cats and foxes employ stillness as a form of attack, crouching motionless, and therefore unnoticed, as prey comes into range; but many animals and some birds instinctively use immobility in defence. A pheasant, surprised out in a field, will crouch down and not move a muscle till danger passes. A squirrel disturbed by passing humans runs up a tree, flattens itself on a branch and does not shift again until the coast is clear. To numerous wild creatures, stillness is salvation.

Duff Hart-Davis

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