BCC2’s Springwatch Easter Special last Monday was greatly enjoyed by us all, as Gilbert White, as the first ever ‘springwatcher’ was featured! As is always the way, much more was filmed here at his home than time allowed to show, but it was a fantastic opportunity to introduce a wider audience to Gilbert White, his garden and the amazing work he began.
Gilbert was a meticulous recorder of what happened around him – the arrival of birds, their song patterns, where they nested, what they ate, the weather day by day, the state of growth of every natural plant in his beloved village of Selborne, and the beautiful countryside beyond it. He described his own scientific method as “watching narrowly”, which is a very good way to describe it and here at his home we have exhibited may examples of Gilbert’s success of spending time ‘watching narrowly’ from his discovering and naming of the harvest mouse in 1767 to being the first person to establish that the Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler and Willow Wren where three different species. Unlike those who went before him, who killed and dissected specimans in order to learn about them, Gilbert allowed them to just ‘be’ and studied them over days, weeks, months and years in order to educate himself and others.
Thanks to programmes such as Springwatch, and popular presenters such as our own Patron Chris Packham, and Kate Humble (who we would love to have as a Patron!) birdwatching and appreciation of the natural world is enjoying a revival, so come along to Gilbert White’s House & Garden to see how the worlds first ecologist, not only studied but recorded the natural world.