A matter of time

  • Some animals naturally do the same thing at exactly the same time every day

I recently dropped my watch and of course it broke. For the first time in thirty-eight years I am timeless and, as most of my life I have had to keep to time, I feel completely lost and will remain so until it comes back from the official repairer in Malaga.

Animals do not have to rely on such devices, they have a natural instinct. We once lived very close to a river and every evening a flock of Canada geese flew down the river at the same time with a slight variation according to the time of the year.

In springtime they would vary the time by a few minutes as the evenings grew longer and in the autumn they would adjust by a few minutes as the evenings grew shorter. They disregarded the weather. Rain or shine they stuck to their time routine so we could tell the time by them. We had to depend on a mechanical device so the routine was only interrupted by human interference, like putting the clocks forward in spring or back in autumn.

Listen to the birds outside. They start singing on time every morning. Crickets start chirping al together without a conductor to keep them in action at the precise moment.

Animals and birds have a keen sense of time. It is one of the many wonders of nature; observers can discover many more.

When we lived in the heart of Dartmoor my son Neil used to drive from London every Friday, arriving in the evening to spend the weekend with us. Digger, our lovely Labrador, knew it was Friday because we went shopping but that evening he took up his position at the window at seven in the evening, knowing Neil would be arriving in the next hour or possibly less. There was no alarm clock or watch for Digger.

Animals have many natural faculties that we as humans have lost as we became more and more dependent on mechanical devices. That is why we call on their assistance in search and rescue operations as well as weather warnings. Even the basic ant warns of earthquake events and the University of Moscow keeps them for that purpose.