Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections: Ceri Levy

Ceri Levy | 21st January 2020

It’s time once again for the annual series of postings we like to call Shadows and Reflections, in which our contributors and friends look back on the past twelve months. From Ceri Levy:

It has been five years since we left London to live in the countryside and in that time my city soul has been replaced by that of a country-dweller, one step removed from the big issues of the day. It’s not that I’m out of touch with what’s going on, but I care more about other things now. I see the natural world in front of me and reflect that it’s been a good year for the sparrows that live in the hedge at the end of the garden. They’ve bred well and that chirruping is now bigger and brighter than I can ever remember as the flock’s ranks have swollen from about 12 to more than thirty. This makes me happy. They are my permanent birds, the ones that don’t leave me, along with the tits, finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, blackbirds, dunnocks and robins. Fam. My favourite holiday-makers are the redwing that have appeared in the last few weeks. They have travelled from Russia and Scandinavia to bask in the warmth of our winters and I hear them before I ever see them as they migrate through the night and their calls permeate the darkness. On arrival I see them flying and swooping in flocks around the area and they seem to march ever closer to my garden and will strip the berries and the tiny crab apples that await them. The moment is near and already a few solo birds have made a recce of the situation and I know that soon I will wake to find two hundred or so redwing furiously stripping their fuel from the relevant trees and bushes. It’s a breathless affair, and after some serious gorging, it will be all over — satisfied, they will retreat back to the wilder environs that surround me. I call this moment The Redwing Solstice. They never come back to thank me or see how I’m doing. There is no love but I can cope with that. We’re keeping the relationship platonic and professional as their ongoing well-being is all that matters. 

What an action-packed year this has been. I have done so much that I enjoyed doing, including being on the professional tennis tour for a while, talking to tennis players who towered over me, which made everything seem like a comedy. That’s me doing a walk and talk interview with Sam Querrey, the American tennis player. 

I also spent a great deal of time out on the road with the magnificent Doves as they wowed every crowd they played in front of, even in seemingly never-abating rain, which plagued so many festivals this summer. I took this opportunity to take some photos and there are a few I am particularly proud of. 

2019 was also the year that Gonzovation and gonzovationists became words that were used other than by Ralph and myself and perhaps one day they may make it into the Oxford dictionary. That would be a blast and the definition would read thus:


  1. alternative conservation through the act of gonzovating and exhibiting compassion for the natural world.
  2.  the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources to include forests, earth and water.


  1. an alternative conservationist.
  2.  a person who makes sense from the nonsense.

Vans, the clothing company, launched our environmentally friendly Gonzovation range of clothes, and made shoes, skateboards and tees representing endangered creatures from our Critical Critters book. This was to highlight the dangers of extinction faced by many species in the world today and it raised a considerable amount of money for WildAid (, a wonderful charity that works on behalf of so many animals. It’s a mere drop in the ocean of what we, as a species needs to actually do to change the lives of so many of our co-habitants and as gonzovationists, we know we can all do more, change our thought processes and be more compassionate to our natural world. Ralph and I came up with our Gonzovation Manifesto, which can be found in full here.

Meantime I will sign off with a word from our friends, the wildlife of this planet.

Ode from the Extinct, Nextinct and the Critical

Do not let us disappear from view
Keep our presence close to you
Our extinction is hardly fair
Us, the abused, need your care
For once we are all but gone
Reversal of fortune will take too long

Oh one last thing, Ralph painted my portrait and I really think he caught my best side.