Returning to the heath

My homeward journey passed the entrance to the heathland part of the old patch. As I approached I asked myself “Why not?” and decided that I had enough time to just have a short walk round it. I jostled down the access track – the familiar bumps and scrapes of my car serving as a reminder of bygone birding days. I remembered the layout of the lumps and ridges as though they were literally the back of my hand. There appeared my own private parking spot, a passing-place adjacent to the horse paddocks, a third of the way down the track and the starting point of the looping path I had established the previous year.

It felt fantastic to be back as I stepped out of the car. The paddock was stocked up with birds; a trio of Pied Wagtails’ ‘chizicked’ their way around the horse’s ankles, a Linnet whirred and buzzed on the wooden fence and Chaffinches bounded along the hedge-line, escorted on their way by energetic Blue Tits. Elation! I was energised by renewed positivity and motivation, banishing the memories of winter walks where not a bird was to be seen. I hopped the fence, powered by the positive experience of revisiting this place – how I’d missed this alien landscape, peppered with scrub, stark and open. How could somewhere so vacant seem so inviting?

I walked out into the centre of an open area of short grass, almost directly in the middle of the new heath. From here I beheld a 360-degree view of the entire site and here is where I stopped, breathed and filled my mind and lungs with the beautiful air of serenity – I felt like I had returned home. My meditative state was broken by a coarse ‘chack’ call directly above me, a bulky black thrush was flying low towards the distant treeline. It landed atop a small conifer – the scaly wing and remains of a white bib were irrefutable. I hadn’t been here for months and I was being welcomed by a bird that I had seen here more than anywhere else, a Ring Ouzel. This place always had a magic feel – a magnetic pull – and it always seemed to hold Ring Ouzel’s at the right times of the year.

After spending some time at this viewing spot, I decided to return to my car and as I prepared to move, I disturbed three birds from the ground nearby. They flew cautiously up to the gorse that had grown up around the southern fence-line, delivering yet another unmistakable call – the ‘tzeep’ of Redwing’s. How I had longed to hear this Autumnal arrangement again. I had expected this moment to occur at the Norfolk coast as they streamed in overhead in a strong east wind, not inland on a spartan heathland. Fantastic thrushes, welcoming me back to this special place. I couldn’t believe I had spent so long away from here, I was jubilant – positively buoyant, and my connection had just been plugged back in again.

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