It’s been a torrid time of late – well, only inside my mind. Previous blogs have documented my social media struggles, but hopefully that’s all been knocked on the head now, as I’ve allowed someone I trust, to login and change my Twitter password so I simply can’t access it. I can now sink back into a routine of work and family life, without trying to be something that I’m not. I can also focus on what I really enjoy – writing.
After work yesterday, I decided to offset some of the muddling thoughts I’ve been having, by making a long-awaited return to the water-bearing part of my patch. I parked up, readied my optics and walked out onto the luscious ‘fairway’ leading down to the main lake. Past drooping Willows and spindly Hawthorns, the walk was green and pure – cleansing my mind and cushioning my being. It felt amazing to be back.
I strolled into the shaded passage that leads to the lake edge. A natural underpass that opens out onto the lime-green waters, that in late-summer, resemble some kind of kale and kiwi smoothie that’s been poured over its surface. I was daydreaming – remembering why I love this place so much – when a ‘Tuuuuuuui, tu, tu, tui, tui’ punctuated the stillness. A Sandpiper. Green. There was more than one – where were they? My binoculars raised and I strafed the lake until one swept into my view with a flurry awkward and pulsating wing-beats. It desperately fluttered on the algal-blooms, looking for a footing, then realised that it’s favoured muddy edges don’t exist here. Two met up and hurriedly searched for a landing spot, then another joined them, before all three seemed to coalesce and form an upwardly-spiralling pirouette – up and over the far treeline and away. Their calls diminishing as they disappeared from view.
I scanned the lake some more. The ducks had started to amass there again; Gadwall, Mallard and Teal dominated. There were four Little Grebes by the reeds on the far edge, the most I’d seen there in a year or so. The Cygnets were almost adult-size now. Specks of snow-white starting to glimmer through their grey-lintel down. Then a chitter-chatter descended, as a small group of Martins and Swallows dropped in, to scoop up a drink from the lake in front of me. I lowered my optics, left my scope and just stood, watching them with the ‘naked’ eye. It reminded me of the innate wonder of birds – sometimes you don’t need the optics and you don’t need to get closer to be with birds. Their beauty is often best beheld in these moments.
I walked on, under the Alders and down to the dense scrubby area in the southeast corner. A veritable warbler warren, this scrub was often densely packed with birds and I noted the abundance of Elderberries this year. Had I noticed these before, or were my senses at that heightened stage where you become attuned to place and purpose? Autumn was shifting into play and this would be a good place to keep an eye on. To the here and now though, there was a fair amount of skulking movement within the intertwined branches – time to focus. Such an abundance of Chiffchaffs, communicating with each other using gentle ‘hu-weet’ calls – a family party, I was sure. They kept flicking up and over into the same place in the scrub. Their home, I warmly thought.
A yellower bird, sleeker and more assured, came into view. A Willow Warbler, wearing that fresh lemon curd coat, then another. A bulkier bird bumbled along the branches, chestnut tones with a soft-grey face – a Common Whitethroat. Then I was distracted as a bird shot out of the Alder above me, only to return on the exact trajectory it left on and to the same spot. It did it again. A small bird, light in colour, but assertive in its flight course. I knew that motion. It was a Flycatcher. I watched until it flew again and I could track it back to the branch which it left from. Yes. A Spotted Flycatcher. Such demure and gentle looking birds. Beautiful and such posers, as this photo shows.
I had returned. Walked those familiar pathways and thought those rejuvenating thoughts. The thoughts that formed the underpinning of my book. I had fallen back into, and back in love with, the local landscape. My place. My patch. We were reacquainted,