Last night I had the strangest dream. Well, I say ‘last night’, but I think it must have been early this morning, just before I awoke, because it was still vivid as the alarm sounded at 6.00am. I dreamt I arrived at the Site B watch-point for my usual 8.00am start, and found Prince William and Kate Middleton in the hut watching the nest. The odd thing was I wasn’t at all shocked or surprised, but simply asked them if they’d had a good shift, and if there was anything to report. I don’t remember anything else, except that, instead of walking back by the usual route which we all use, they went behind the hut and simply vanished…..
The image is still with me as I park at the usual spot an hour or so later, and my imagination starts to work overtime. Didn’t I hear that the newly married couple would be spending the Bank Holiday weekend at an ‘undisclosed destination’ in the UK? What better than Site B, with its seclusion, peace and quiet…..and a little camp bed? Certainly no paparazzi here! And of course there is royal precedent ~ William’s grandfather Prince Philip visited the Osprey Project in the early years. ‘Lovely spot, Will,’ I can hear him saying, ‘Yes, take her up there for a day or two.’ No sign of an open-top Aston Martin, but of course they wouldn’t come in that, would they? Too obvious. There is a dark green Toyota here this morning which looks familiar. I pause at a gate on my walk to jot a few things down before I forget them. Just as I’m doing so, a small blue helicopter flies over quite low. That’s it then. They’ve gone. I missed them by minutes.
At the watch-point, Paul is carrying out the induction of a new volunteer. Very thoroughly. Best not to share my dream at this point. After the usual exchange of news, they depart, and I settle down. It’s an amazing morning again ~ chilly, but clear and bright. Yesterday’s high wind has calmed down a little. Both the Ospreys are here, looking relaxed and content. The log shows no evidence of intrusions today so far, and a small fish was shared about an hour ago. So all is well as we reach almost the mid-point of incubation. As always I divide my shift into hour-long sections, allowing myself a small treat on the hour. At 9.00 it’s a coffee and a modest biscuit ~ just as a muntjac passes right in front of me without a care in the world. The male Osprey leaves in a north-easterly direction at this point. A Whitethroat is singing his scratchy song every few seconds, and I locate him on the edge of the crop-field, rising into the air and descending again with parachute-like wings and tail. Another of my favourites, a Jay, comes and cautiously inspects a patch of ground just a few metres away. Over the two-way radio, I hear the watcher at Lyndon reporting a very obliging Grasshopper Warbler, which is reeling away from an exposed perch just outside Wader Scrape hide. I hope it stays until I’m there again. A movement to my left : it’s our male Osprey sweeping in from the south-west ~ the exact opposite direction to that in which he departed ~ with a silvery red-finned roach safely stowed in the undercarriage. He eats for fifteen minutes, and then delivers it to the nest. She takes it to the same perch he has just vacated. This is text-book behaviour. I mentally award them an A*.
Is it just me, or is everything extraordinarily bright today? My awareness seems suddenly heightened, all my senses more acute, my vision sharper and more defined. The sky is a superb, beautiful, cloudless blue, the trees various hues of brilliant green, the crop a dazzling yellow. I get a feeling ~ an almost tangible sense of anticipation ~ that something is going to happen. And it does….and for once it’s not the Ospreys which are responsible.
Suddenly the blue sky is full of Swifts, dozens of them. I’ve hardly had a single Swallow all morning, but then in a second the Swifts are back! And what a place to see my first Swifts of the year! On the walk back, I’m trying to remember the words of a brilliant poem called ‘Swifts’ by Ted Hughes. I stop by my favourite gate again, and with four graceful horses as my companions, I write down the few lines that I can recall :
‘Look! They’re back! Look!
They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit,
Three or four together,
They disappear as quickly as they arrived, pressing ever northward. Back at the parking spot, still no open-top Aston Martin. It was all a dream. But the Swifts, the wonderful Swifts….they were real.