Swallows and Bluebells, Honey Monsters and Black & White Minstrels…..

Tuesday April 12th : Early morning at Site B. Warm sun, cloudless sky. Skittish sheep, eleven wonderful horses saying ‘Hello’. Swallows on the fence, nearly all males with long streamers, waiting for their females. Early bluebells behind the shed. Fallow Deer grazing just a stone’s throw away. Ospreys, Red Kites, Buzzards, Sparrow Hawks and Kestrels throughout the morning….Is this paradise? Have I been translocated?

No, it’s real, it’s actually real. I walked here this morning for the first time since last August. I said ‘Good Morning’ to the same man out with his dog. I first met him years ago. He knows why I’m here, and he knows I know he knows. We never talk about it. No need. I walk down the edge of a big field. I recall a day back in May 2007 when I had an experience here I don’t wish to have again : a tumultuous storm with torrential rain, constant spectacular flashes of lightning with virtually instantaneous huge thunder claps ~ and, yes, I was carrying a metal tripod and telescope. Crazy cattle and manic horses charging around…..

Today is so different : weather serene and calm, livestock browsing placidly. Blackcap and Song Thrush singing lustily in the woods. In musical terms, one scene was Gotterdammerung, this one is more ‘A Pastoral Symphony’.

And they’re here of course, the pair I’ve come to monitor. They’re here all morning virtually, housekeeping, preening, mating, eating, chasing, watching, flying, but mostly sitting still…..and sitting still…..and sitting still. I watch them closely, intently, continuously, unerringly, until my eye aches from staring down the lens at maximum x60 strength. I love them even more when they do nothing, when they look safe, strong and secure in their world. I come closer to their psyche here than I can do anywhere else. I reach a point of total absorption. I am on Osprey time now. I’ve gone ‘Through the Looking Glass’. I’m lost to my everyday world.

Sudden jolts, sudden distractions. Go away, annoying Magpies. Away to the right, a strange shape catches my eye. In the middle of a crop field, a revolving scarecrow has started to turn as the wind picks up. In the shape of a fat man with bulbous eyes and stubby limbs,  bright yellow one minute and then black and white on the other side ~ one moment a sort of Honey Monster and then the next a bizarre relic from the Black & White Minstrel Show. It whizzes round in the gusts. A flock of Wood Pigeons go down in the field close to it. It revolves frantically; they feed contentedly. I can’t resist a smile.

It’s broken the spell. There’s no time to settle again ~ for them or for me. I witness a swift movement from the south-west and it’s the female returning  with a clump of nest lining, but at much greater speed than has been her wont, and with another Osprey in hot pursuit. Her mate quickly joins the fray and for a few moments all three are twisting and turning in the air over the wood. It’s over as quickly as it began. The two males chase away, while she returns to add the grasses to her nest. Calm is restored as the Lord of the Manor returns and gently but firmly asserts his marital rights once more, for the fifth time this morning.

One more indelible image a few seconds later : I see a shape coming in low over the field towards me. It hoists onto a post just a few yards in front of me. Yellow eyes burn into mine. Orange-striated breast feathers are ruffled in the breeze. A perfect image of total wildness and freedom : a male Sparrowhawk.

I’m done here for now. The human world approaches. Later I flick a CD onto the car stereo. It’s Delius : A Walk in the Paradise Garden.  And that’s where I’ve been.

One response to “Swallows and Bluebells, Honey Monsters and Black & White Minstrels…..”

  1. Valerie

    Wonderfully written Ken thank you , some people might not remember the Black & White Minstrels !!! I do thou !!! Sounds like Paradise you lucky thing – thank you for taking the time to write .