Monday, 20 April 2009

Naked as Nature intended

Don't be alarmed, faithful reader, it isn't that sort of blog...

As the sun was shining and Buckinghamshire is still without an official 2009 damselfly sighting, I decided to be a bit more pro-active today. If the little blighters refuse to emerge from my pond, when counties all around are recording them AND some dragons, perhaps casting the net a bit wider might do the trick.

Whilst convalescing, I've only been toddling to the local shop and back at most, or being gently ferried at ridiculously slow speeds to our local nature reserve. My elder daughter amused me yesterday, as each car overtook us, she would yell "Neck brace, he's wearing a neck brace!". It seemed to make her feel better, at least.

Today, of course, is a different kettle of fish (non North East readers, please use a dictionary).
No handy lifts and a mission to accomplish. Not impossible, and is it not said that I look like Tom Cruise in the right light? Well, I say "light"... I mean "total darkness". The walk to the nature reserve is about a mile. Armed with only my British Dragonfly Society cap, a pair of sunglasses and hope, I set off on a solo adventure.

Upon leaving the house and heading up the old towpath, I couldn't help a wry smile, as I spotted four mallard sat on the roof of the large house with the big pond. Schadenfreude is a terrible thing.

Then it suddenly struck me... solo. I was on my own. Gulp. I wasn't nervous for health reasons, I just don't do natural history on my own these days. When was the last time I ventured out without a companion for conversation, identification advice or simply to share a silence?

Heck! And it gets worse. No optics. This is a bare bones trip, surviving on eyes and ears alone. Ooo, there's a bit of pressure. Set free from the umbilical cords of binocular and camera straps, it is instantly a much bigger world, alot of which is a long way away, and threatening to remain unidentified. Whilst I've not actually had a nightmare like this, it very much felt like one.

I soon discovered that it's a range thing. Instead of looking at binocular distance, it was much more important to concentrate on what was happening close up. There was a great deal of bird song, which took my rusty ears some time to figure out. Fortunately, a single individual padding along the path makes less noise than a group, and I was able to get closer than normal to several warblers. Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow, a distant Reed and oh, there's a Cetti's. I started to relax a bit, but then came a new arrival. Sounding a bit like two different bird calling one after the other, first a warbler, then a finch. It eventually dawned on me, Lesser Whitethroat! Neat. A cuckoo was calling far off, but today wasn't a day for Dad's trick of calling it in. Another time, perhaps. There were plenty of insects; butterflies, hover flies, bee flies, midges, bees, beetles, but no damsels. Despite today's heat, it just hasn't been warm enough for long enough yet. I searched all the favourite spots, but to no avail.

On the return trip, a blackthorn bush stopped me in my tracks. Judging from the songs emanating from within, it appeared to contain at least three different warblers. Whether this was the case, or it was one damn fine mimic, I'll never know, but it sounded like a mixture of a Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and a Sedge Warbler. And I was actually happy not knowing, which came as something of a shock in itself. I could listen and not have to find out, just simply enjoy the moment.


1 comment:

Ruth Walker said...

Oh my goodness gracious a solo excursion! NOOOOO!! As I thought when I started out reading this blog.

It was indeed a journey of realisation and relaxing into the fact that my dear Dad will be alright. It was the rest of the world that worried me, not the idea that you would totter into unsensible situations such as cars on roads or canal water because of course you still have much wit about you! And you're too young for tottering! But who or what would harm a man in a neck brace I thought to myself, and more importantly the small peices of countryside and greenery about you are very essentical to you as a person and they clearly make you very happy :) One can risk a lot for that sort of thing.

May your next voyage be successful. Enjoy using all your senses - only you might need to listen to wing movement in order to follow speedy dragons.