Sunday, 17 October 2010

Hurried potter and the Angel of Death

Following a morning trip to the dump, to add some hedge clippings to the green waste container, by lunchtime there was still quite a nip in the air, courtesy of a northeasterly breeze. 

However, ambling hurriedly between bird hides to escape rain showers, the Admiral and I were able to find a few sheltered spots on our local patch, where insects were bathing in the weak midday sun as if their lives depended on it. Which, of course, they do.

All of us, really.

A Speckled Wood butterfly basked on a Comfrey leaf, Common Darters and a Common Blue Damselfly found warm places to perch and a dozen or so shield bugs were being amorous in the long grass. Later research showed them not to be Forest Bugs, as first thought, but a species with no common name, Picromerus bidens.

In this sleepy little backwater by the River Great Ouse, there were few migrating birds about. We did see the occasional Redwing and spotted 4 Snipe on the bund. In fact, it was whilst looking for further Snipe, that we witnessed a harrowing event, at least for us and the unfortunate victims.

Those visions in purest white, herald angels of climate change, Little Egrets, are a well-established sight in this area and two of them were foraging on the edge of the bund. One bird seemed distracted from the usual "staring into the water" method of seeking prey (I very nearly wrote "pray" to continue a poor analogy) and was looking up in the air. Unsure as to what predator would cause this reaction or whether it was seeking divine inspiration, I continued to watch through my binoculars, as the egret then dashed along the shore and fixed its gaze above a patch of water by some reeds. There, to my horror, was a pair of darters ovipositing in tandem, oblivious to the impending danger. Now I realised what the egret had been doing. It had watched the dragonflies fly in from wherever they had mated, and saw the opportunity for a quick snack. One lightning quick stab of its bill and that was that, though I like to think that in the few seconds before their doom, the darters managed to sow the fertile seeds of a new generation. Life will rise again from the aquatic world and their sacrifice will not have been in vain.


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