28 November 2019

2019 / 86

13:00 – 15:30

Sunny and clear. Cold breeze from East, becoming overcast.
First bright day after a week of dullness and rain.

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The silence can be very loud here sometimes. I hear it calling, and have been unable to respond for too long. Moving house (again) is a stressful and destabilising process, distracting and dislocating.
There are times when I come here conscious of numbers, of changing bird populations, of records of this and that. How long it’s been since I last came, or what might be around the corner, or next on the list.

But here is the present. This is Now – and I am mindful of that within a few moments of walking into the trees. This is my Place, and has become the centre of who I am. In the Wood, there is only now; only this moment, or that. One can ‘step into’ not just another physical space, but an altogether different part of oneself; a hidden attic room that no-one else knows about, accessed only by pulling the heavy bed away from the panelled wall and climbing stairs to a balcony that looks out onto a new perspective.

Re-aligning and re-balancing. Sitting without guilt or favour; walking with neither direction or purpose. What is here is here, and I am at one one with the site to the extent that it knows me, understands and accepts my presence. It is my present – the space between past and future. Constant in a turbulent emotional world of domestic upheaval, political uncertainty, consumerism and progressive change.
The Wood changes too, but slowly, gently and with disregard (as far as it can) for the world ‘outside’.

I have left the car, and with it ‘the outside’, in Copse Lane today on the south perimeter of the Wood; and access between the fence around last house and the hedge that separates this property from its neighbour. Usually the place where I would leave my bike, but that habit has not yet formed to any committed extent. I feel rather ‘furtive’ and inclined to look about me in case someone should see and question my presence here, especially this way. I am in no mod to meet or speak to anyone this afternoon. I just want to see the afternoon sun on the gold and copper trees; to watch the building clouds; and to experience the winter light.

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Coming in this way, down the steep slope  between the Chilworth Pines, you get to see the clearfell differently and ‘sooner’ than you otherwise might.

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There are one or two songbirds – Robin and Wren – but it is quite dark herein. Redwings skitter away as I come through, crashing in clumsy human fashion over briar and root. I will encounter another half dozen ‘gangs’ this afternoon, and watch another 40 or so birds across the open space in the middle “where the MIzzies are”. Maybe 200 thrushes in all? There were two counts this morning in excess of 2500 and 5000 in different parts of the county. They like it here, where plentiful female holly trees produces an abundant crop of blood red berries.

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I am watchful of where the particularly enriched specimens are, taking notes to come back to in a week or three’s time for the Christmas table. Firecrest Alley seems especially well endowed. I have come here by way of the stream course in the middle, where it is very damp underfoot and green water sits in pools and swampy patches.
Am I hopeful to flush a Snipe…?

Where there is holly, and in sheltered spots when the sun is shining, there will be Firecrests, and by the time I get up to the Crossing I have met five at least. Nodding, just passing. The ‘best’ spot today is in Upper Velmore, where I have found a line of holly that seems to mark the edge of an old planting and runs perpendicular away from the widened, grassy path. Now the leaves have gone, more of the Wood’s inner secrets are revealed to the keener eye, and access to them is (a little) easier. Here are three bejewelled birds, foraging together.
They call differently at this time of year. Each note is slower and ‘thinner’, and there is a longer pause between them. They have different things to say.

My notebook reminds me that I have by now seen two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and that I am out on the track where Q2 starts. A flock of tits is moving through ahead of me. 40 birds I think – quite a large group. The hissing and buzzing rises in pitch and becomes a loud cacophony as a Sparrowhawk goes over. The same bird returns within ten minutes, gliding fast back towards the clearfell.

I have become aware of a Strata Among Thrushes. And what a wonderful album title that would make…
Blackbirds keep low in November, fast and direct, but barely clearing the ground.
At the base of bushes, Robins flit and flurry. Singing wintersong.
Song Thrush halfway higher, trying not to be seen.
Hiding among garrulous Redwings, swarming like sparrows.
Mizzy above them all, high in the Yews

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