28 July 2020

2020 / 46

20:30 – 23:00
Mild evening, around 15°C. Clear bright sky. Half moon, waxing gibbous

It seems to have been rather a long time since I came here on my own, and a calm pleasant evening stroll is in order.
To make things easier for myself, every once in a while I park at the bottom of Woodside, taking advantage of my Forestry Commission ‘authorised’ status. Its a rare thing, but a treat occasionally when I am tired.

I have come primarily to have a look for badgers where the new activity is around the hole beside footpath. On my way down here in good evening light, there are two Rabbits at the edge of the field and a Roe Deer grazing at the bottom. The only bird sounds are that of a Wren clicking and ticking away somewhere, and the eerie squeaking of a young Buzzard calling persistently. Very difficult to locate, and in fact I think there are two birds – one in the Wood, and a second over towards the Roughs somewhere – calling to each other?
It is maybe a little early for badgers, and at 20:50 I am – inevitably – distracted by the mystery and endearing magic of the Nightjars when one male starts churring close by. In Marshall’s somewhere definitely. Scuttling round to get a bit closer I think he’s up in one of the ash trees, but his song is brief and intermittent. And then of course further away, up the Roman road cleared area. nice. I have had this bird before, but he’s still around…

The stillness in the Wood walking slowly is engaging and present, drawing into a welcome mindful state. I feel low, and drifting here is good. I am, probably, the only thing moving, and being aware of that moves me slowly, no footfall. The recent scouring has made the sandy track soft underfoot, and I can travel soundlessly.
Just coming up to my favoured watchpoint on the north side, where the track goes into the clearfell, and a Nightjar comes flying out towards me. Head high, circling and purposefully. A female. She is gently ‘çlucking’ and I call back. She banks, hovers and flies around me twice. I can see her eyes, and every detail of her complex and beautiful plumage; we are having a moment, and it is wonderful. I can see the rictal, sensory hairs around her open mouth as she twists; the steel grey outer flight feathers. For a second, this is best view I ever had. It feels personal.
And with a audible flick of her tail and a sweeping, graceful rise, she flies off into the trees. Out of the clearfell?

In her wake, two males are churring now, one somewhere in the middle, and one at the top end, near my sitting spot. I am hooked, and gently move towards the High Seat. It is uncanny, but I feel sure again that one of the birds is checking me out. He has crooned, rattle and hum; clapped and called repeatedly and flies past close – then suddenly banks, hovers and comes right over my head. He sees a perch on the adjacent Yew, and hovers there too, upright, like an angel. We converse. I am speaking aloud to this amazing creature, who has the grace to welcome me here.
As he settles to sing again, and perform one or two of the circling paper aeroplane flights they do, I can hear something else. Odd, as it is by now after 9.30pm “hwee-chuck chk chk” repeated persistently. Down by the stream, and of course – Stonechats!! I can still see reasonably well by the moonlight. Three birds, some distance off. Boy, for a showy bird these can be elusive. I thought I had missed them this year. Wonderful!

And as if celebrating for me, there is the distinct, piercing and welcome yap yap yap of a Hobby away to my left. This Wood is simply wonderful.

But I will not stay long, for it is their time. Within two weeks there will be young hatching. When the moon fills her place in the sky.

For now, and for the next half an hour or so that just glides away into the last of the light, I am watching bats. Long-eared Bats. They fly fast, but direct and level, their wings a blur. So close at times I can here them whirring. This is in the field, watching from the footpath. They are along the edge of the overhanging oak canopy and there are at least four of them

The more I see of this place and its creatures, the more humbling it becomes.
I am a guest in their home, and it is a delight and an honour to be so

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