Hello and welcome to another of my rambles.
This time I want to talk to you about my first walk along a nearby river, since lockdown began.
On Sunday 7th June, it was decided that we would emerge from our cave for the last few months. With some trepidation I have to admit, we ventured out, down roads and country lanes I haven’t seen since March, and what a transformation. Even glimpsing the lush green road verges and canopies swaying in the breeze was such a welcome sight.
We parked up in a pretty busy parking area and we were glancing nervously around us. We headed to the direction of the river, there was a huge family of Long Tailed Tits, flitting over the road, to and fro, criss-crossing over the road from pavement to pavement to make sure we were two metres apart from other people, we eventually made it through, and the sweet sounds of nature filled the air. The damp, fresh earth filled your nose and the sound of the wind blowing through the still green barley was very therapeutic.
At last we made it to the country lane, with open fields either side, we entered the woodland directly in front of us. The shade crept in whilst brightly coloured splodges of rhododendron flowers broke up the dark green of the woods. Past the country house with the rustic wooden swing in the garden and back out into the open air. We were greeted by a cacophony of birds swooping and diving, catching flying insects over a sea of barley. Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and Sand Martins twittering all around. It has to be one of the most welcome sounds of summer. To think that these small, but athletic birds have travelled from Africa to this quintessentially English field in the North East is quite a thought, and lifts my soul every year.
Turning away from the swifts and the Hirundines, we floated through a cloud of cow parsley down to the river. With elderflower guarding the wings, the scene opens up with the river taking centre stage. The once stark and bare hedgerows, were now literally full of life and you could hear nestlings begging for food as a winged bullet of a Great Tit dived into the foliage.
I can’t eloquently tell you how much life there was along that river. It was buzzing with life, There were yet more Swifts, Swallows and Martins flying above us. In the fields over the river, a skylark was singing it’s heart out with it’s glorious tune. The beginning of a Yellowhammer song could just faintly be heard thanks to the reduced traffic noise, something which I have not heard for years.
Every now and then we had to deviate away from the main dirt track, down well trod paths made by fishermen to make way for other people and their dogs to make it safely past. It was when we were returning from the fisherman’s path that one of the most amazing things happened to be that I shall never forget.
After waiting for a walker to get past, we spotted a wren among the hogweed leaves. Once the walker had walked past and most of us had made it back to the main dirt path, there was a sudden sharp skirmish in the undergrowth and as we looked round to see what was happening, my line of sight was filled with Wrens!
A Wren nest must have been disturbed and they had fled the nest. But as I looked up in complete shock, nothing could prepare me for what happened next. One little Wren in particular was fluttering directly towards me, face on, with only inches to spare.
I did not know what on earth to do! I instinctively put my hand out in a brief thought to catch the poor bird if it flew into me and fell to the ground, but the little chap was more mature than I originally gave it credit for. With an amazing piece of aerial gymnastics, the fledgling quickly changed direction and I ducked slightly, and felt a sharp, but light needle sensation on my scalp.
Yes that’s right, the fledgling Wren decided to land on my head!
Now sadly, because I was chosen to be the object of rest, I couldn’t see it. But my family around me were in a state of a combination of excitement, shock and ‘dumfoundedness’ at what was sitting on their youngest’s head! I am told the little fellow looked quite happy, looked around at my gobsmacked family, rested for a few seconds before taking off to take shelter in the hedgerow behind me, to wait for mum or dad to feed it.
Now if that is not magic, then I don’t know what is. I can’t describe to you how utterly amazing this encounter was, and to know that all fledglings were safe and physically able to avoid the presence of predators (providing they didn’t land on them!), put my anxious mind at rest.
Once we had recovered from the shock of this encounter we carried on our way, very much aware that we did not want to disturb them any more.
But we had only made it about 12m further down the river when an unusual sight met our eyes. A common tern was following the river downstream. Usually seen at the coast, this was an unusual sight, but a lovely one. Also something I loved was that there was still a faint scent of Wild Garlic left in the woodland and the seed heads remained. Nothing beats that smell in a wooded glade during a long walk.
I cannot wait to go back and get more fresh air and another dose of vitamin N.
Have you been anywhere recently and had an unusual encounter with nature?