Daily diary 06.05.20
The trees on the old estate are magnificent at the moment. The Horse Chestnut seem set in the cabbage field like pieces on a chess board. Flower panicles like candles on a candelabra. The abandoned carriage drive meanders down through the grass. The tarmac is barely visible now. Once lined with Common Lime and Sessile Oak, other species have encroached: Norway Maple; White Elm, and Hawthorn. The Wild Cherry (prunus avium – ‘of the birds’) has finished flowering. The Bird Cherry (prunus padus – ‘wild cherry’) has yet to flower. Confused?. So am I!, but the bullfinches aren’t. They love them both.
9pm. I’m on the overgrown cricket field again, hopeful for a roding woodcock. Must be daft. Normal people are tucked up watching telly. First out are the pipistrelles. Two rocket skyward from the roofless pavilion. In the graffiti covered interior where cream teas used to be served the bats roost secure. Then, on the edge of darkness four brown long-eared bats emerge. ‘Fielding’ moths on the boundary at deep square leg. Up and down the tree line, gliding in between twists and turns just above head height. Consummate carnivores. In the leaf litter behind me a wood mouse feasts on burst beech mast. A tawny owl patrols the tree tops. The roe deer hind in the orchard barks out three times, ‘time for bed’... said Zebedee?. So sans woodcock I clock off. Leave the night shift to it.
Daily diary 09.05.20
Round the hill contours the canal, wending its weedy way to Barnsley. Paralleled by the rusty rails of the former Midland Railway line from Leeds. Like Fairburn, the industrial dereliction is being replaced by nature. With it there are post industrial sounds: a pig like squealing in the reeds from a non- metallic rail; a sewing machine like reel from a warbler that thinks it’s an insect, practicing its own doppler shift as it moves its head from side to side; a swoop of screaming swifts instead of coal train wheels.
At the ruinous coking plant we were treated to a musical interlude; ‘on hearing the first cuckoo in spring’ – slipping off over the poplar trees, falcon like stalking a singing sedge warbler. Over the spoil heap, three versions of ‘the lark ascending’. Disappearing specks in the blue.
photo Alex Alyward
The finale was a ghostly performance. Emergent from its nest box in the pallet yard. Tyto alba, in broad daylight. A white marionette dancing through the trees and over the grassland looking, listening for unsuspecting voles. Stiff-winged, silent, pirouetting, plunging. Spellbinding.
Now I feel refreshed. Refurbished, like an old server. Ready to be re-booted for the RSPB!.
Postscript. Saturday. 2pm. Heath Common. Enormous bird with white wedge tail and powerful cream neck thermals up to the south. Circles then glides off in the direction of Walton Country Park. Two have been roosting up Eskdale in the NY Moors Park for several weeks now. Keep your eyes peeled!.
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