Sitting in my garden I reflect on what I just experienced and allow it to penetrate my very being…
As I walk along the well-worn path through the wheat, my attention is, as ever distracted by birds. My body is acutely aware that the sun is shining, I am enjoying the warming heat, so welcome after all the rain that has soaked the ground overnight. My feet are threatening to slide on the soft wet surface of the footpath. I’ve dodged the burdock and celebrate the width of the path that lets me walk through the field without getting wet shorts too. The clouds are a magnificent collection of cotton wool balls, varying is size, shape and colours, but rich in definition against the bright blue of the sky. Colours so strong they might have been drawn by a child in nursery school having discovered paint for the first time.
There’s a crow in front of me as I crest the hill, wings stationary, spilling the air to hover as it seeks to land on the telegraph wires above the path. It settles briefly before flying off as I approach. To my left a pigeon, rising and falling as they do, but this one seems to be having more fun than most. As it falls after leaving the unseen rise it begins to swerve to the right before banking left, top gun style before flapping its wings and rising once again in a straight line to the next rise before repeating the process. Do pigeons have the facility to experience and understand the sheer joy of life. I hope they do. I take joy from their skills and abilities against a backdrop that sends tingles through my body purely because of its existence.
Normally as I walk along this path I go through all those ‘things’ that I am grateful for. Today though I am celebrating the fact that I choose not to participate in an established pattern, firm in the knowledge that I will be back on it tomorrow and there’s no hint of laziness.
I reach the junction and turn down the hill, time is short; I need to return to the office and get some work done. Scruffy and Bruno are under my feet eager to see if I make the correct decision. Scruffy would like the long walk and Bruno the short one. Well, his legs are shorter than mine or Scruffys and he has to work twice as hard to keep up.
As I walk down the hill, I see a bird flying along the hedgerow at the bottom of the hill. I raise my binoculars, again it’s a pigeon. I thought it was bigger than that. Oh well. Then another, Sea Gull, a big one, herring gull then. And then a bigger bird appears just beyond the hedgerow. I know immediately what it is. Shape is unmistakable.
I had hoped I might see one. Buzzard has been absent from my skies for a little while. We’ve probably just missed each other; I’ve certainly missed him. This one’s male, noticeably smaller than the big females. He’s hunting and utilising the wind to do so. He has his wings stationary and partly folded as he faces the wind and lets his primary feathers spill the wind and keep his stability. He brings them in, closer and lets them out as he needs to, his gaze firmly fixed on the ground below him. From time to time he will tilt left or right as the wind rises and falls, unconsciously doing whatever he needs to, to keep his eyesight firmly fixed on the ground. As he does so I can clearly see the dramatic changes and hues of browns, tans, and duns along with the hints of grey that adorn the underside of his wings, spectacular in their definition and in contrast to the rugged state of his feathers, his autumn mount clearly underway and making his task all the more challenging. He will be looking for any small rodent or creature that he can catch, even birds or small rabbits. His mate can take bigger prey, but then she is maybe 20% bigger than him.
He skirts the skyline of the hedge row for another suitable spot. Hawthorn makes up large sections of the hedgerow along with elder and bramble, the odd ash tree and even a field elm. There’s also dogwood, a fair amount of ivy, and blackthorn too. However, buzzard is mostly interested in the meadow like margins, clover, dandelions and scarlet pimpernel which are dominated by cow parsley, hogweed, marestail and thistle. Here there will be small creatures that would make a great meal.
Again, he’s hovering, using the wind to hold position, rising and falling slightly as he adjusts, trying to get the best view through the vegetation. Then he see’s something and drops, arising a few seconds later, there’s something in his feet. Some unfortunate creature will be dinner. I’m unsure whether it will be for him, his mate or a youngster. Many juveniles will have fledged by now, but by no means all.
That question is soon answered as another buzzard calls to him from the other side of the field, he and his mate probably have a nest on the brooks, the youngster will have seen the catch from a distance using eyesight so strong and sharp that us mere humans can only imagine.
To the right of the new arrival is a smaller bird, sharper pointed wings, the master of the hover. Called the windhover in days old, but now frequently known as Kestrel and most often seen hunting on roadside verge reserves. However good we might think buzzard is at the hover, he is outclassed, as is any wannabe to a master.
A second later the skies are empty, and I am left to wander at the small miracle if have just witnessed. I have been walking this path on an almost daily basis for a quarter of a century and I have never seen this before.
Sitting here, on my pergola it becomes very apparent, I tingle inside, I am in awe, I am privileged. I am connected, I am grateful, humble, honoured.
I am alive.
Simon Pollard. Garden Designer. Countryman.