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Showing posts from April, 2014

My daily greeting

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Late April and I rise at six, which is well over an hour before sunrise. It is high season for the business and there is breakfast to prepare, packed lunches and organising the day's guided birding. But my routine is simple. Washed, shaved and dressed, I come downstairs and open the front door. With no moon at the moment, the sky, still not showing any glimmer to the east, is illuminated only by stars. Scorpio dominates the southern sky - slung across my view, stretching across my horizon. I always pause and take in a deep breath of pre-dawn air. I pause again and listen. Without fail, at the end of April there are always two birds singing: it is too early for the chatter of the conversations of waking sparrows, nor the Blackbird or Swallow. From near at hand, indeed just feet away to my left, comes the urgent, clean and full-bodied notes of Nightingale. This bird will have been singing throughout the night, as waking moments will have testified. Further away, but piercingly and …

So steady, so stealthy

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The short, dagger-like bill appeared first, from behind the wide lime-green Typha leaves at the edge of the channel. It was as if in slow motion a coil was being relaxed. The bright orange-yellow appendage being pushed by a hidden force. The movement was even, consistent, the bill entering the scene on a perfect level plane. Following the bill came the head, our focus drawn to the ruddy-coloured eye. This, however, was not returning its gaze, for the creature was concentrating elsewhere. The inky blue-black crown and grey-saffron suffused cheeks came next, slowly backed-up by a neck which lingered and stretched in a determinate glide, the stripes on its lower half matching the colours of the dead stems around it. The front half of the body then came into view, its back matching the colour of the crown, whilst emblazoned like huge epaulets on the wings were patches of the palest buff. Suddenly the motion accelerated and in what was a mere fraction of a second, the bill had retreated, …