September 4th- immaculate garden birds and juvenile spotted flycatcher

Lockdown has taught me to look again and again at the familiar. I was watching various tits visiting the feeder today. Forget their names, just look at them. Watch their movements, the precision of their landings, their swift about turns as they grab a seed and dart for cover. Look at their colours; many are freshly moulted with new feathers to see them through the winter. Take coal tits as an example. These minute tits are striking in rich buff underparts, steely grey uppers and with a bold pied head. Just wonderful to look at.

Tolly and I did a favourite walk from the house today. We had lovely views of a juvenile spotted flycatcher in a hawthorn hedge. We watched it feed with the incredible accuracy the species is known for, one minute darting low and hovering close the ground, the next towering twenty feet above the hedge to grab an insect. It was a joy to watch this now scarce species, to hope perhaps against hope that summer 2021 will bring the species some reprise. As we wandered we heard chiffchaffs, blackcaps and a whitethroat calling in hedgerows. The countryside now alive with species preparing to depart, many already on their journey, refuelling around Gilling East.

As we meandered across the fields we remembered some of our earlier lockdown walks, so many of the birds we enjoyed, individuals we recognised are elusive now. Even the yellowhammers are quiet. Their territories abandoned as they join the safety of flocks for the winter. We ate sloes, enjoying the sensations from their intense bitterness whilst remembering the glorious blackthorn blossom which started our lockdown. We saw rosehips, the result of the very flowers we had paused to smell in June. Tolly is due back at school next week. It is a poignant moment, I will carry on the project largely on my own; we will still walk to warbler corner when we can, but I will miss the spontaneity of grabbing our binoculars and just heading outside together. As an artist I am used to spending large amounts of time alone, but it has been a rich treat to have company.

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