Posted by: Ross Gardner | August 30, 2018

The Watcher in the Rain

Redstart 6 (resize)

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

I love having a campervan in the rain, not perhaps something that many would find normal.  Sat here in a wet New Forest car park in late August and I can see a decidedly forlorn looking icecream van, without its queue of sugar-hungry kinds (and adults, of course).  I’ve watched people head off, in couples and families, ponchoed and raincoated, striding away with that distinctly British demeanour of ‘making the most of things’ and maybe uttering to themselves a mantra something like “we’d never do anything if we were worried about a bit of rain.”  I’ve watched a few head back too, some who had evidently seen a weather forecast before they had started off – appropriately attired as they were – and others more bedraggled, having been led into that fateful summer sense of security.

I have watched also a Redstart, flutter onto a perch in  a curiously globular, stunted little holly tree; a perch made for bird and birdwatcher alike and curious in itself by the way it protrudes just perfectly for a bird to land upon and for the watcher to observe it.  It may not be one of those very sharply dressed spring-time males, but still a beautiful little bird for all its subtlety of plumage.  It hops away from view, but I can still hear it uttering its soft phweet of a call from somewhere inside the spiky foliage.  Then I see it again, fluttering around the silver-barked bole, trying, it appears, to hover long enough to snatch tiny flies out of the air, all the while flashing its richly-red rump and tail.  It alights once more on its protruding perch and remains there for a minute until seen off by a Robin.  Room enough for just one rufously adorned bird in this patch of the Forest it would seem.

Thus passed one of those memorable 5 or 10 minutes that happens every once in a while to those with an inclination towards the things of nature.  A simple exchange, effortless in its proceeding, yet profound in its significance.  I borrow for a few moments this window on the world and see, in a glimpse, a small part of its inner workings


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