Saturday is usually a very good day to go to the woods. The village and surrounds become deserted as the Great British public indulge in their favourite pastime, shopping. I had intended to get on with some new work for my soon-to-be Etsy shop, but the lure of a clear blue sky and sunshine was too much. Grabbing my combat boots and fleece, I raced Hercules down the road and away to our local nature reserve. My prediction was wrong - there were several people in the front of the woods, shouting and 'coo-eeing' (bye-bye wildlife), but I quietly pottered away towards the back, and found myself blissfully alone. Moving stealthily through the pinewoods, I surprised a trio of hinds. They danced silently away in a graceful arc, and I rotated to watch them as they circled and disappeared. The woods may seem to be just another part of human territory, but as soon as you enter its environs, you are being watched and heard by myriad beady eyes and pricked ears. The forest folk know you are there, and you have little chance of seeing them unless you move as cautiously as they. The blackbird is nature's watchdog, and his alarm call warns all that a stranger is approaching - beware, beware!
Unless it is raining, I wear soft clothes - no tell tale anorak rustling - and tread firmly but softly, avoiding sticks. Every so often I stop stock still and just listen. After a few minutes, birds start to rustle about, and the life of the woodland starts up again. Stand there even longer and who knows what you may see? A fat rabbit scuttles across the path and a quicksilver squirrel abandons its fir cone and darts to the safety above. Look behind you - is there a small creature furtively creeping away from you, thinking your back is turned? A young buzzard cries its high pitched 'kai, kai', sweeping overhead like a young lord, and a pair of panicked wood pigeons flap clumsily in a flurry of stupidity.
Just as I was taking a homeward footpath. I heard a hollow drumming; a woodpecker. It was soon followed by a second and then a third - one higher, the other lower, the threesome sounding for all the world like a percussion band. Slowly heading in their direction, I noticed yet another deer, a solitary buck, much bulkier and camouflaged amid the trees. His stocky brown body was just about visible if you knew what you were looking at. But if not, he was just the dark space between the trunks. The drumming came and went. I stood still, and listened, scanning the treetops and was rewarded with a flash of brilliant scarlet - a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, crawling about the topmost branches, digging in the bark with its beak for insects. It seemed not to have seen me, and I watched it entranced, thrilled at this rare privilege. I did try to get a photo, but my little camera could only zoom in to this red smudge.
'it's in there somewhere...'
After about ten minutes it flew off. I moved on, trying to find the other two still tapping away, and couldn't believe my luck when I spotted another - and a few second later, it was joined by its' mate. If only I had brought the binoculars...the pair fluttered off and so did I. More of a slow splodge in the mud than a flutter, but still glowing with my afternoons' encounters - much more exciting than shopping. For more on this, see the post below.