This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 8 o’clock (I know, I’m sorry all those of you who have to be up and about hours earlier than I do) having somehow managed to sleep through the radio alarm. Normally
it doesn’t matter too much what time I rise and shine (repeat of apology above) but it did today because I was off to Burpham with my Birdy Group and the Lovely Linda was picking me up at 9.30 a.m..
Normally I prepare the evening before a Birdy Group walk. I unearth my walking boots from the hall cupboard (unearth is quite a good word because they usually need a bit of a clean-up before I can lace myself into them)
and pack my rucksack with essentials like my binoculars, birdy book, purse and mobile phone. Also my hair brush, even though I know from experience that I will never use it, resigning up my wayward locks to the wind before we’ve walked a hundred
Last night, after a busy and eventful weekend full of family fun and Fame, I was beyond thinking about the following day. Which is why I really, really
needed to get myself up and going in reasonable time this morning.
It was a wonderful morning! Bird-song is at its very best this week, our Birdy Group Leader
informed us, and indeed it was noisy out there on the banks of the River Arun, with beautiful Arundel Castle visible in the distance. A colony of rooks cawed raucously as they circled their skyscraper block of nests above us, while what sounded like hundreds
of reed warblers signalled their presence along the river bank. The conversation went something like this:
“I can see one!”
“Where? Where?” This is me, sounding very slightly desperate.
darted up and down that reed – look, there it is again!”
“Where? Where?” Guess who.
Our Birdy Group Leader produces her mobile phone on which she has downloaded an app called “Birds of Europe”. She plays us the song of the reed warbler so that we can confirm that this is, indeed, what we can hear.
I, for one, had never doubted her. Way above us, swooping swallows are heralding the spring, while high in a tree a lone chaffinch sits in contemplation, allowing plenty of time for even the most cack-handed among us (that’ll be me, then)
to train our trusty binoculars in his direction. “It’s only a chaffinch,” says our Leader, dismissively. It may be only a chaffinch to her, but it’s a firm sighting to me and, given my failure with the reed warblers, I am almost prepared
to afford the chaffinch Rare Bird Status, so pleased am I with him for sitting there so prettily for my delight.
As we wander in pursuit of more birds, admiring
the variety of wild flowers on every grassy bank, the Lovely Linda and I discuss why it is that only women – and, in particular, mothers – have the ability to find pieces of precious property that their nearest and dearest have declared lost and
gone forever. This wasn’t a completely random conversation but was inspired by the fact that she had spent the morning looking for her husband’s lost car keys while I had been similarly occupied looking for Mr B’s reading glasses. I
don’t know where the Lovely Linda found her husband’s car keys, but Mr B’s reading glasses were in his coat pocket where he undoubtedly must have placed them for safety.
What really perplexed us, the Lovely Linda and I, was the way in which our daughters – once unable to find a sports shirt, school exercise book or pair of sandals without our help – suddenly turned into Ace Finders as soon
as they became mothers themselves. It is, we decided, one of the Great Mysteries of Life.
Along the road leading back to our starting point, we come across
a field full of lambs with their mothers, some of them obviously newborn. Dozens and dozens of rabbits hop haphazardly among them. Last year, our Birdy Group Leader tells us, she saw a couple of hares behaving madly on this very walk. We don’t
hear a cuckoo calling, just a collared dove. Which is a shame because the cuckoo’s call is one that even I can recognise. I don’t even need an app for that one.
Sing out, you birds. Sing as if nobody is listening.
Frolic, you lambs. Frolic as if nobody is watching.
Spring is Sprung.