"Listen!" we all tell each other. All eight of us fall silent and listen.
"I think it's over there," someone says with great conviction - at about the same time as another
member of our group is pointing excitedly in the opposite direction. Not that any of us can see anything, you understand, but we can definitely hear the unmistakable drumming of a woodpecker.
on the trail of a particularly juicy mystery, we move forward, binoculars at the ready, scanning the trees for a distinctive flash of something woodpecker-ish. The drumming continues, nearer now, we are all agog.
I am out with the Birdy Group on our April walk up at Honeysuckle Lane. Scottish Christine was kind enough to pick me up in her car as the Lovely Linda, who leads our group and usually transports us, is unavoidably detained elsewhere. I have told her
that I will report back on all the Signs of Spring we see.
We arrive early in the car park at the start of our walk so we stay in the warmth of the car for a bit, looking out at the amazing view over Worthing
to the silvery sea in the distance. In the field before us, lots of dog walkers with their four legged friends. The car park is full but we reckon it's more doggy types than bird watchers.
A car parks up beside
us. Do we recognise the driver and his passenger? we ask each other. Are they members of our group? We decide we probably do recognise them and it would be unfriendly in the extreme to ignore them so we wave them a cheery greeting. At which point they leave
their car, open the boot, retrieve their dog from within and set off across the field with all the other fog walkers. Wrong again.
We are on safer ground when more clearly recognisable Birdy Group members
arrive and we gather in a little huddle to discuss whether or not we are wearing appropriate gear for the weather. Margaret goes back to her car to put on an extra jumper. Scottish Christine and I are wearing exactly the same red coat with the floppy hood,
bought from Marks & Spencer's some while back. There's a bitterly cold wind and it is threatening rain but, hey, we are not down-hearted. Who knows what we will see today!
A short distance along the pathway,
Roger decides to go back for his camera, reminding us that our Esteemed U3A Committee has asked us to submit interesting photographs of our various groups' activities for a new handbook which is being produced. He rejoins us, somewhat out of breath, as it
was further back to the car park than he realised. In his absence we have agreed that it will make an excellent photograph if we are all pictured training our binoculars in different directions. Roger obliges but we also grab a group photograph of us sitting
on a bench which is surrounded by daffodils and dedicated to someone called Nancy. Scottish Christine and I take care not to stand at opposite ends of the bench in our red coats, just in case we look like book-ends.
We spot a red kite hovering low above the trees but mostly the birds are more sensible than we are, staying under cover and out of the wind. There's lots of bird song, though, and with Gill's help we identify the skylark, the chiff-chaff, the great
tit, blue tit, robin, blackbird and pheasant to mention just a few. Ears attuned to our surroundings, that's when we heard the woodpecker's unmistakable drumming.
Oh, it would have been such a fine thing had
we been able to spot him but, while clearly tantalisingly close, he (or she) stayed well out of sight. But the thrill of listening, moving forwards, training our binoculars on every likely (or unlikely) tree - oh, it was exciting, we all agreed.
Despite the cold, the Signs of Spring were all around - my favourite being the tiny clumps of bluebells turning up in expected places to warm our hearts and convince our shivering selves that winter is surely over.
This is what the monthly Birdy Group is all about. A lovely walk, excellent company, laughs a-plenty, listening and learning. Sometimes we even spot a bird or two - or many.
Love our Birdy Group. Love the Signs of Spring.