A hundred steps from my house I can be part of a different world for a while. This far from the city I can only hear nature. The ripples of the river Eden, the busy buzz of honeybees savouring the last light, a lone robin serenading the dusk.
A heron stands motionless, his body and mind trained solely on the river’s surface. As the light dies his form dissolves into silhouette, gangly neck and ungainly legs.
Would that I knew what that bird was, a staccato thrum of high-pitched notes somewhere above the water. The birds taunt me, concealing themselves in the slumbering trees. Like so many other keen naturalists, I fall foul to the obstacle course of birdsong. As I strain my ears, each sweet voice bleeds into the next to form a melodious haze of blissful bewilderment.
A sudden rippling in the water tugs my attention.
But no, perhaps an energetic fish or disturbed weeds. My Eden otters continue to elude me, revealing themselves to the select few. The irony is, their closest companions are the fishermen, those who compete with the mustelids for the river’s inhabitants. Show me your faces little ones let me see you swim!
Jackdaws chatter in dispute above, quarrelling amongst themselves before settling in to roost.
Ah! The unmistakable ferocity of a bat’s flight. Leathery wings carry him down to the water and back up almost too quickly for the eye to catch. Midges swarm, bats follow.
Another, this little rascal zooming close over my head. I wish I could hear your voice, pipistrelle. That delicious clicking that Homo sapiens will never hear without the code breaker, the magic machine that translates silence into echolocation.
A magpie cackles, as if at me. These pesky bats are too fast to watch; the midges had better be wary. Some swarm toward me, others risk the open air while the bats dart in every direction like miniature Spitfires. Such beautiful creatures, denying mammal custom and taking to the air. Who needs legs when you have wings?