Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Monday, 10 May 2010

Willen Lake

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It’s 6 a.m., and already the sun has freed itself from the grip of the horizon. Early morning daylight, and the sound of a Song Thrush fills the air. Before me stand the steps reaching skyward. 72 steps, each one taking me nearer my goal, and taking more breath away from me.
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I reach the top, and briefly rest, before carrying on. A choice; go forward, or turn right. I choose right. I need to search for a particular bird, but I know it will be in vain. I follow the short path, lined either side by trees. My eyes climb to the treetops, my ears follow; listening for that distinctive, high pitch sound. Magpies chatter noisily in the branches, a Chiffchaff drones his monotonous song, and Wood Pigeons flap through the branches. But no high pitch sound.
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The sound of Goldcrest.
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I used to watch these tiny birds last year, flitting through the treetops, and occasionally dropping lower, tempting me to take their pictures. It was our game, whenever I visited. But the game ended when winter arrived. Its icy fingers clawing through the trees every night, relentlessly seeking out tiny lives, to squeeze and crush.
Every night the temperature dropped, and so did the tiny birds. One by one, they dropped to the ground, to be covered in a fresh layer of snow and frost. Winter was long and cruel. Its grip was harsh. The Goldcrest all died.
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I reach the end of the path, and make my way down the grassy slopes, towards the lake. Crows sit tight, with one eye carefully watching as I pass. Greylag and Canada Geese continue pulling at the grass. They seem unconcerned for now. A Common Tern glides overhead, and still the Magpies chatter incessantly.
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The mist slowly curls upwards from the lake, taking one last drink from the water, before evaporating into the cold air. More Canada Geese walk from the lakeside, to join their friends already on the grassy slope. The weekend crowds of humans have long left, to return to their homes. The lake belongs to the birds once again, and they waste no time in reclaiming it.
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Fifteen minutes have passed, and I’m standing by the edge of the lake, listening to a cacophony of sound from Reed and Sedge Warblers. The high-pitched whistles, and scratchy voices carry over the reeds at the side of the lake. Geese are honking out on the water, and a Cetti’s Warbler shouts his song into the morning chorus.
A lone jogger pounds the footpath that circles the lake, and slowly disappears into the distance. I hear a dog bark, and look back to the slope, to see the flock of geese rising into the air as one, leaving the dog chasing emptiness.
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By 6:30 a.m., I stand at the hide. A simple affair; more like a roofed screen, with slits to view from, and wooden benches to sit on. Simple, but does the job. The birds can be watched, whilst remaining hidden. And across from the hide, the island. Herons nest here, and Little Egrets. Lapwing congregate on the spit of land that rises from the water, when the level drops, and are joined by waders; Redshank, Oystercatchers, Little Ringed Plover. But today only a few geese, and four Common Terns. Coots aimlessly swim in front of the hide, and a pair of Great Crested Grebes waggle their heads, lovingly at each other.
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I decide to carry on towards the south lake. The south lake is a busy lake at weekends. People flock there, to feed ducks, take part in the water activities, eat at the restaurant, and get fit at the fitness centre.
I only visit there midweek; and early.
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The Starlings are busily probing the grass for food. They must have many tiny mouths to feed. They move with a purpose across the neat, short mown grass; Blackbirds move amongst them, and skimming over the water, House Martins, guzzling down flies. They have a long, hard day ahead. After journeying from their wintering grounds, it’s now time to build nests, and raise families.
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More joggers pass by, with urgency in their stride. Chaffinches and House Sparrows are pecking at the ground in the children’s play area, Goldfinches ‘tinkling’ in the trees, and a Robin sings from the big Willow tree.
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It’s 7 a.m. I’ve reached the fitness centre. The Black Swan glides amongst the 20 or more Mute Swans.
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On the jetty that releases the boats at weekends, a Pied Wagtail runs, stops, and runs. Searching for breakfast. Two Common Sandpiper fly in, and stop briefly to rest. And from under the jetty, a male Call Duck slowly emerges.
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I first noticed him towards the end of last year, with his mate. I’ve seen him a couple of times since, but no mate. Maybe she didn’t survive winters grip; maybe she became lunch for a predator, but there seemed a sadness as he slowly paddled the water.
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I headed back towards the hide. 10 minutes, a sign proudly proclaims. I’ve never done it in less than twenty. Maybe I walk slowly, or maybe I stop to look more than most.
Willow Warblers sing from the trees, and more Sedge Warblers scratch their music from the bushes that line the lake edge.
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19 comments:

  1. Beautiful narration, and this is sad story about Goldcrest. However you captured some nice images, I absolutely love the last warbler singing. Thanks for sharing again. Anna :)

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  2. Thats a great narrative Keith.

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  3. A great narrative Keith, your words flow really well and give the reader a sense of being there. Great stuff.

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  4. With that first paragraph, I was thinking we were accompanying you on a stress test. ;) But as always, you shared a beautiful part of your day filled with wonderful sights and sounds. Thank you for that.

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  5. nice capture of the sedge warbler

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  6. Your photo habit is worth getting up early for; I'm glad you do it and share your results.

    Does a goldcrest migrate, or was it a hard winter?

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  7. Great account of your morning Keith. A very enjoyable read indeed. Like the last photograph of the Sedge Warbler.

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  8. Anna, thank you. The tiny Goldcrest is a little beauty, and it was always good to see them in this spot when I visited the lake.

    Thanks Roy :)

    Bob, thank you. :)

    Thanks Hilary. Climbing those steps at the moment is quite a test for me at the moment. lol

    Thanks Pete. They seem to be getting bolder now, singing more out in the open.

    JoLynne, thank you. The Goldcrest is a tiny resident here, no bigger than 9cm. Our last winter was quite prolonged and cold, (not used to it here), and it hit a lot of the smaller birds quite hard.

    Trevor, thank you. :)

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  9. A great narrative, and some great pictures Keith.

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  10. Beautifully written, Keith, who needs photos when your words are so illustrative! Those steps do look daunting but if I'm not mistaken there are little resting benches along the way, a very welcome feature for many, I should think. Gorgeous Sedge Warbler photo!

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  11. You know how to describe the beautiful scene around you and I enjoy your narration! That Black Swan is so gorgeous - wish we had one of those here!

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  12. A really good post, but so sad about the Goldcrests. Love that last shot.

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  13. Thank you Bob :)

    Thank you Jan. I wish they were benches. It's a deceptive angle; they're just bits of wood. ;)

    Shelley, thank you. The Black Swan is a real beauty.

    Thanks Kerry. Yea, I miss those little birds.

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  14. Sounds like a lovely & fruitful experience
    : )

    Excellent photos!

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  15. Thank you Sarah. It's always a good place to visit, especially early morning.

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  16. Love your narration - up early :)
    And love the last pic - that's really a beautiful one

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  17. Pescalune, thank you for your comments. Early mornings are the best time I think. :)

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  18. You do have a wonderful expressive style to your writing, very easy and absorbing, a special talent indeed, especially when coupled with your pictures. Never had the pleasure of seeing the goldcrest, hope they bounce back soon. Poor ducky looks like he's missing his mate. Like the steps climbing into the distance, very appropriate in many ways.

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  19. Thanks for your kind words Debbie. Writing is something I enjoy, when I'm in the right mood. lol

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