Yesterday I walked through the arboretum at Coate Water. There was someone ahead of me with frisky dog – I’m not a dog lover, or rather I’m not someone who has much patience with people who don’t even try to control their dogs and say stuff like “Oh he’s never done that before” as their dog leaves its paw prints on your shoulders – so I slowed down and sought a different path. After a couple of moments, I saw a robin so I stopped walking altogether, wondering if I might see other bird life. After all, I thought, there are plenty of berries on the trees. Soon, a couple of blackbirds scampered through the leaf mould. They kept low but I could see the male’s golden bill. I stayed still enough to see the yellow halo around his sparkling eye.

Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw movement in the trees. Slowly I turned my head to look and there, in a hawthorn, was a mistle thrush. A beauty. Clean looking with his speckled gilet and that proud motion of his head.

“Sing, you beauty,” I thought.

He didn’t but a second and then a third bird joined him in the shrub. They began to eat but kept a wary eye turning. Could I get a picture? Slowly, very carefully I took out my phone and opened the camera app. I looked down at my feet. Ivy and some other creepers. I wanted to get closer to the birds.

When I was close enough to get a decent shot, I lifted the phone and got one of the creatures into the middle of the screen. I realised I was holding my breath, possibly in anticipation, maybe concentration, perhaps in awe. As I released then breathed in a dishcloth of a beast leapt from my left. The thrushes, obviously terrified, whirred away.

At least I saw them.

One thought on “Thrushes

  1. A simple story – apparently. I read it several times. I love the way that with a simple narrative, about something that lasts only for minutes, you create a whole narrative about someone who needs to make this moment work and then realises it already has, just by being there and seeing what he sees. In the first reading I feel the tension mounting. As an amateur photographer myself, I know the times I’ve tried to capture something and as I click the shot, the wildlife does its wildlife thing and buggers off. The worst example of that was when I was cycling back into Flamborough, coming up the hill from Danes Dyke – the wooded area on the fringes of Flamborough – to see a hawk sitting on the village sign. What a shot that would have been!!!! So, I understand the protagonist’s heart palpitations, and felt completely in the middle of the story and wanted it to turn out well, and then, the creature flies away. But he was there, and that’s the real point, isn’t it? ‘At least I saw them.’ Indeed. And we miss so much, don’t we, by creating narratives in our heads and then being disappointed when reality doesn’t play ball. So, then we miss the experience itself for what it is. A society such as ours isn’t very good at stepping out of the rat race, slowing down, and savouring what is there, rather than what isn’t. Nature offers us everything, but we have to slow down sufficiently to listen and savour it.


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