There was a distinct tang of autumn as I approached Reception at Strumpshaw Fen, a taste of change. The air was cool on my face, a light mist shrouding the broad, the various quacks, trills and squawks of the wildfowl unnaturally loud, echoing across the still water. The season was undoubtedly transitioning. But there perched on the depth marker was a kingfisher, halcyon bird. Electric blue, rust orange, dagger bill; alert, watchful, beautiful. I managed to take a few photographs before in the blink of an eye it was gone, whirring arrow straight across the broad to a fresh fishing spot.
My future, at least the next day of it, found me at the NWT reserve at Ranworth Broad. Another fine morning, bright sun, some high wispy cloud, exemplifying the true nature of this tranquil, peaceful place. No sooner had we opened to the public when an osprey flew low over the river channel, a fish clutched tightly in its talons. This long winged autumnal migrant has been around for a few weeks, favouring an area tucked away in the western end of the broad to consume its meals. During the course of the next 3 hours we saw this bird spiral over the visitor centre twice more as it gained height to better scan the waters below for its prey. On both occasions it reappeared after a few minutes with a fresh catch. Testimony to its prowess as a hunter. One day a pair will stay to breed and that will be grand, but for now this single bird is content to idle these pleasantly mild days in a corner of eastern Norfolk. It will stay a while longer until lengthening nights, cooler temperatures, wind and rain trigger the primeval urge to move on. Move south to pastures new, following its brethren to wintering grounds on another continent. The terns that enlivened the place with their vibrant screeching chases have already departed, their treasured, jealously defended nesting platforms now given over to loafing cormorants. The swallows too have left us, no longer twittering joyfully around the building. Their spirit remains and they will return in body next spring.
Standing chatting to my colleague, arms resting on the fence rail, steaming tea close at hand, we soaked up the calm. We watched a sailing craft slowly glide along the river channel, saw buzzards, marsh harriers, a hobby and a sparrowhawk effortlessly cruise high overhead, watched a grebe watch us closely with its ruby red eye, simply enjoying the nature that has surrounded us each Friday morning since April. Then it was a raw, sometimes brutally cold vigil, the ravages of winter still clinging to the land. Now things can bask in the soporific balm of an end of season spell of warmth, golden light and ease.