Thank You For The Days

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.

During the course of my morning duties at this most wonderful RSPB reserve, the kingfisher appeared twice more to take advantage of the quiet and calm of a slowly brightening day. Each time it brought coloured relief to a muted pastel world yet to be graced by an equinoctial sun. On one occasion it flew from stump to stump, coming ever closer to where I sat hardly daring to breathe lest I frighten it away. Through the telephoto lens of my camera the bird was magnified so that every nuance could be observed: the way it cocked it's head to peer skyward for a potential predator; the way it peered intently into the shallow water edge in search of any small fish haplessly swimming too close; the way it coughed and hiccupped to disgorge a bright white pellet of indigestible debris from previous catches. But most of all simply the way it sat iridescent and gleaming against the grey sheet of freshwater.

As the morning progressed the sun broke through bringing other delights to enhance the scene. A dabchick, toned down now in its winter garb, surreptitiously probing for aquatic invertebrates along the weed shrouded margins; dragonflies - darters, hawkers - flying in bonded pairs ready to foster a new generation; butterflies, comma, red admiral, a late brimstone, supping the abundant nectar now proffered  by myriad ivy flowers and late Michaelmas daisies. And welcome familiar faces of friends and acquaintances. I spent a few minutes with one such valued companion watching brightly rippled red admirals basking on a tree trunk. A moment of intimacy shared. We may not get a chance to do this again, at least not this year, although with this extended summer we are experiencing who can really tell?

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.

I have been blessed this year enjoying a fine summer of laughter and fun with wonderful sights and sounds of nature to inspire and delight. But nothing can last forever. I am just thankful to have been able to experience these many new things that will always be close to my heart.  


  1. I loved the phrase 'a muted pastel world yet to be graced by an equinoctial sun.' that painted such a word picture. Thank you.

  2. Thanks mate, glad you liked it. See you tomorrow.


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