As I walk quietly towards the milking shed each morning, I am accompanied by a chorus of birdsong, filling the early morning air. The trilling, chirping and warbling of species, unseen, yet still very present here at Riverside, accompany me as I go about my morning routine.
High above the fields surrounding my cottage, a skylark produces a melody so fluid and harmonious that it flows through my body like liquid gold, making my spirits rise almost as high as the bird itself, barely a distant dot in the still golden sky, way up high. I look up, squinting to see it. Yet despite the distance between us, the song reaches me, in more ways than one.
A melanistic cock pheasant shimmers. His shades of metallic emerald and deep forest green almost sparkle in the morning light. He flaps out of the hedgerow, panicking when he catches sight of me. His cackling call “korr kok, korr kok ” fills the air as he flies away.
I absorb the scents, sights and sounds around me. Reluctant to go back inside. I store them in my mind to be recalled another day.
I think our senses become keener when we choose to live closer to nature. We tend to notice the faintest sounds. The smallest rustle in the hedgerow. The merest hint of red in the sky. We grow to ‘know’ the wild creatures that visit us. We are able to identify each thrush, moorhen, squirrel or badger. Inside our minds we have nicknames for them all. Or at least I do.
Egromond is a pale olive-green toad that lives here. He shelters under an old metal feed trough, now used as a planter, and he overwinters in the log shed’s dark, damp corners until Spring.
Mildred is a moorhen, that currently sits patiently on her clutch of six pale speckled eggs , set in a nest made of bent flag iris stems, on my wildlife pond. She is skittish and aloof. Her partner, Mervin, resides on the river here but visits her often. He is brave enough to feed under the bird table in full view of me. Mildred never feeds in front of me. If I happen to get too close to her she shrieks and swears and flits off into the hedgerow, still telling me off at full volume for getting too close, even when she is out of sight.. but she swiftly returns to her nest as soon I am a safe distance away.
Horace is the hedgehog that once rolled down the steep slope that leads up to the river bank and surprisingly ( for us both) landed at my feet as I walked up to lock in my hens in one evening.
He is a hardworking hero here..eating all manner of garden pests. I always make sure there are plenty of leafy and twiggy corners here for him and his family to nest in each winter.
Spirit is the barn owl that silently hunts the banks of the river and perches on one of the vegetable garden’s fence posts, to eat his catch. He once did so whilst I was milking Tansy. His razor-sharp beak tearing at a flaccid mouse’s body, whilst holding it with talons, curved and deadly, as I was a mere three feet behind him, sitting in the milking shed, as he perched with his soft amber and grey speckled back facing me. He is INCREDIBLY handsome and I have a feeling he knows it!
……there are many more….and so it goes on. I feel as though I ‘know’ them all.
Signs of spring are welcomed, rejoiced even, as buds appear, at last!….and then they burst open to reveal blossom, so perfect, that we pray the rain holds off, at least until the butterflies, bees and other pollinators like the furry little bee flies have a chance to visit and do the most important job of all.
I have a life full to overflowing with so many ‘treasures’ that I never feel the need to escape or have a holiday. In this day and age, a time of materialism and consumerism, that is a pretty remarkable thing to achieve I think and I have Riverside and ALL the creatures who reside here with me to thank for it xx