Ancient raptor

Why I did not bring my camera is a mystery. The sky shined contrasts of blue whilst the suns beams came from behind me. Therefore the light was great with little cloud coverage apart from a few cirrus clouds which whispered across the sky. The Latin for cirrus is ‘strand of hair’ which is fully apt when you observe their appearance, almost as though they have been smudged across the sky line. However although these were the circumstances it’s still late winter and coming into spring, feeling much more like spring now though, so the temperature numbed my hands and prickled my face with the occasional warm tear running down my face due to the icy gusts of wind.

These are my favourite types of mornings and ones I’m glad I dragged myself out of bed for, even though it’s half term. I suppose this spot is somewhat warmer then if I were out in the countryside watching and enjoying a rural landscape. Instead though I was out in my local city centre for a spot of raptor watching.

For all the hours I spend on my neighbouring countryside patch I may see some buzzards gliding over, the occasional kestrel or perhaps hobby. Or on a really lucky day a red kite passing. It is even less likely that I will see a peregrine falcon though. A couple of times I might have seen one but not like I have here at the cathedral.

I looked up onto its fluffy white speckled chest. It was perched right on the edge of a ledge with its feathers blowing in the wind creating a very broad impression. It took no notice of my presence and every now and then I would see it ruffle its feathers more so. Once in a while it would also let out a squawk. When looking from below, before noticing what it actually is, the bird looks like a white dot.  Perched so high up the views must be amazing as it towers over the city deciding where to set off in the search of breakfast, plenty to choose from.

I looked to my left and right down the close debating whether to get my binoculars out. No one was in sight. I looked up, now with a much better view, watching the bird. Twisting its head and constantly on the look out. Suddenly I realised the shaking of its head and body that I’d watched without the magnified view wasn’t just to buff itself up but then it teared a stringy piece of meat from its talon. Breakfast had already been served.



This week I took a different route through the urban green oasis and it was much later in the day after three blocks of geography instead of just two like on a week B. This did not mean I was to be spending less time on my patch before heading off though, as my school work was up to date and I aim to prioritise this time of the week.

Behind me, the holly bush rattled as though someone was climbing over. I frantically turned but realised it was no sign of danger. At first I thought it could be a blackbird but then a fluffy grey shape appeared, it was a squirrel. I couldn’t observe it for too long though as the sun light from behind it blinded me. However as I turned round the ground before me presented its silhouette. It was no doubt the same one I watched stumble up the path to the left of me about five minutes ago, before disappearing under the brambles.

The suns rays were on and off, every few minutes they would appear from behind and warm by back before a gust of wind prickled the side of my face. A positive about spending time here later then last week was that the racket of the nearby traffic and school children was minimal. Instead, a part from the occasional door slam from the car park behind me, I was able to absorb the natural sounds much more significantly. Trying to put into words the landscape before me feels somewhat impossible, there is so much going on and when I sit here trying to absorb every bit I really do notice and appreciate all that I wouldn’t necessarily if I were to simply walk through.

A dog walker went by and as he did so, I put my notebook and pen away, paranoid of what he might think of me sitting here writing. As he walked past me and out of sight I monitored his actions, wondering what he might be thinking. With two large dogs I imagine his priority was on them but what about his presence at this moment in this haven. The old oak tree branches which hung above him, the dancing of the long-tail tits around the path he walks along, the distant crow making its presence or maybe it was all of those things which brought him here and for time to connect.

Once back to my own mind and thoughts, I heard some very sharp whistles but I was not sure what direction they were coming from. Then, there above me I spot a conker sized bird, of which I have not seen one of this year. We made eye contact before it turned and continued to hop between the twigs. As it did so I took in its striking symbol of the gold dash upon its head.

The appearance of the sun became less frequent and due to this my fingers and cheeks became numb. The sounds and sights urged me to stay just a little while longer but my shivering hands were telling me otherwise, so I met half way and decided to stay for another ten minutes or so.

Unlike last week I could not hear a woodpecker drumming or see a treecreeper but each visit brings me a new surprise. I longed to take in every aspect and gazed high above to the clouds, some fabulous cirrus and stratocumulus clouds swiftly panned across the frame of sky I could see through the woodland canopy.


Lunchtime patching experience 

Lunchtime patching experience

I stand and watch a flock of excitable long-tailed tits as they flutter around me, from the brambles into the holly bush then above into the overhead old oak branches. Their bursts of calls are delightfully interrupted by a robin who places himself on a twig that rises above the brambles, just meters away from me.

My eardrums are then somewhat punctured by a call that I’m not certain of, but as I look up to examine the weaving branches, my scanning eyes greet me with a treecreeper who is perched the wrong way up on a bulge of an oak tree.

The old oak trees here surround me and have grown high into the blue, now turning grey, sky. Their branches spiral out, and way above my head I observe how they all intertwine with each other. Right now though, their leaves are still scattered on the forest floor. As I continue to gaze up, I listen to the natural sounds around me which are much more vibrantly tuned compared to the nearby traffic and school children screaming whilst on their school playground.

However I then find myself gasping for air as I hear a woodpecker drumming. The first I’ve heard of the year, but I’d say very surprising with it only being the 3rd of February as in the past at this location its been much later. Most likely due to the mild winter we’re experiencing. As my hands begin to steady from shaking with excitement, there it goes again! For a moment I doubted myself with it being so early but no, most definitely a woody!

All my excitement came at once with it being my first of the year and I’d say very early, especially for this patch! Here though, I’ve seen, photographed and heard them which is not surprising as it’s a pretty perfect sight for them. AGAIN! I must look ridiculous jumping around with excitement…three bursts in a row! I try turning my Dictaphone on again but the batteries are completely flat, typical! The other songs really do all compliment each other and the woodland tune is heaven to my ears.

This patch is the one where I first saw a woodpecker drumming. A magical sign of spring and one that will always make me jump around with excitement (literally)! Coming here always introduces me to the wonderful season as it seems to show everything you may expect to experience, them tell tale signs. From the vibrant yellow of the daffodils and slightly duller tones of the crocuses to the pureness of the snowdrops and even the smell of the wild garlic which comes later on though. Mind you, it’s out already!

It’s a very special place and when you compare it to the surrounding train station, city centre and houses (basically, all the hustle and bustle), it makes it magical. A great treasure trove.

After a busy morning at sixth form, it couldn’t do the trick any better. Every Wednesday that is. After finishing my morning of geography lessons and on my way home, I walk through for a mood lift. Sometimes stopping and eating my lunch or having my coffee, or even using my Dictaphone in an attempt of capturing the beautiful atmosphere.