Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The sparrow and sparrowhawk

The first of October, the beginning of the end of the natural cycle of the year. Today was a working day for me, one that turned out to be particularly busy. I could see it was a bright windy day outside - my office overlooks a nearby garden where an apple tree is heavy with what looks like delicious cooking apples. A pair of collared doves mooch about and there is a colony of sparrows in the ivy covered poplar the other side of the fence.

I managed to get out at lunch time for my walk along a nearby cycle track - glad today of my old leather coat. It was sunny and blustery in the best autumnal way. I love this section of the cycle track - it is one of those tucked away little enclaves of nature that thankfully has not yet been destroyed. The track partly takes the route of an old canal that used to run through the town centre and is also where a small river re-surfaces from its underground culvert. There are willows in abundance - today their slender leaves turning gold and swirling around in the wind. There are elders dotted along the way, still in berry; blackberries - a few left (though in folk-lore, today the devil spits on them and they turn); hawthorns in profusion with their dark red berries and, occasionally, a few bright rose hips. Apart from the willows, there are some old and lovely trees interspersed along the way - a mighty ash and a few hidden horse chestnuts that belong more to an abandoned sports ground that is concealed on the other side of the old hedgerow.

It was wonderfully fresh and elemental - the air energising as I walk facing the sun. I go as far as the old elder, ivy and crab-apple tree, a cluster of ancient hedge. At this point I am approaching a busy road which cuts across the track so I turn here to retrace my steps.
Then I see the sparrowhawk, slate grey and brown, I think it must be a female. She lands on top of a nearby lamp-post and it feels as if she is watching me. Had I been an inattentive sparrow or other small bird, at that moment I would have been in grave danger. The sparrowhawk takes off, weaving low, I can see she is scouting the hedgerow for small prey ...... unsuccessful this time, she flies away across into a deeper wooded area on the other side of the river.
Just a short walk, snatched from a busy working day. Enough though to remind me of my true reality.