Bough Beech at Dusk

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British Wildlife

The evening of Friday 6th May is warm, still and silent; a band of low cloud threatens to steal the light from the low sun but never manages to for very long.  The water across the long reservoir is blue smoked grass in front of a dark lines of waterside trees that look like an ink devil on a perfectly folder piece of paper. The view north across the small lake is deep muddy browns and reflected spring greens beneath the cordon of richly lit woodland.

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The northern lagoon

The small birds in the roadside bushes are quiet with the exception of long-tailed tits Aegithalos caudatus that are endlessly busy to and from a nest somewhere deep in the bramble Rubus fruticosus agg. Common terns Sterna hirundo make the trip from the centre of the reservoir to the northern lake in ones and twos but don’t stay long. A slow stream of grey herons Ardea cinerea flap across the water just above tree height to and from their heronry in the tall oaks Quercus robur; one settles in a waterside tree and quickly tucks itself up.

A pair of shelducks Tadorna tadorna peacefully patrols the water’s edge, until another pair splashes in and the two drakes face up to each other, display and call in raucous and aggressive competition, then both calm down and the pairs paddle sedately to their own side of the lake. Three small ducks circuit fast, tilting close to the woodland edge and then pitch in; their sleek dark bodies and white undersides suggest mandarin ducks Aix galericulata. These breed in tree holes and are perhaps prospecting. Two birds, possibly females, fly off and circuit the waterside woods once again, the lonesome drake is a wonderful if incongruous sight as he perches on a branch high in an oak tree.

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Common tern

The sun sets slowly and the water is still and cool air rolls down the North Downs and chills the air. The sunset sinks from blue to mauve. Time to leave the water for the Woodman.

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