The new Featured Writer is Julie-ann Rowell and her award-winning poetry.
Rebecca’s Wild Watch: Feb 14th 2012
Something very blue was glinting on the side of the path. The sunlight made it shine like a heap of sapphires and scarabs. Really that blue! On closer inspection I could see it was composed of beetle carapaces and wing-cases, tiny legs, mandibles. The blueness was on a scale of lapis to cobalt. Badgers had been digging their lavatory holes beside this path and this was a pile of their bejewelled poo. Three weeks later it still gleamed in the sun though less dramatically for beetle bodies and limbs aren’t digestible and don’t rot.
In the boggy valley, a heron often stands sentinel. In certain lights he is also blue. Usually he is the colour of light on water. Perfectly still, he looks like a frail old man, pensive, knowing. More accustomed to people than other herons, this particular individual watches human passers-by and works out how close they will come. If disturbed enough, he only needs to fly a short distance into the very depths of the marsh where no dog or person could possibly reach him over the quaking, sodden ground. Recently, I’ve seen him stalking through the shallows with long deliberate strides, neck muscles tensed for spearing, his white chest and beak catching the sunlight. The heron’s breeding season can start in early February in a mild season. Sometimes they can be seen soaring over the nesting wood and chasing one another, tilting from side to side and diving head-long. As they can apparently live for 25 years they must up build up a huge amount of experience about their own habitat: the creatures under and on the water, creatures in the sky.
One afternoon I whistled for the dogs beside a tangle of gorse bushes. A large dog fox, with a bushy brush and a white tip to his tail, immediately trotted out of the bushes with a rabbit in its mouth. Almost as if I had whistled him up! I was praying the dogs wouldn’t come to call and would remain preoccupied down the hill, until the fox had cleared off with his dinner. I am not sure if he noticed us at all, as he trotted away quite unconcernedly. The next day in the same spot I saw a fox again – a smaller, sleeker one with dark points. This one did see us but my dogs had their heads down a rabbit hole and did not notice it. As it jumped a bramble tangle and lolloped off, I wondered where foxes go when out of the field of our vision. It jumps a wall or trots into a wood and is ‘gone’ as we say: but really it has not ‘gone’ at all – it is elsewhere. I’ve rather fallen for these foxes and the next day I stopped on the slope for a while hoping to see one again. Some blackbirds in a far thicket were clucking on and on, in alarm. I couldn’t spot a fox among the russet bracken but I smelt that foxy reek. The following day, two roe deer, the colour of taupe, were grazing between the rabbit holes.