An audience with a Blackcap

Mid-afternoon at the fishing boats, wandering between the containers and detritus left by fisherfolk of yore. Apart from the desicated remains of Sea Kale and a few clumps of Red Valerian, there is little vegetation to afford cover for birds. However, it is a place that can provide great surprises, none more so than a certain flycatcher that was found by Martin C this September. My aims are not so lofty.

The westerly wind has increased in strength throughout the day and a vicious squall has barrelled through, leaving a weak autumnal sun to pour lemon light across the peninsula. A movement catches my eye as a small passerine breaks cover from behind a large coil of rope. The bird hovers above an upturned crate and alights not ten feet from me - a female Blackcap. The small black eye takes me in, the head moving in jerky movement as she surveys all around her. The nervousness of the bird is palpable, and she is soon off, swooping down to disappear behind an old engine that has been unceremoniously dumped on the beach.

I walk forward a few paces and spy her perched on a metal bar of a large rusty red container. Still she fidgets. For a bird such as this to be out in this wilderness in mid-November can surely mean but one thing. She is going on a journey. There is no food for her here. Where was she yesterday? Gorging on blackberries in a Sussex hedgerow? Feasting on apples in a Kent orchard? Maybe 20 grammes of bone, feather and muscle is here before me, restless with a migratory urge that cannot be controlled. I am ignored as she leaves the shelter of the container and launches into the wind. That such a small bundle can manoeuvre in this buffeting airflow is truly impressive. But now she impresses me further as, with one bound, heads out across the open beach towards the sea. I cannot see the moment when land is swapped for sea beneath her, but it has happened. Tonight France, tomorrow Spain? North Africa? I realise that this has become one of those special moments, a private showing of what makes migration so wonderous. Birds will go further - a lot further - but this Blackcap - my Blackcap - has shown me how it is done.

No doubt some of you are beside yourself with anticipation to find out how the 'November plants in flower list' has gone today. There have been additions, namely fairy flax, thyme-leaved speedwell. Dodder, common Orache and dwarf mallow (135). Plus, on the bird front, my first Woodcock of the stay.


Derek Faulkner said…
A lovely and emotional description of the Blackcap leaving our shores. How much those scraps of birds expose us humans as the weaker species.
Steve Gale said…
It was humbling Derek. Thank you.
Factor said…
A brilliant, moving piece. If God exists I wish her his speed.
Steve Gale said…
Thank you Neil and amen to that.

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