Sunday, 27 May 2012

the early bird catches the woodland worm (and the birdsong)

Its a really special time in the woods at dawn, which is incredibly early just at the moment.  On these hot days I think the best time of day to be out is at the very start and end of the day - it's calm, quiet (at least of human noise) and there's so much to be discovered. 

There's so many beautiful wild flowers out at the moment and I'm especially fond of the gentle woodland plants that make no big fuss and quietly cover the woodland floor with a carpet of intricate tiny detail, texture and pattern.  I adore their names too - and the stories that go with them; stitchwort, yellow archangel, woodruff, speedwell, herb robert...  There's such poetry in flower names and a huge sense of history.    

I often get into my local woods really early, throughout the year, because its the time of day when there's an amazing sense of awe and wonder in the woods.  Hardly any other people are about, the light is beautiful and you often can catch very special glimpses of the woodland creatures who will hide away for much of the time.   At the moment the woods are full of bird song early in the morning and its a spectacular thing to listen to the dawn chorus as the early light and warmth of the suns rays filter through the bright green leaves. 

As the leaf canopy gets thicker it becomes harder to see the birds - but that almost makes it all the more special because you get hints as to who is about, but not the full picture.  If you're lucky you get special glimpses as a woodpecker or jay bursts through the leaves in front of you; or maybe a treecreeper will feel safe enough to go into their nest close by. 

Recently I sat with a flask of coffee, early in the morning, watching and listening from my perch on a rock in the middle of a wood - and I realised there was a tiny creature moving through the grass very close by.  I couldn't see it, I could just see the grass move gently as the little being crept along towards where I was sitting.  I kept incredibly still and silent and could see the trail of moving grass showing the path the creature was taking - it must have got very close by and then realised I was there.  The grass suddenly became still and the creature clearly, quietly, crept away from me.  It was a special moment - and filled me with stories and thoughts about what had been there.  A wood mouse?  A shrew?  A snake?  A very small elf with her breakfast, cursing that I was sat on her favourite stone ?  A pixie going home after a night-shift of putting holes in oak leaves? 

 “Deep under this thicket, in places where the sun never shone, there lived birds and small animals.  In calm weather you could hear the rustle of wings and hastily scurrying feet, but the animals never showed themselves.”  The Summer Book - Tove Jansson

“Human beings depend on trees quite as much as on rivers and the sea.  Our intimate relationship with trees is physical as well as cultural and spiritual: literally an exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.  Once inside a wood, you walk on something very like the seabed, looking up at the canopy of leaves as if it were the surface of the water, filtering the descending shafts of sunlight and dappling everything.” 
Roger Deakin - ‘Wildwood’

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