As I walked up the road on the way to the woods this morning, I disturbed a buzzard. It had been sitting on a tree at the side of the road. As it spread its wings to glide effortlessly away, the browns in its feathers showed, rich and clean. On the verges so many types of grass, usually difficult to tell apart with out some hard work, advertise their uniqueness with their seed heads. Extravagant plumes, quivering lanterns, gentle misty sprays and rough tufts stand high above the grass blades, many laden with pollen that billows up and floats on any breeze that stirs the stalks.
I leave the road. Nettles are flowering and vicious. The sun is shining and it is hot as I cross fields of grass. But then I enter the wood, and I feel the temperature drop as I walk into a wall of cool, moist air. The canopy is now full overhead and the wood seems dark. While my eyes adjust my ears are barraged by birdsong, and immediately I can hear baby birds.
Our blackbird chicks fledged last weekend – ten days from egg to flight (albeit a little clumsy). I can hear blackbirds and I hope this is our blackbird family doing well – at first the young birds were being fed in the undergrowth of wild garlic, but now they have dispersed further. I hear a great tit is annoyed with me. I move off a little distance and watch it as it makes its way along tree branches, mouth stuffed with insects, to feed its young at the entrance hole of the nestbox.
The ash trees round the edge of the wood are reaching their bows over the wall, branches bent with huge pom-poms of ash keys. Higher up the clusters look like the pendulous nests of some exotic communal nesting bird. The hawthorn and rowan blossom, so abundant but so transitory, has gone. So too have the bluebell and wild garlic flowers, to be replaced by swollen seed heads.
I move through the woods in a world of dappled light and bird sound. I watch adult nuthatches feeding the yellow mouths that appear squawking at the nest hole. Huge green caterpillars pushed into huge gaping holes. I finally work out the nest I have been watching, made at knee height in a tree stump, belongs to great tits. The chicks are feathered now – at least four of them – but they are so deep inside the twisted hole they are hard to see.
And then, my wandering nearly at an end, I walk into a clearing to see a roe deer leap up from between the branches of a fallen tree where it had presumably been resting. It shoots off a little distance then stops as if to assess the situation. Then, slowly, it walks away into the trees. It’s the closest I have been to one of these creatures and I don’t know who is more surprised, me or the deer. I walk off too, in the same direction as the deer, but I don’t see it again. I have to leave the cool shade of the woods, but I depart with the definite feeling that summer is trying to edge its way in.