There was a kingfisher straightaway on the cut this morning. It very quickly flew off towards the main river, then silently took off from the near bank later on downstream and perched briefly on a hawthorn on the far bank. The sun shone directly on it – the reflected colours of its feathers as fresh and bright as I’d ever seen. Further down towards Cotterstock a swan was framed by the hanging leaf curtains of a weeping willow, standing upright with its feet in the mud and preening itself. The sun was catching the ripples on the water and sending them across its breast feathers against the rhythmic movements of its beak.
At the lock there were kingfisher calls, and then one was on the corner of the concrete blocks, exactly the same as a few days ago. It’s a very noisy bird, and that’s even more proof that it’s a different bird from the one at the bridge, which I’ve never heard call at all. In Cotterstock some people were at the roadside, planting bulbs on the verges for next spring. The grey wagtail pair continued their inexhaustible circuit from the bridge parapet, across the pond and then up onto the roof of the mill. One dislodged a piece of moss, which slipped across the Collyweston slate then tumbled into the water. Then they’re back down to the bridge again.
In the spinney even on a sunny day the canopy still makes it dark. There was the loud alarm chitter of a robin coming from high in the trees and I looked up to see it. Then I realised that my mind’s eye had been up there so my mind’s ear had been fooled. The robin is just off to my left and only a little above my head height. Further down the path there’s the chill chatter of a magpie then something else black and white – a dead badger. It’s lying among the fallen leaves and undergrowth with its head facing up the slope. I wonder if it’s the same one I saw crash out of the undergrowth a month ago? I didn’t walk through here yesterday but did so the day before. It’s died fairly recently.It’s a sad circumstance in which to do it, but I’m interested to get the closer look which is never possible with a wild animal.
It’s head is facing forward with the chin flat on the forest floor. Its front paws are thrust out forward on either side with the powerful claws slightly open as if clinging to the earth. The back paws are hidden under the body, though a claw is showing part way down its left side. The eyes are almost gone but the snout’s still there. The white stripe down the centre of its head shows up with the white ear tufts either side. Blue and greenbottles, and a single wasp, are gently moving on its body. There are maggots on its muzzle but they’ve not penetrated the skin yet. But its rear end is melting away in a mass of white maggots. There’s no smell, or at least not enough to make my nose wrinkle, and no buzz of flies. Just a silent, clean and surprisingly orderly looking natural process. A dog comes bounding up, far from its owners, and for an awful moment I think it might interfere with the corpse. But it just has a good look, takes a few sniffs at the head end, then bounds off again. A long way down the path there’s a young mum with a couple of toddlers having a picnic.
Back in the meadows there’s a dead vole on the path. Then I spot a pair of stonechats on the far bank. They cross to my side and perch on fenceposts and on the barbed wire. A pair of meadow pipits arrive too and interact with them in a gentle way.