Rev Linda Chester shares her enjoyment of birds.

Its strange how new words come into our language at various times. Eight months ago if someone had mentioned the word “Lockdown", I would have thought of something outside my experience, like a laboratory having to shut down for complete cleaning or investigation. Just weeks later, Lockdown had a personal relevance for all of us. After the initial frenetic business of sorting paperwork, photographs etc and having a blitz in the garden, doing some of those jobs that were on my “To do” list, like many people having extra time, I became more aware of the countryside around me.

As I adopted a lively 15 month old new dog in February, daily walks were part of my life and I love walking on Canford Heath or along the shoreline at Sandbanks or Studland. But no longer having a timetable and things in my diary meant more time for leisurely, longer walks.

Imagine my delight on finding a nest of spotted woodpecker babies in the knot of an old tree in a dell on Canford Heath. I spotted a man with a long lens camera, hiding in some bushes as I passed by. I pulled Barney to a shorter lead, and tiptoed over. Without speaking, he pointed up to the large gnarled tree, and we stood silently. Listening I could hear the low chortles of the baby birds inside. At that stage I couldn’t see them, but what a privilege to listen to the chirping of unseen new life. Although it’s happening all the time, it’s rare that we have the actual opportunity to wait and listen. I returned, with Barney, many times in the following days to listen and to watch.

My night-time walk is usually about 9-9.30 pm. I’m so fortunate to have the Heath and all sorts of local pathways leading there, near to where I live. That particular night I was walking Barney when I heard a continuous, clacking mechanical sort of noise coming from the trees. Initially I thought it was an electricity pylon, but there wasn’t one there. I wasn’t sure if it was a bird or insect because of the length of time the sound lasted. The next night Elizabeth joined me to listen; it was such an unusual form of bird song.

Wondering if it was the rare, mysterious “bird of the night”, the nightjar, on our return from walking we downloaded the song of the nightjar. Sure enough it was the male nightjar song. Although it’s so well camouflaged that I didn’t manage to see it, except in flight, it’s only in the UK between April-August, before its long 6000 mile flight back to Africa. So, next April I shall be out on the Heath, eagerly listening for its return.

These are just two of the precious moments I’ve experienced over the past months. Although lockdown has been a unique and anxious time for us all, there have also been those “shafts of light”, special moments in time, whether from nature, friendship, kindness of a neighbour or a spiritual awareness.

I wonder what precious moments you have experienced?

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