With a flick of barred tail feathers the hawk shook off its grumbling corvid escort and accelerated, high to the north away over the playing fields and out of sight. And I stepped less rapidly away from my doorstep where I’d been watching, at the relaxed sort of pace that I’ve adopted of late, pleased at an auspicious start to an afternoon’s ramble. On Maiden Erleigh lake, the usual residents were out in force, some seven mandarin ducks keeping an eager eye out for bread. A dunnock, musing on spring, tried out a few different song perches for size, repeating his refrain from twig after twig before retreating back into the shade of some ivy. As for me, I was out on my latest form of listing foolishness, in pursuit of as many birds as possible seen whilst travelling by foot power alone from my own front door.
In theory, proceeding at walking pace is the best way to see anything. The slower you go and the more you look, the more the world can keep up and comes to meet you: beasts, birds, plants, the steady march of the clouds and the play of the waves on a small lake, all the occupants and elements of nature. Walking puts us in our place in more ways than one, in that we cease bossing the landscape about by traversing it at great speed whilst simultaneously re-engaging with our immediate surroundings. Not skating across the surface but plunging in at the deep end, not invading visitors from outer space, but creatures properly embedded in our ecosystem. Homo sapiens, the upright grasping ape.