An hour by the river. A break from everything; an intake of breath. Hot, still air criss-crossed with damselflies, butterflies, dragonflies, bees and birds. The water moving quietly under the sun; small fish breaking the surface occasionally.

Dunnocks and wrens issuing competing trills from opposing hedges.

Banded demoiselles glittering over the water, X marking the spot only fleetingly.

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Blue damselflies doing their thing.

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A tern, all graceful curves, moving up and down the river, and from time to time suddenly folding and diving into the water with supreme style and the smallest of splashes.

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A yellowhammer, at the top of a bush, singing his falling note, over and over. I find it a strangely mournful phrase from that cheerful yellow face – but I was delighted to see him.

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Lots of butterflies, including several commas. A well positioned comma is truly a beautiful thing. And on closer examination there’s a tiny yellow ladybird beneath, among the bramble flowers. Oh, the brambles stretched high and wide; maybe half a mile of them, eight or nine feet high in places, all humming with bees.

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Once upon a time, I spent a largely sleepless night in the US listening to the unfamiliar sounds of a big city; among them a car alarm that appeared to be designed specifically to grab your attention, seize you by your neck and wring it until you told the authorities, or ran away screaming, or perhaps smashed the car to smithereens. It was a hideous music, changing every two bars: rising pairs of notes followed by falling triplets, a high trill, a low shriek, an insistent whoop whoop and then back again to the rising pairs, a Da Capo without Fine.

Here instead is a reed warbler I heard today, working to infinitely more beautiful effect. It simply does not draw breath. It hurls phrases one after the other, a medley of insistence that you Move Along Now, Nothing To See Here and all from its secret hiding place among the reeds. Little brown bird, how I admire your effort. Watch out for cuckoos.


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