I shouldn’t be too ready to jump to conclusions; I really shouldn’t do it!
(Click on image to enlarge)
19th September 2011: It was busy on the marsh this evening. The sky was overcast, and the air was full of noises. The buzzards were flying about with an urgency I haven’t seen from them on any other evening. They would normally be floating lazily on the thermals, but not tonight. Squirrels were chasing each other around tree trunks like mad things: nose to tail. Acorns were falling from the trees like massive rain drops, and invisible creatures were moving about and making crackling noises in the undergrowth. It was like I had suddenly developed super hearing. Mallards were flying about in pairs, and a green woodpecker attempted to chase me away.
As I was trying to photograph a squirrel running along the pipe walkway, One-Eye, the old badger, rushed grunting and groaning across the pipes a couple of feet away from my boots. He disappearing into what was left of the Himalayan balsam. There were far more birds in the air than I would normally expect to see, and they all seemed to have somewhere to go and something to do.
I crossed the southern end of the swamp, close to the river, and a woodcock broke cover, frightening a heron into the air at the same time. As I skirted the North Pond, I heard a rustle in undergrowth along the river bank to my right. I homed in on the rustling sound and stood watching for five to ten seconds. I saw something I have not seen on the marsh before. I saw a long cream coloured body, I didn’t see the front legs or the head; a long bushy straight tail and, for want of a better expression, wallaby type back legs. The animal had leapt into the air to clear thick undergrowth. What I think I saw was a ferret. I can’t think what else it might be.I walked around to the east bank of the pond and made my way towards Poncey’s tree. Half way along the pond I found a dead black bird. Buzzard talon piercings could clearly be seen across the bird’s body, and pecking to the neck and head had killed it. I guess one of the buzzards had flown away with the kill, and had dropped it when mobbed by crows.
If a person spends a lot time in a particular environment, that person gets tuned into their surroundings. If a squawking pheasant breaks cover close by, that person hardly bats an eye lid, because this kind of thing is normal and expected. It’s the unexpected occurrence that can cause a person jump out of their skin.
Anyway, I worked my way very slowly past Poncey’s tree, when the branches began to shake and leaves began to fall. My heart missed a beat and my skin crawled as Poncey flew off towards the island, leaving a mass of leaves drifting to the ground. The one thing I didn’t expect was an encounter with Poncey. I was closer to Poncey tonight than I have been at any other time, before he took flight. I wasn’t even trying to get close to him. I shouldn’t be too ready to jump to conclusions; I really shouldn’t do it! The marsh foxes hadn’t killed Poncey the other night, it was someother unlucky bird. I have to say that I am not at all unhappy about this. My faith in Poncey is restored.
The sun had set by 7.30pm and by 8.00am it was getting dark; the marsh began to settle down.
As I made my way home, I heard the ke-wick call of a female tawny owl, but I didn’t hear a male reply.