• Barbara Copperthwaite

Busy making other plans...

At first glance it may not have been obvious that I was, in fact, a dedicated nature-watcher. It could have been the bag of chips i was munching on, or the can of ice-cold pop that sat beside me, condensation trickling gently down its side. But nature-watching I was - I just also happened to be having a rather lovely evening.

I had walked through Highbury Park into nearby Canon Hill Park, accompanied by Scamp, who was bounding joyously by my side with a stick in her mouth (she is always joyous when a stick or tennis ball is around). My friend was also with me, and I enthusiastically pointed out various butterflies (especially Gatekeepers. There are so many around at the moment. I even saw six trying to oust one another from a single Ragwort flower with varying success). Overhead some Swifts raced by, screaming with exhilleration - at least that is how it always seems to me.

After walking for a while, the friend suggested we have our tea outside. A picnic! So that's exactly what we did, walking on to a nearby chip shop then settling down to eat in Highbury Park, surrounded by Large and Small Whites. The Brown Hawker made an impressive appearance too, always flying at just above head height. It felt as if we had our very own airshow display as we munched. Then I suddenly looked ahead of me instead of up - and right in front of me was a Common Darter, almost within touching distance! I had almost missed it I'd been so engrossed.

Sadly, this isn't the first time something like that has happened. Once I was on holiday in Norfolk and was busily snapping away at some baby Coots. They looked so cute and fluffy as they scurried past a gate that led into a huge meadowland on the other side. Suddenly they and their mother all froze. I was convinced it was because of me, so also froze, unwilling to scare them further. After a couple of seconds I slowly looked up...and saw a Marsh Harrier just climbing into the sky again. It had landed virtually in front of me and I had missed it until now! I was so annoyed with myself! To this day I shake my head in despair when thinking of that moment, because I have so many photographs of Coots...and all I managed to get of the Marsh Harrier was a snap of a tiny, unidentifiable dot in the sky.

Wasn't it John Lennon who so eruditly said "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"?

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