I am running, well not right at this moment, and if the truth be known not at all today, but most days I head out. There is something very special about 7am runs by the river, I count my blessings every time but especially now the lighter mornings are here. This week I ran every day before work. The forecast had promised a week that would get milder as it progressed and I looked forward to that. It turned out that this was not the case at 7am and each morning the car temperature got lower and the frost got thicker. Until Friday and the needle hit 5°C which felt positively tropical. Whilst it was not nearly as pretty as the previous morning’s sunshine glistening off the frost, it was a welcome relief for me. And then my morning just got better. I rounded the corner and standing in the water on the opposite bank of the river was a juvenile grey heron. I stopped to take a good look. I do love these birds, their ungainliness, their utter snootiness and the awkward way they take flight and land. They use every inch of their long beaks to look down their noses at any passer by and leave you feeling quite inferior. Still, I was on a run and had to carry on.
My next stop was to admire the little white egret. Similar to the heron with it’s black beak and black feet and snowy white feathers. Very sweet and it took flight as I watched. I was spurred on, what a great place to be. I rounded another corner and on the ground some 8 to 10 feet away was a mistle thrush, not rare but still beautiful. The markings on its chest were so well defined and clear, almost leopard like. He didn’t stay around long but long enough for me to admire without having to stop running this time!
Heading round the loop where I turn to start the return leg, I spied a blackbird sized bird though paler in colour and with burst of red under its wings. Could it be a redstart I wondered? I would need to check when I got back. I had stopped again to have a better look and hoped it would prove to be something a little different to warrant yet another stop on this rather higgledy run. It was on the ground then fluttered up to a branch which gave me a good look at its red feathers under its wings.
I continued past the hedgerows buzzing with great tits, robins, chaffinch and many other little birds I’m not knowledgable enough to name. I was looking forward to Googling the redstart and didn’t believe I would see anything else of note on this particular run, it turned out I was wrong! Finally I finished my run and had my foot on the concrete bollard I use to stretch my hamstrings when I turned and spied what I thought was a greater spotted woodpecker sat on the ground not 10 feet away. It saw me and flew away but not before I had had the privilege of a very good look. Mighty pleased with myself and the long list of wildlife I had spotted I headed to the shower itching to get to my computer and look up the red start and the greater spotted woodpecker.
Squeaky clean I Googled greater spotted woodpecker and it looked nothing like the bird I had seen. The defining feature of my spot was the bright blue in its wing. After some searching using the very helpful RSPB birdfinder it turns out it was a jay. This came as something of a surprise to me as I thought jays were black with what looks like a bit of a cap on their heads. Well, it turns out that’s a jackdaw and clearly I have some way to go in learning about birds! But what it does mean is that this was the first ever time I had seen a jay, and what a beautiful bird it is. The RSPB says that they are most easily spotted in autumn time so a pretty good spot for this time of year.
I then looked up the red start and what turned up was nothing like I had seen. Oh dear, wrong again… Redstarts have distinctive black heads and deep red breasts and the bird I saw really only had the red under its wings. The RSPB bird identifier is a great tool though and then I realised my error. I had assumed the distinctive redstart was the only one. But of course male and female birds are often very different and this is the case for the redstart. Digging further and looking at other images showed I had seen a female redstart. Somewhat restored in my knowledge (though still very limited…) of birds I proceeded to text my husband with a list of my morning’s spots.
What a way to start a Friday – I was buzzing and my whole day was coloured with a positive hue.