My mem­o­rable gift from Mother Na­ture

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - COMPETITIONS -

With all the aw­ful news that sur­rounds us ev­ery­day, some­times the only thing to do is to es­cape for a while to re­mind our­selves of the beauty that ex­ists in the world around us. A sim­ple walk out­doors, some­where peace­ful, al­ways works won­ders for me.

When I’m in Eng­land stay­ing at the fam­ily home, a stroll down the garden among the fruit trees lis­ten­ing to the birds is all it takes. When I’m back here in Ban­gor, I’ll wan­der down to the beach and gaze out to the open sea and let the fresh breeze blow all my trou­bles away. Po­etry is an­other es­cape route I’ll of­ten use too. Next to my bed is a pile of books filled with col­lected verse and the most thumbed pages of all de­scribe the heal­ing power of na­ture; “Come forth into the light of things, Let

Na­ture be your teacher!” Even when I’m at my com­puter, work­ing to­wards a dead­line, I can eas­ily find es­capism for a mo­ment, just to recharge my bat­ter­ies. One such web­site is Wildlife on Face­book, a UK-based page where mem­bers share their pho­to­graphs and videos of un­usual, scarce, fas­ci­nat­ing and beau­ti­ful wildlife they’ve spot­ted. One such ex­am­ple was in early spring last year.

A mem­ber had posted some footage show­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary scene.

It was ob­vi­ously filmed in the dim­ming light of dusk and showed the branch of a tree in semi-sil­hou­ette, upon which a sin­gle long-tailed tit had just landed and was set­tling in to roost for the night.

A few sec­onds later an­other ar­rived and snug­gled up as close as it pos­si­bly could get to the first bird who was now edg­ing down the branch to make room.

Then an­other came, and an­other and an­other, each time the tiny clus­ter moved along to make way for the lat­est ar­rival un­til 16 — an en­tire flock — were lit­er­ally crammed on to the branch in a long, com­pact flurry of feath­ers and fluff.

This de­light­ful scene of so many tiny birds all roost­ing to­gether in a warm and cosy cud­dle filled me with such joy I felt I had to leave a comment un­der­neath.

“This is an amaz­ing piece of footage of a se­cret rit­ual I’m sure very few peo­ple know about, let alone have seen first hand! How did you man­age to cap­ture it?” I en­quired.

The cam­era­man duly replied, ex­plain­ing that it was out­side his bed­room win­dow and the same thing hap­pened at the same place, same time, ev­ery night. The footage was in­deed so cap­ti­vat­ing that a few days later it was even shown on BBC’s Spring­watch.

But back to the present. I was stay­ing at my dad’s house re­cently and with all the shock­ing events tak­ing place, I just couldn’t even face the evening news any more and so I es­caped for some respite to my favourite get­away, be­neath the fruit trees at the bot­tom of the garden. The weather had been sunny that day and the sun-lounger was still out, so I lay down on it and silently watched as dusk slowly re­placed the set­ting sun.

I was so re­laxed I was about to nod off when some­thing alerted me right above my head. It was a long-tailed tit, squeak­ing its tiny mouse­like call as it landed on a branch half way up the ap­ple tree. I could just make it out with its dis­tinc­tive black and white mark­ings, tiny body and dis­pro­por­tion­ately long tail dan­gling be­low like a pen­du­lum.

What hap­pened next was one of the most in­cred­i­ble mo­ments of my life. Be­cause a few sec­onds later, an­other ar­rived and snug­gled up as close as it pos­si­bly could get to the first bird who was now edg­ing down the branch to make room. Then an­other came and an­other and an­other, each time the tiny clus­ter moved along to make way for the lat­est ar­rival un­til the branch was lit­er­ally crammed with one long, com­pact flurry of feath­ers and fluff.

It could have eas­ily been missed. It was nearly dark by the time they’d set­tled and it was all done so qui­etly and del­i­cately that not even a leaf shook. But I saw it be­cause it was meant for me; an im­mac­u­late gift from Mother Na­ture to re­mind me that life is beau­ti­ful.

Watch­ing the birds roost­ing to­gether filled me with joy

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