BOATING on the Norfolk Broads last week, I took the marsh harriers and the explosive song of the Cetti’s warblers for granted. What I didn’t expect was what looked like a giant rabbit swimming across the River Waveney. My binoculars then revealed a small muntjac deer, grey-brown fur ploughing through the black current. Wild eyes fixed on the other side, it battled on, barely changing course even when an angler moved his lines.
A clumsy stagger on to the mud, a vigorous shake and it merged like a ghost into the golden brown of the reeds.
It’s the sort of breathtaking “wildlife moment” that the RSPB is gathering to show the value of the natural world.
Three barn owls quartering reed beds in daylight, badgers snaffling peanuts on the patio, the first goldfinches to feed on my Nyger seeds, all made my heart beat faster.
Wildlife even makes time-travel possible. A skylark’s song takes me straight back to school cricket where birds made more of an impression than the bowlers.
On Golden Cap in Dorset, I enjoyed perfect silence – no cars, planes or people – as I looked over coconut-scented gorse to the Channel. I escaped credit crunches, call centres and overcrowded trains to reconnect with an increasingly remote natural world.
My favourite wildlife moment? At dusk on a bluff in Kenya’s Samburu National Park, my wife, children and I overlooked a vast plain, mountain peaks all around, as we sipped sundowners and prayed that the lions had already dined. Below, a dust cloud rose up. A train of elephants rolled along, trunk to tail, mothers, teenagers and babies tramping serenely into the sunset.
It was a sight earliest man would have recognised – and a reminder of just how insignificant we really are.
Add your wildlife moments to www.rspb.org.uk/moments, or tell me.