Beyond lists

It is now a week since summer started: calm, hot days with distant shimmering shades of green and brown. Grasshoppers grate from grass that tickles and pokes my legs. It is a time of year when the annual bird list stagnates – there are still rewards for looking, though. Like everything of value, devoting time and patience enhances my experience.
I am fortunate to live on the coast where wobbling waves alternate with an expanse of sand and mud. The mature dunes I walk through to reach the beach are full of new life. Goldfinch juveniles, streaky finches with a gold lightening strike on their wings, outnumber their parents and whitethroat jump out of every bush and tussock. A couple of weeks ago the only birds on the beach were a few immature herring gulls and a lonely oystercatcher. Today I can see new arrivals – adult black-headed gulls have appeared, still sleek and smart in their summer plumage, and the first common gull of the autumn has arrived. Instead of one oystercatcher, there are 36 and two curlew strut across the ooze. A gang of brown juvenile starlings now squabble amongst bladder wrack on piles of boulders.
I can only appreciate this start of the ebbing flow of the year because I am watching the area regularly. Beneath the superficial list of names I can hear the first exhalation of autumn. I don’t need the latest, most expensive optics or transport to notice this, I need time. The moment to stand and observe is so easily lost in our rush to change the world.

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