Sunday, 15 August 2010

Wot I Did On My Holidayz II: Sunrise, wrong side of another day

Up the trail I went, the trees getting higher and the bush on each side thicker. At the summit of a low crest that gave a view south eastward towards the sea I stood and listened to the low, rolling drone of Nightjars calling from the depths of the woods. Nightjars make a dull, frog-like call that has been called “Churring” although these birds were not so much making a churring sound as a baaarrrrrping sound. I could make out two distinct individuals, one to my left higher up the slope inland and another to my right, lower down the hill closer to the sea. I stood listening for some minutes as the calls spread out across the darkness and looking around I noticed the bird from higher up the hill flap towards me in the final dark minutes of the night, hawking for moths and insects with its slow stiff winged flapping flight. It soared out of the darkness and flew around the trees, checking me out before returning back into the night, a thing of another world.
I was looking for somewhere comfortable to sit, with a good vantage point that allowed me to see what was going on and so far nothing has presented itself. There were piles of pale grey limestone and broken, tumbled down drystone walls in the bush but none of them offered the elevation I wanted. To the right I could make out a ridge with bare rocks rising above the forest but it was approximately 600 metres as the crow, or Hoopoe, flies through a dense and pathless series of thickets so not much use in secretly sneaking up on the sleeping wildlife. I pressed on up the trail until to the left a pile of white limestone blocks showed through the bush and I made my decision to use this as my perch.
There was no path leading to the structure so I had to do a bit of bush-wacking to get there but on arrival I found that I was on top of a very strange structure indeed. A circular pit had been excavated into the limestone bedrock and the stone taken from the pit had been used to build a wall around the perimeter of the pit. More earth and rock had been piled up around these walls to make an earthwork, with a narrow doorway left open facing the sea. Here I sat and watched the dawn break over the island. The disk of the sun had not yet risen above the edge of the sea but already the world around me was more light that dark. A blackbird began to call, a familiar sight and sound in such an exotic location, and I saw black headed whitethroats (Sylvia melanocphala) rise and shine from the bushes all around me. As the sun began to rise and its rays shone through the clouds on the horizon the Nightjar that I had heard earlier calling from its range closer to the shore took a final flight around its territory, flapping past me with those stiff wing beats, looking more like a giant bat than a bird. I watched as it circled its area, making a wide flight and coming very close to where I sat before losing it as it settled down into the thick scrub between me and the shore.

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