His legs were scratched and muddy after running through the woods.
“Mum come on, hurry, come on…”
I’m packing: camera, midge cream, flask of tea. “And get some trousers on,” I add, eyeing his black and bleeding knees. But my little boy is too excited to feel pain. He’s desperate to get back. Terrified it won’t still be there.
A baby owl, sitting right out in the open. It sounded unfeasible but he was adamant and we were going to investigate.
Finally properly kitted out, he leads me through the conifer wood a knowing guide nonchalantly swinging a stick.
Deeper into the forest where man-made plantation gives way to ancient oak and giant beech in bright spring green.
And there it is. Just as he described, a fat fluffy owlet perched on a low branch, looking for all the world like a stuffed cuddly toy.
We are giddy with excitement. Hurriedly taking pictures, gesticulating wildly to each other but afraid to even whisper. To disturb such a defenceless little creature would be a crime. It looked so vulnerable out in the open but we suspected its mother was near.
We wanted to wait and see if the mother would return. My son settled among the thick roots of a tree and immediately started nibbling on flapjack he’d stuffed in his backpack. I edged further away where I could get a view down the steep wooded bank and propped my camera on a fallen branch.
Tired from a boistrous day, in the peaceful tranquility of a woodland on a warm afternoon, he was soon fast asleep.
I watched and waited, savouring every moment of this unexpected break. Lulled by the buzzing of nectar filled bees and the occasional clumsy flapping of wood pigeons in the trees above.
When the aerial acrobatics of a squirrel drew my attention to the topmost branches of an oak, I reached for my camera to get a better look.
Brought into focus by the powerful zoom I managed a brief glimpse of the departing squirrel but right there on the branch where it had been was the unmistakable image of another young tawny.
Two youngsters to look after – and some distance apart. My heart went out to the mother. Too easy to ascribe human emotions to the scene, I found myself wondering what sort of foolhardy venture had resulted in one of the youngsters being so far from the nest.
But across the woods, my own little chick was waking up.
He rubbed his eyes, lost for a moment in daydreams and then noticing me snapping away like a tourist on safari, gave me a sleepy lopsided grin.
There was just time to point out my discovery of the second young owl high in the oak tree before it really was time to go. Walking home with back-to-school-and-work Monday ahead, we both knew it had been an incredible privilege to witness what we had that afternoon. Even just the opportunity to sit quietly in the wood. To realise that despite all the inconveniences and troubles of living here, it is a truly magical place and we are very lucky indeed.
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