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  • Writer's pictureMal Grey

That one magic moment

I have this theory. Every single time I go out for a quiet walk, or for a solo paddle in the canoe, something will catch my eye that is a little bit special. Something I will remember. Sometimes, its the glimpse of an unexpected bird or animal. Sometimes, like today on Chobham Common, its a golden light that arrives just as the wind drops away, turning a cold, slightly bleak day into a moment of peace and beauty.

Just in the last few weeks, there have been a few little examples of this that I'll remember for some time to come. Not because they were rare and mystical beasts that I saw, more because of the context they were in.

I went for a short wander, just a 10 minute walk from home through the housing estates, and down to Brookwood Lye, a small Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve. Its nothing special, but we'd been doing some clearance work on a corner of it as volunteers a few weeks back, so I went to explore the rest. This small reserve is a wet area between A-roads and the canal. Down the middle runs a delightful little stream, today overflowing with clear waters, which I had no idea existed, just 500 m from home. As I turned for home, suddenly 3 roe deer burst from a thicket, and bounded away. A few seconds, and the were gone. Where to, I have no idea, but I was surrounded by the urban fringes of Woking, and there's nowhere they can go without crossing a main road.

Paddling down a backwater of the Wey last week, I ducked through a fallen tree, looked up to my left, straight into the eyes of a sparrowhawk. It seemed more puzzled than afraid, though as I quietly reached for the camera, off it flew.

Occasionally, they don't fly. Last autumn, as dusk started to fall, a female kingfisher patiently waited for dinner perched on the opposite side of the canal from me in my canoe. Normally they are gone, literally, in a flash of blue. This one must have been hungry, and she let me sit opposite taking photos for several minutes, maybe 20 feet away.

Even more rarely, its not you that's watching them with interest, its them that's watching you. Walking alone among the high cliffs of the Gorges du Tarn last summer, winged shadows cruised over me, Griffon vultures. If I'd slipped, I was on the menu. An interesting feeling.

That was at the extreme end of my wildlife sightings, but the little local things that can be just as special. You just need to keep your eyes open. I suspect that the very thought that I am now always looking for that one magic moment when I'm out in the countryside, means that I am more aware of my surroundings, and therefore more likely to have one. Try it, go out with open eyes and find that moment for yourself.

Close to home: Mrs Kingfisher, Basingstoke Canal, Odiham

Further afield: a Griffon Vulture checks me out on the Tarn

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