Sunday, 21 May 2017

Song Drifting on the Wind

The Devon coast is barely visible in the grey haze covering the sea. After a cloudy morning the afternoon sky is clearing, but there’s a cool breeze from the west. There’s a hint of blue on the choppy sea, but the surface is mostly grey, turning to a sandy brown behind the pure white surf pounding the rocks at Hunt’s Bay. I’m in my favourite spot high up on the western side of the bay and sheltered from the wind, it feels almost hot. Fast-moving clouds cast dark blue shadows on the sea, taking just seconds to scoot across the bay.

Below, an almost complete carpet of impossibly rich golden yellow gorse stretches left and right. In stark contrast on the far side of the bay there’s no yellow, just the charred remains of the regular burn by the local farmer. I hear birds, but their song is drowned by the sound of the surf; only a piercing wren gets through. I get glimpses of whitethroats, stonechats and maybe a Dartford warbler. Taking advantage of the shelter of the cliff to feed on insects visibly rising in the afternoon heat, brilliant blue swallows flash past just a few yards away. Below eye level, shinning choughs come and go from their nest site at Bacon Hole. Even though it’s weekend I see nobody.

Amongst the gorse on the cliff top, patches of bluebells, speedwell and violets contrast the yellows of bird’s foot trefoil, dandelions and some early flowering kidney vetch.  Bumble bees, big and small, white and red-tailed, inspect gorse, but only a single tortoiseshell butterflies shows itself; after the long cold winter we’ll have to wait to see if our butterflies will fare better this year.

It’s high tide, the sea calms a little, the roar of the surf softens and I  hear whitethroat song drifting on the wind. I return to my secret lookout and  close my eyes hoping for a skylark or even a yellowhammer, both once so common on these cliffs. The incoming tide has brought with it a thick cold mist into the valley and I'm unable to see beach, but the valiant whitethroat continues to sing against the noise of the surf.

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