Rested. Calm. Happy.
I’m sitting here with my flask of tea on the banks of the Cherwell. A lark has just started chirring high in the air above the river. Here we go again. 120 times this week and then we can all go home and miss it.
Wet mud on the pathway and all over my boots. I drove up to Oxford through the morning looking forward to this moment though. When there’s no rain, it’s a great joy to sit here with the willows and the water and to see which of the creatures are active today. There was a Garden Tiger Moth on my bench when I arrived. That’s the third one I’ve seen this year. The fish are jumping. Nobody is messing about in boats so they’ve come out of hiding to try and catch unwary flies. And the sun, cracking through the clouds and warming my face as I write. I took my ears off just to soak it up the better. I’ll just have to remember to put them back on before the kids come running round in about fifteen minutes. Meantime I’m gonna sign off here and just breathe at the river for a bit, and feel it breathing back.
And there it was. A rare moment. Nature, red in tooth and claw.
It looks like nothing but a blur, but it was a magical moment for me. An Emperor Dragonfly, female, hunting. It’s bigger than you think. Like a small fast bird. Move, hover, move, hover. I was standing in the middle of her beat. She circled me repeatedly, scanning the foliage. Incredibly complex eyes able to predict the movement of prey. I snatched a photo as best I could, but it was more about just hanging out with this beautiful predator and watching it move. I put the phone away. And I was lucky.
I don’t know what it was but there was something edible living on a nettle. She zeroed in and leapt on it, and there was a brief rustle as she made sure it was held before shooting up, past my face, back bent under itself sandwiching her catch as she triumphantly munched as she flew with those nasty big teeth.
It got me thinking how lucky we are not to have any insects that are big enough to hunt us. It doesn’t matter how many times you knock a wasp off your sandwich. It keeps coming. If it wanted to fly off with you and eat your soft bits it would manage it eventually or die trying, much as it does with your jam. Whatever was on that nettle was having a lovely afternoon right up until it got bundled up and flown away. And the dragonfly would have little thought about mercy when it came to the munching. You often see insects eating things backwards.
It’s evening now. Time has jumped to the calm before the evening show and here I am again. It’s not a bad way to spend your time. Even though there now appears to be a wasp on my nipple. It’s sick. Writhing in pain – perhaps parasitised. I feel strangely sad for it so I’m just letting it wander around. Why not. I’ve got ten minutes. Maybe one of the dragonflies will come and pluck it off me