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Firsts and not quite Firsts

22nd October

The English language has many words, as any GCSE English student will tell you! But, sometimes, something happens that means the word you would normally use to describe that thing is useless and you end up scrabbling around for more appropriate language.

There was an impressive storm in the night. At about 4am.

This wasn’t a storm, though. The intensity of the rain was diabolical. Nutsford House is on a hill overlooking the Brockey Valley and our bedroom juts out at the front of the house giving us, under normal circumstances, an incredible view of the wooded valley below.

At 4am on 22nd October 2022, however, the experience of being in our bedroom was more akin to being in the crow’s nest of a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at the centre of a storm.

The storm came - thunder, lightning and rain - and it raged for a good hour. But, as storms do, it eventually blew itself out leaving the stream in our woods babbling like never before and the birdbath outside our kitchen window brimming with water.

Which the sparrows very much enjoyed today as they took the opportunity to have a full-on bath.

And they dried quickly too. For, after the storm, we had a glorious day of sunshine enjoyed by all our local birdlife : the pied and grey wagtails on the roof, the blue, great and long-tailed tits on the feeders and, of course, the ubiquitous wood pigeon hoovering up the remnants on the ground.

23rd October

The nearest village is Brushford and the nearest larger settlement is Dulverton which is a small town. Dulverton calls itself The Gateway to Exmoor. Gone are the days when cities, towns - and even villages - could get away without branding. Now everywhere has a slogan and The Gateway to Exmoor is one of the better ones on offer.

For Dulverton stands as a southern entry point to the National Park. It is also through Dulverton that the river Barle flows, the largest river that runs through Exmoor, before it joins the river Exe at Exebridge.

It was a short trip to Dulverton this morning that resulted in the sighting of a magnificent, river bird : the dipper. Hanging around near the edge of the river, just under the bridge where the road passes over it, like a toddler on the beach, the dipper went in and out of the water, fully submerged one second and hopping about on rocks the next. Oblivious to the cars and walkers crossing the bridge, it hung out for a good ten minutes before shooting off downstream as if there was some kind of emergency at home.

My first sighting of a dipper - and hopefully not my last.

24th October

A few old favourites today. Three birds that nobody would drive two hundred miles to see, but nevertheless have their own allure.

You can never recreate the experience of seeing a particular species for the first time. It is a magical concoction that no amount of alchemy can reproduce. I remember fondly last summer - at the age of forty-six - my first sighting of a kingfisher. Just a flash of blue on the River Thames, but a feeling that remains fresh and vivid.

But something that perhaps comes closest to that feeling of seeing your first is seeing familiar birds in a new setting.

So, today was a great day!

First a heron swooped up out of the stream and flew down the valley out of sight. Then a group of four or five buzzards circled overhead, mewing. And finally a great spotted woodpecker appeared sitting on the outside lamp and then on the nut feeder, where it remained - as they do - for an inordinate amount of time.

Not firsts, but firsts at Nutsford House. And it still feels good.

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