The Progress of Spring

I’m about to go all Tennyson on you now, so be ready.

Silverstone has a swans’ nest. A swan nest is a huge thing. If there’d been swans in Castaway, Tom Hanks would have filched that flotilla for his escape, probably boiling the giant egg as a snack and leaving Wilson as a poor substitute. But I didn’t even realise Silverstone had a lake. It does. Behind the grandstand, drivers’ right of the international pit entry.

A slightly smaller circuit, Mallory Park, probably has a greater surface area in its lakes than the tarmac of the track. And camping there is simply beautiful. Opening the door of your tent in the morning to see the mist rising off the water, hearing the calls of the egrets and great-crested grebes, is a joyous experience. I’ve not checked, but I guarantee there are newts there, laying their eggs in the water forget-me-not.

Cadwell Park has buzzard nests in the copse above Coppice, and I’ve seen jackdaws exploring holes in the trees around Barn in early spring. Treecreepers also make their home around Hall bends. Grey squirrels and rabbits explore the banking. If your airbed goes down in the night because you stole it from your ex and karma is after you and you wake up with a tussuck digging into your hip, you might just catch the call of a barn owl.
Back to Silverstone and an observation. I recently made a small pond in my garden, and over the past few months I’ve been waiting for it to be populated by bugs, critters and wrigglies, but it’s a slow process. In contrast, at the airfield circuit the night rains came heavily and filled little gullies around the debris fencing with water, in which emerged all kinds of diving beetles and larvae, presumably sat dormant beneath the soil. Then the sun came out and a red kite took the backsweep of its tale for a circuit over scrutineering.

Being on post is a bit like bird-watching. You stay all day in one spot with a flask, adding or subtracting layers of clothing. You come home sunburned, windburned or with a cold. And sometimes very little happens. Then you hear a screech; you turn, your attention illuminated and some output of perfect evolution wheels through your view. What differentiates this twitching from the other is reaching for a flag or extinguisher over a camera or field guide.

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