In this piece of nature writing, I describe yet more wonderful encounters with birds, including three redstarts, on my short walk from Patterdale to Hartsop in the Lake District.
Although this piece can be read as a stand-alone piece, it is part of a small ‘Patterdale to Hartsop’ series. The previous pieces (oldest to most recent) are The Goldrill Bridge and A Trio of Swallows. So if you haven’t already done so, you may wish to read those first.
A Triad of Redstarts
If the swallow extravaganza wasn’t enough excitement for one short walk then what I see around the next bend certainly is! As I continue along a curved part of the path, three female redstarts materialise in my field of view, each perched inside a separate wire square of a wire fence that serves to heighten a boundary that already exists in the form of a drystone wall.
The birds—which look a little like robins, except their tails are red rather than their breasts, their breasts bearing only a tinge of orange, if anything, atop their drabs—make a point of keeping a certain distance between me and them. As I approach, the most proximate bird flies beyond the other two and alights delicately within another wire square in the fence.
As I continue my approach, the bird that is now nearest to me mimics the first bird, moving to the back of the queue, so to speak. Then the third bird, now nearest to me, repeats the same behaviour as the other two and in so doing, the three birds maintain an interpersonal space between me and them that they are satisfactorily comfortable with. They never allow me to close the gap, not even in the slightest, but then again it must only be about ten yards tops, so I should be pretty happy with that!
The path leads me around a mound where, suddenly, pandemonium ensues as a flash of green, an almost luminous, yellow, preternatural green surrounded by a darker, more natural moss green with a blur of blood-red, shoots off from the ground. Its slanted ascent towards a larch tree is filled with a repetitive, high-pitched, piping alarm call, enough to pierce the ears of anything in the vicinity.
At first, I fail to recognise the species, my brain sifting frantically through its vast database of images, sounds and stored names of birds in an attempt to find a match. The only thing it comes up with is a lorikeet of some sort, which, of course, would mean an escapee. The split second the bird latches onto the trunk of the larch tree however, I know what it is, its shape and mannerisms revealing it in an instant. It is a woodpecker, and obviously a green one.
The species’ UK conservation status is also green, meaning that it is neither particularly rare nor endangered, but despite this, I must never have been in the right place at the right time, for this is the first time that I have ever seen one and so I am left positively buzzing with excitement.