Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
Out on an early morning walk through the park last weekend I stopped for a moment to take in the quiet and stillness. The girls were puddling about happily in the undergrowth (school holidays, although over now, had brought lots of new visitors and their dogs to the area so there were still plenty of new smells to investigate), the river was ambling silently by and the sun was just coming up. We were the only ones out and about. Or so I thought . . .
Calling the girls to me so we could begin to wend our way home I had to do a quick sidestep to avoid tripping over Maudie who, as usual, had tried to charge ahead of me. In doing so I pirouetted (gracefully, as you might imagine) and found myself looking directly at a low slung tree branch. What I did not expect was to find was that low slung tree branch had bright orange eyes—and was looking directly back at me!
Once I got over the initial ‘ . . . what the . . . ?’ I realised I was looking into the eyes of a large Tawny Frogmouth.
What a treat! The Tawny Frogmouth is a fabulous bird but although they are quite common around here and I hear them a lot (they make a deep ‘oom-oom-oom-oom-oom’ sound) I hardly ever get to see one close up—not only because they are nocturnal, but also because they are so damn good at camouflage. After their nightly hunts, when they are ready to settle in for the day, they like to roost on low bare branches (as in this encounter), tree stumps, and even shady patches of ground. I must have come across this fellow just as he was bedding down and probably surprised him as much as he surprised me.
I stood back a bit to get a good look at him. He had already frozen in place and now closed his eyes and I swear if I didn’t already know he was there I would never have seen him. How many of these incredible birds do I walk blindly past every morning I wonder?
I said hello to him, and told him he was a beautiful bird (one does these things when no-one else is watching) but he was having none of it. He moved not a muscle. Not even a peek under his eyelids to see what I was doing. I watched him, fascinated, for a couple more minutes but, as he seemed determined to pretend he hadn’t seen me, I reluctantly decided I should leave him to his rest.
Looking around to see where the girls had got to (they had all gone suspiciously quiet) I found them all sitting at my feet, exchanging nervous glances and looking worriedly up at me. I imagine it could be bit alarming for any child, even a four-legged one, to watch your mum engaging in what appears to be a one-sided conversation with a rotten old tree stump . . .