Buzzards Before Breakfast

Sunday morning, early, the sun is rising slowly. There’s a chill in the air and a slight mist hanging eerily around. I’ve just waved my daughter off on a six-hour journey and don’t feel like returning to bed with a cuppa and my book. It doesn’t take too long to decide that I should be off and out over the moor with a hot coffee and my camera and, at least, this way it will take my mind off my offspring driving up the M5 and M6.

Fully prepared, I make my way to a spot known for its buzzards. With deep wooded valleys and combes, grassy fields and moorland it’s ideal for watching birds of prey. It’s a favourite location for me and I’m at peace when I’m crouched down in a gateway, waiting and watching with my coffee.

I cross moorland, drive up lanes lined with ancient hedgerows and keep my eyes peeled as I wend my way across an area I feel at home in. It’s clear up here and I can see a beautiful day ahead. On the moor there are several Exmoor ponies with their winter coats in evidence. Are they enjoying this weather, I wonder,  or simply tolerating it until warmer days are with us?

imageThe excitement I feel as I travel along never leaves me. Whatever the weather, whatever the time of day, I am always looking forward to what I’m going to find both at my destination and on my way to wherever I’m going. Exmoor will throw something at you that will make you hold your breath and that’s exactly what happened on this wonderful spring morning. I’d slowed right down as I was nearing my destination as I’m always on the lookout for hares. They are my most favourite creatures – I love the way they move and love the folklore written about them.

Anyway, in the middle of the lane, coming directly towards me was a hare! It was lolloping along quite nonchalantly and neared the car until it was about 15 feet in front of me. By this time I’d slowed to a halt and, in my amazement, had become quite immobile…I couldn’t even pick up my camera! I didn’t want to take my eyes off this beautiful animal and watched silently as it stopped its journey down the lane in front of me. I realised I was holding my breath but still couldn’t move as I sat pondering how lucky I was to have such a memory. Within seconds the hare had made it to the grassy roadside, hopped through the fence, sat for a moment on its huge hind legs and had a good look around, as if to give me a chance to record the moment on camera (which I still didn’t do), and then shot off like a bullet across the field and was gone. Gone, out of sight but not gone from my memory. I will always hold that memory close to my heart – I love hares! Hares were not my sole objective  that morning but I’d take the sighting gladly.

However, buzzards were…so onwards and upwards to my waiting place where I could sit and partake of my coffee. There was no sign of a mist up here either; the air was crisp and clean. I could see three buzzards soaring high above me already, their mewing reaching my ears clearly on the ground. I sat quietly drinking my coffee whilst I watched, happy to be a part of their day. I always have my binoculars slung over my shoulder in readiness, they’re old but comfortable and I’m loathe to change them. They belonged to one of my brothers who kindly gave them to me, so ancient or not, they stay with me on my travels. Even if I don’t take a photo, it’s a dead cert that I’ll take a memory away with me and that may be seen through my binoculars. Either will do – it will be something to record for my grandchildren to read about as time goes on.

It’s glorious up here on the moor at this time of day. The peacefulness hits your body and the silence is loud but that’s how I like it. There’s time to think, time to put my day in order and time for me to wonder how far up the motorway my  daughter is! But we don’t want to go there so I count the increasing number of buzzards now wheeling about the sky above me.

It’s a good morning with a sky of the palest bluey grey and it shows off the fourteen beautiful buzzards to good effect. Fourteen buzzards – I’ve never seen such a sight in all my days watching them! They are a wonderful sight as they soar, then dip and dive on the breeze and take a rest period on one of the many fence posts and trees that act as perches. From here they’re off again, up in the air, wing tips curled up like  spreading fingers, hovering. Sometimes they bunch together, flying at each other, their clawed feet held out in front of them as they perform their acrobatics and drop like stones for a second, locked together. It looks quite vicious to the uneducated – are they defending a new-found territory or is it a mating ritual? Either way, it’s amazing to watch their ability in the air. I’ve always thought buzzards to be lazy but they can move when they want to!  Robust activity over, they are, seemingly, all friends again. They land in the grassy fields, bobbing along the ground, taking it in turns to launch themselves effortlessly into the sky and all pointing in the same direction.

To watch these beautiful birds of prey in such a stunning location, looking out over the Devon countryside before me is quite breathtaking. To have the chance to see fourteen of them, soaring together today was magical and it’s yet another simple pleasure to treasure.

I’ll take that one away with me as I make my way back home to the cottage and a cooked breakfast of locally laid eggs, crispy bacon and a steaming cup of Earl Grey. Nothing like a cooked breakfast to warm you when you’ve been up and out on the moor.

The cottage awaits, the wood burner needs stoking and I need to know if my daughter has made it past Bristol yet. So, cottage, my warmth and sustenance, here I come!

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