Bonuses have been in the news a lot recently. Personally I wish every job had its own built in incentives. Life would be so much richer for everyone.
Take my job down here at the Seven Sisters; it comes with lots of bonus points.
After the last few hectic weeks with the Easter holidays, family events to organise, holiday clubs to run and preparations for the summer term and school visits, it was nice on Monday morning, with a clear blue sky and the sun shinning, to have to go out into the woods to collect some materials for a forthcoming event.
I headed out across the car park to the sound of a great tit filling the space beneath the trees with its piercing rendition of ‘teacher, teacher’ and turned down the wide bridle path that runs along the edge of Friston Forest to West Dean. Beneath the elder newly covered with fresh green leaf, the pointed leaves of arums, (lords and ladies) had spread across last year’s dead beech leaves. The arum at my feet had spawned a pale green spathe which had unfurled to reveal a dark, phallic shaped spadix at its centre. In the autumn this will bear bright red poisonous berries. Along the track young elm trees, which have suckered from the roots of their parents long removed because of disease, were covered in pale green buds which had shed tiny droplets of pink flowers onto the stinging nettles beneath.
Suddenly, from the top of the pine trees on my left there was an amazing sound. A call akin to Rolf Harris (for those with long memories) loose on a wobble board. It was answered from the tall conifers on the other side of the path and a conversation started up. As the calls batted backwards and forwards across the path I caught sight of the little egret perched precariously in the top branches of the tree which rocked as it stood, flapped its wings and settled once more. Over the last fortnight both grey herons and little egrets have been roosting in these trees overnight and I have caught glimpses of them early in the morning before the park becomes busy. The herons seem to have moved further into the woods but the egrets have remained. Are they nesting this close to the car park?
I moved on and cut into the forest. The sycamore leaves had not fully opened and sunlight was pouring down through the trees. There was a chiffchaff in the background and the soft murmur of wood pigeons. Then the sky was filled with another cry, one that carries with it images of wild open places; somewhere ahead a buzzard was lifting into the sky and mewing to its mate. There is often a pair drifting along the edge of the woods that skirt the narrow lane that runs down to West Dean village. As I came down through the trees there was a scuffle in the higher branches ahead of me and I caught a glimpse of wings as one of the buzzards lifted from its perch just in front of me. For a second I held my breath as it flapped its wings and gained height, disappearing above the trees into the blue of the sky.
Nesting egrets (maybe) and a buzzard. What an amazing, rich bonus for the day. Eat your heart out you rich bankers!