Daisy And Me People I meet when on my walks with Daisy

20Oct/160

Swooping Herons

heronAt a few minutes before seven o’clock I leave home; the sun is gone, or at least the light from it has disappeared over the horizon and the twilight is making way for the gathering night. The street lights are glowing their familiar warm amber and passing cars are driving on low beam. My two dogs are on their leads but Daisy, the upstart, new arrival is barking and claiming her walking rights over the older Muttley. In her mind only she is allowed walk with me and so it shall ever be. As we cross the road before the Basin I can see the canal walk ahead though the lights there are not yet on.

When we arrive where the road finishes, at a small car park for the apartments on my right, the LEDs of the lighting flicker into action. Their glow is directed downwards, not wasting any of the light but also not obscuring the pathway or the waterway, in any unnecessary show of brightness. There are many people out walking, couples as well as the single dog walkers like myself, but yet it seems so very quiet, as if I am here on my own.

The word serene comes into my head and I look it up when I get back: calm, peaceful or untroubled reads the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary and it almost captures the beauty of the canal.  A large group of runners, on their way home by the look of their determined faces, jog past, some chatting to a partner, others keeping the eyes focused on a finish line probably up by the Aquadome. The long line of multi-coloured kits snakes back along the path but it soon passes and it’s back to walkers only by the time I’m past the second bench. Cars pass on the Tralee to Blennerville road but their sound is strangely comforting, a reminder that life is going on and people are on their way home to dinner after a day at work; their day too is ending. Every person out tonight has a dog of some description and even Daisy tires eventually at barking at each one.

We carry on at a good pace, nodding and saying hello to everyone, most answering, others choosing to stay silent. At the slight bend in the canal a heron flies out from behind the Poplar trees by the small lake. It skirts along the field on the right before turning and flying no more than a few feet above my head. He or she is followed by another similar sized heron, who chases it over the canal and the road beyond, before disappearing into the darkness of the inlet on the other side. I can hear them squawking at each other, either fighting or courting, but I’ve never heard such noise from this usually fairly quiet bird.

Someone once said that the heron is made up from the parts leftover when the rest of the bird species was being made; the unwanted parts that is. It has a chest like a bulldog, very long, wide wings, gangly beanpole legs, a dagger like beak at the end of a too long looking neck that has to bend into an s shape for flight. Yet it is the most elegant of birds, whether in flight or sitting patiently when fishing, so seeing two fighting and making noise is most unseemly of them. Though they have disappeared into the marsh I can still hear them giving out. Their screaming disappears as I continue but just as I make it to Blennerville Bridge they appear again, chasing and harrying each other, while just missing a mid-air collision on more than one occasion. They fly alongside me for a minute or two before heading off to the windmill, disappearing once more into the darkness.

Any natural light has faded completely now but I keep going, heading for the lock gates at the end of the path after the bridge. The council has yet to allocate the money to finish this part of the walk, so the lighting is gone, as is the freshly tarmacked path, replaced by rough aggregate. The plan is to do the job under next year’s budget. The dogs are keen to keep going and the red harbour lights of Fenit act as a guide in the distance. You lose all sense of perspective in the complete dark but at least as once as your eyes adjust, you can see where you are going. It is getting cold but I’m not the only one doing this part, with walkers looming out of the darkness from time to time.

Just as we get to the lock gates the two herons appear again, flicking in an out of my vision but staying along the course of the water as they fly. I wonder what has got them so excited? We turn at the gates and make our way back along the still, silent water’s edge. The canal is tidal and it must be just about full or about to turn, as the water is not moving, there isn’t even a ripple on the surface.

“Beautiful night,” a man says as he passes.

“Yes,” I answer, “we’re lucky.”

“That we are,” comes the reply from the darkness.

Back on the lit side of the walk we pass a few more people and I step up the pace a bit to get home for the football. The dogs bound along and there are fewer out walking by now. It is still as beautiful as when I set out and I don’t mind missing the start of the match. As I make it back past the bend by the lake, a heron comes gliding along, barely above the surface of the still water. A single one this time, either the lovers broke up or territory has been claimed. The bird comes in to land with a gracefulness that belies its shape and touches down on the stone bank across from me. It almost disappears into the background but I can just see its intelligent head staring into the water.

The bird’s night is just beginning while mine is nearly over.

I wish him luck and head for home.

 

 

 

 

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Posted by John Verling

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