Until last year I had never seen a redstart in the uk. Don’t @ me, I never claimed to be Bill Packham or anything. I just think birds are pretty cool.
Anyway, last year I decided it would be nice to see one. We were in Scotland and there was a nature reserve that was supposed to be a good place to see them. It was near a zoo. And so, while Jo took Emily to the zoo, I went looking for redstarts. I learned the call and I listened. I searched.
I bumped into somebody else who was looking for redstarts. He pointed out one that was singing, and I listened again, and I heard it better than I had on the recording, and I pushed that call into the bit of my brain that deals with that sort of thing and I thought about it. We looked for the redstart but we couldn’t find it. It went quiet. We gave up. I walked on.
Down the way and around the corner a bit I heard the call again. Redstart. Definitely. That tree. No. That tree. Yes. Definitely that tree. But where? I looked and I looked. I moved around gently. I listened. People walked past and looked at me strangely. I persevered. I carried on looking. I carried on listening.
And then it flew from that tree to another tree, an even closer tree, to a branch without leaves, and it stood there, all in front of me, and it sang its little heart out. Hello, it said. Hello, I whispered back. Hello.
It was kind of awesome.
A couple of hours later, Jo and Emily picked me up and we drove to a stream for a little walk. As I was describing how pretty redstarts are, two flew into the nearest tree and started singing. Wasted a morning have you? the redstarts asked. Not really, I whispered back, but I can see where you are coming from, you absolute total bastards.