Black Lough is probably only eight miles from Alnmouth as the crow flies so I knew I had about an hour and a half and I estimated thirty minutes up, thirty five searching and twenty five down.
The slope to the south lay in shadow and the car temperature readout said -4c as I set out. I pushed up the hillside track quickly wanting to gain as much searching time as possible. The cold and my lack of recent activity burned my lungs to that point where you get the taste similar to blood in the mouth.
I stopped and turned for a moment and immediately got lifted by the early morning view to Cheviot, being back out in the hills felt good, when I was younger it was places like this at which I felt most at home. My summers spent exploring evocatively named valleys around Ingram, Langleeford and Alwinton.
Reaching the end of the track and a gate I stopped to scan with bins and almost instantly picked up the shrike as it flew from it's perch on some nearby tall vegetation over the dip toward Black Lough. I set up scope and refound it sat atop a small tree with the dark still waters of the lough behind it and in the bright morning sunlight it was a stunning sight. I watched for a few minutes as it preened, occasionally scolded by a Reed Bunting and then something overtook me. I stepped back, apart from my breathing everything was silent.
There today I recaptured something that I had lost, just me and the shrike in a landscape so beautiful it hurts to look at it too much. It's that beauty and that sense of being part of a much bigger natural state that 'just is' that underpins my love of birding, it's why I started and why I keep coming back to it. It was almost a religous experience today, an epiphany.
Standing still, the silence only broken by the occasional burst of Skylark song and the gentle bubbling of the birth of a nearby stream, surrounded by a blue sky and this huge landscape that no picture can recreate I was, well I was just me again today for the first time in a long while.
Even my absentmindedness forgetting the camera/scope attachment was turned into something positive as I wandered back down the hill grinning inanelyto myself. So I'm pleased to announce the launch of Dodgyscopingtm Release 2. for the world's viewing pleasure incorporating the distance feature that allows you to almost view the bird as I saw it with the naked eye.