There's a male Firecrest hiding somewhere at The Lodge at the moment, so this lunchtime I spent some time looking for him.
'Looking' suggests some sort of active searching, but to be honest, I spent more of my time standing dead still and waiting for something to happen.
It wasn't entirely fruitless, though. I found an area among the rhododendrons and sweet chestnuts where there seemed to be a lot of bird activity, and stood there in hope.
I don't think it was too unreasonable, to hope that I could just bump into the Firecrest. And staying still was much quieter than tramping about among all those dry, rustly chestnut leaves and noisy twigs.
I've thought for a long time that time spent standing in one place, listening and looking around you, is actually time well-spent, especially in woodland. If you wait for long enough, birds don't notice you, they forget they're supposed to be afraid of humans, or decide you're not worth bothering with.
Looking down to a small woodpile about six feet away, a Wren flew from a bush and perched on top of a log. I'd already been standing there for five minutes when it arrived, and it carried on its business, poking about for insect food, even though I was only a short distance away. Yes, only a Wren, but I enjoyed the encounter. I heard the leaves rustling as it moved about on the ground.
From ahead of me, on the hill, came a sound like children kicking autumn leaves for fun. A litter-picking gang of Blackbirds, searching for food among the fallen leaves.
On a horizontal branch a short distance away, an upside-down Treecreeper inched its way along. With its stiff tail propping it up against the tree, it inspected the bark for moth eggs or something equally microscopic (but obviously nutritious).
High up in a tall, dead tree in front of me, a flash of black, white and red came into view - a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Working his way quickly to the top, he selected a chunk and began some gentle, exploratory pecking - perhaps auditioning it for a possible drumming post for a few weeks' time. To my untrained ear, it sounded good and rotten.
Some slightly less heavy-duty pecking sounds were those of Nuthatch on chestnut. Always a fantastic bird to watch - like a mini-woodpecker. I heard some quiet song (or sub-song?) that I didn't recognise from the top of a pine tree... Coal Tit the likely culprit, I think. A Goldcrest - yes, just a Goldcrest - appeared in a holly bush to taunt me.
No Firecrest, but not a waste of time, either.
photo taken with Nikon Coolpix 995