Sad news for us; we no longer have our hairy companion to take with us. He succumbed to a large unstoppable growth and he is no longer with us. No more will Zoid show us the way on paths, drag us eagerly into pubs or give us an easy means of making friends with people. To ease the loss a little we chose a place where dogs could not be taken; the wild life reserve at Sevenoaks and had a wander around watching birds.
We heard a Great Tit singing as we got ready to walk and when we stood in the hide to watch the Grebe’s there were birds feeding on a feeder quite close. The Great Tit flits into the feeder and eats a little and flits out quickly. Of course being spring it is pairs mating and pairing up which is a treat because they are so openly active.
The reserve was once a sand and gravel quarry; the evidence of the quarrying is still there although the buildings are gone to allow the space to regenerate. Other than cutting here and there and pathways kept maintained so that it is obvious where you should go and of course the hides the area is left to develop naturally. The place is surrounded by main roads and one is aware of the M26/25 and the railway close by but once inside the perimeter the noise can be ignored and the birds enjoyed.
Geese, the large bird that in some conditions seem such ungainly creatures become in their natural environment creatures that fit in with their surroundings and whatever ‘make’ they are look right. We saw them pairing up choosing their nest sites and claiming territory, honking noisily, splashing and lashing out at each other to stake their claims. It was exciting watching the males having a go and the females standing by demurely enjoying the attention of their mates. Fun to watch.
There are two pairs of Swans and two huge nests – it is good that Swans do not nest in trees – the nest are massive and when you are close up to them you can see just how big the birds are. Note: if Her Majesty (God Bless Her) is tempted to eat one I suggest she is going plough her way through a lot of Swan Sandwiches, stew and soup. But, as you can imagine, it was a great thing to see a nest.
We saw the courtship dance of the Great Crested Grebe, a duck with ducklings, a Mistlethrush and Robins. One Robin was in a hide filled with members of the family who had donated it to the reserve, three generations come to visit in memory of their lost one. Maybe the Robin comes for the same reason?
The place is interesting and the day we were there it was busy with visitors; a place we may visit again. As it was, the mating call was strong for the birds and warmed our hearts with the sheer energy of it. We did not see Kingfishers although somebody in one of the hides saw a flash of orange and blue on the opposite side of the North Lake. It would be better perhaps later in the year when the trees had more leaves to see them; maybe catch them flashing down into the Darent which runs through the reserve. Who knows?
Anyway, the trip was worth the effort and for a time took our minds off the absence of Zoid and allowed us a chance to cogitate over other family losses and illnesses but also to talk of better things as well; academic success, a birthday and as Ian Dury would have it “Reasons to be Cheerful”.
On the idea of Swans: It is oft times I mention the book Three Men In A Boat and the mention of Swans reminds me of the episode when J and George set off for the Inn leaving Harris in charge of the boat and the bottle of Whiskey they were reserving for hot toddy in case they ‘got upset’ (fell out of the boat) and Harris who drank much of the whiskey and had an imaginary fight with a whole fleet of Swans. Came to mind was the oft quoted line: “A swan can break your leg with its wing” and having never, repeat never, known it to happen, I was happy to be close to the beautiful birds.
I also suggest that although there is tea and coffee on sale and a few snacks it would be a good idea to take a picnic lunch and eat it in the gardens close by the visitor centre. I suggest also that as there is no entry charge a donation would be a good idea. It is worth every penny you give.
I will of course miss having the dog with us and I know of the two of us my sister will miss him most.