Job cancellations come with the territory when you’re a freelancer; and since that eruption of  coronavirus, work postponements and cancellations have become nearly as frequent (and inconvenient) as my ageing bladder! But not all cancellations are born equal.

This week I found myself particularly disappointed at a cancelled commission that I had been really looking forward to. A job that was not only in a sector I’m passionate about but would have involved being around a team that I’ve followed and looked up to for a while.

So on the day of the scheduled shoot, spending my newfound time catching up with emails, accounts, yada yada could never provide the required lift to get on with the day. While a pretentious coffee and pastry might offer a temporary departure from feelings of disappointment, I decide to walk out on our local moor (Burley Moor).

Justified as a ‘reccy’ for the upcoming Walks with Nature event, I’m immediately rewarded by something that I’ve never seen or known to be seen on the moor, a pied flycatcher.

Pied flycatcher on Burley Moor, Ilkley

This morning the moor is an amphitheatre of sound, a constant cacophony of chiffchaff and willow warbler are only surpassed by the ear-piercing calls of Wrens. Wrens everywhere. On the bracken, on the drystone walls, on the wires, fences and trees.

There’s so much natural splendour on display that it takes me over an hour to walk not much further than a mile. By now, the heat haze rising from the moorland habitats makes photography close to impossible so I just sit on an ancient slab of stone, absorbing the sun’s energy.

As I haul myself vertical, resolutely resolved to tackle the yada yada of the day a cuckoo calls from a nearby copse. Game over.

I spend the next hour patiently waiting behind a drystone wall as the cuckoo call slowly but surely gets closer, before appearing in plain sight atop of a conifer on the edge of the small group of trees.

Cuckoos are not only on British soil for a short period (adults typically turning back towards Africa around July) but it is an increasingly rare sight and/or sound. An evocative and iconic feathered migrant that is slowly disappearing. That’s why, as usual, I took great care not to disturb its natural behaviour. Taking time for it to move towards me. My reward was a good 20 minutes of unadulterated natural behaviour, until a Buzzard decided to take a stoop and swoop at it!

The joyous cuckoo calls continued in the distance as I made my way back, not before stopping to appreciate the ridiculous iridescence of the tiny green hairstreak butterflies and some ferocious hunting from a common lizard weaving in and out of the undergrowth. Then, out of nowhere, “An ouzel? No female blackbird, or is it a juvenile starling? That’s a bit early? No, it is, it’s a female ring ouzel. Blimey.” What a finale. Put simply, one of my best morning’s on the moor yet.

Sighting highlights: Pied Flycatcher, Wren, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blue tit, Great tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Stonechat, CommonLizard, Buzzard, Red Kite, Goldfinch, Long-Tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Cuckoo, Ring Ouzel, Curlew, Blackcap, Robin

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