Belfast Telegraph

My memorable gift from Mother Nature

By Frances Burscough

With all the awful news that surrounds us everyday, sometimes the only thing to do is to escape for a while to remind ourselves of the beauty that exists in the world around us. A simple walk outdoors, somewhere peaceful, always works wonders for me.

When I'm in England staying at the family home, a stroll down the garden among the fruit trees listening to the birds is all it takes. When I'm back here in Bangor, I'll wander down to the beach and gaze out to the open sea and let the fresh breeze blow all my troubles away. Poetry is another escape route I'll often use too. Next to my bed is a pile of books filled with collected verse and the most thumbed pages of all describe the healing power of nature;

"Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher!"

Even when I'm at my computer, working towards a deadline, I can easily find escapism for a moment, just to recharge my batteries. One such website is Wildlife on Facebook, a UK-based page where members share their photographs and videos of unusual, scarce, fascinating and beautiful wildlife they've spotted. One such example was in early spring last year.

A member had posted some footage showing an extraordinary scene.

It was obviously filmed in the dimming light of dusk and showed the branch of a tree in semi-silhouette, upon which a single long-tailed tit had just landed and was settling in to roost for the night.

A few seconds later another arrived and snuggled up as close as it possibly could get to the first bird who was now edging down the branch to make room.

Then another came, and another and another, each time the tiny cluster moved along to make way for the latest arrival until 16 - an entire flock - were literally crammed on to the branch in a long, compact flurry of feathers and fluff.

This delightful scene of so many tiny birds all roosting together in a warm and cosy cuddle filled me with such joy I felt I had to leave a comment underneath.

"This is an amazing piece of footage of a secret ritual I'm sure very few people know about, let alone have seen first hand! How did you manage to capture it?" I enquired.

The cameraman duly replied, explaining that it was outside his bedroom window and the same thing happened at the same place, same time, every night. The footage was indeed so captivating that a few days later it was even shown on BBC's Springwatch.

But back to the present. I was staying at my dad's house recently and with all the shocking events taking place, I just couldn't even face the evening news any more and so I escaped for some respite to my favourite getaway, beneath the fruit trees at the bottom of the garden. The weather had been sunny that day and the sun-lounger was still out, so I lay down on it and silently watched as dusk slowly replaced the setting sun.

I was so relaxed I was about to nod off when something alerted me right above my head. It was a long-tailed tit, squeaking its tiny mouse-like call as it landed on a branch half way up the apple tree. I could just make it out with its distinctive black and white markings, tiny body and disproportionately long tail dangling below like a pendulum.

What happened next was one of the most incredible moments of my life. Because a few seconds later, another arrived and snuggled up as close as it possibly could get to the first bird who was now edging down the branch to make room. Then another came and another and another, each time the tiny cluster moved along to make way for the latest arrival until the branch was literally crammed with one long, compact flurry of feathers and fluff.

It could have easily been missed. It was nearly dark by the time they'd settled and it was all done so quietly and delicately that not even a leaf shook. But I saw it because it was meant for me; an immaculate gift from Mother Nature to remind me that life is beautiful.

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