It was a delight today to jump the old lurcher into the tailgate of an SUV, pack a gun in the motor and head out to the shade of a summer wood for some squirreling. The old dog had been deprived of his weekend sorties due to his owner (yours truly) having a very senior moment recently resulting in the write-off of the X-Trail. With the insurance claim wrangled and settled, we now have a new Panzer in which to trawl the farm tracks and challenge the grey invader and its rodent or corvid allies.
With the temperature already touching 18c at 8am (a shameless lie-in after a busy week in the day job), I pulled up alongside a small four acre covert. This is one of the satellite woods on the estate and a breeder / feeder point for the grey squirrel population. Nature abhors a vacuum and these outlying encampments supply replacement insurgements to the main coverts if left unchecked. I parked in the shade and let Dylan from the tailgate. His enthusiasm as he left the air-conditioned motor waned immediately and I swear he turned and thought about jumping back in! Too late. I slammed the tailgate and looked at him. “If I’m going to sweat this, so are you, old boy!” I muttered. I armed the rifle and we set off into the wood.
On such a warm morning, I would expect greys to be active. Particularly now when the first sign of the green nut fruits appear (cob nuts, beech and acorn). Strangely, grey squirrels can tolerate the mild toxins these developing fruits contain but the red squirrel can’t. Another reason the red disappeared from here a generation ago. I set down in cover in a corner of the wood, laying the old lurcher (already panting) in the relief of shade. For the first time in a fortnight I had time to sit back and reflect on ‘the accident’. On the way here this morning I had heard on the radio that there had been a serious four vehicle incident on the A47 Norwich Bypass. Two weeks earlier I had learned how your life can pass in front of you in the blink of an eye, so wondered what had happened and had everyone survived? I had … and the other driver … without a scratch, simply due to the robust safety features built in to modern vehicles, both of which were ‘write-offs’. While I had been calm and collected in the aftermath of the incident, in which the police and recovery teams had been superb, over the last two weeks I’ve had time to reflect on what would have happened if I hadn’t accelerated, putting the driver door beyond the impact zone?
Sitting there today in the shade, with my faithful dog beside me, I melted into the ambience of the wood. I didn’t care about squirrels or crows. I stared up at the shafts of sunlight illuminating the lush, verdant woodland rides and saw the myriad bugs and insects whirling in the canopy. Then I marvelled at the subtle noise in the wood, which I often take for granted. The constant hum and drone, the soundtrack of a hundred thousand lives. A passing jay screamed our presence and the dog lifted an eyelid in acknowledgement. Then went back to sleep. I wasn’t in a mood to shoot a damn thing. I just sat and watched and listened. I was just happy to be alive. And I’ll be back there tomorrow too. Because I like the ‘buzz’.
Copyright, Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, August 2015