There is little cover within these dunes but that which is present affords shelter to newly arrived birds, some of which will be exhausted after the long sea crossing that has delivered them to our shores. I am sitting quietly on a shallow, spreading incline at the base of a large dune. Just a few feet away is a rather scrappy bush, small in size and somewhat ‘gappy’ in nature. Four small birds can be seen and heard, fluttering about within the foliage to take tiny, half-hidden insects and spiders.
It was the ‘hueeting’ call of a chiffchaff that had attracted me to this particular bush. More far carrying than the rather plaintive, needy-sounding, contact calls of the Goldcrests also present, it was this call that caught my ear as I dropped down over the dunes into this quieter backwater, away from the shushing sea and ever present on-shore breeze.
All four birds seemed undisturbed by my quiet approach and within a few minutes all were again feeding from my side of the bush. Telescope stowed away, the tripod now held my camera and the soft click of the shutter dutifully logged a record of the moment and these delightful little birds. The bush and these birds became my focus; the great dunes with all their autumn arrivals, birdwatchers included, narrowed down to this single point. It is hard to say now how much time elapsed but there must have been rich feeding opportunities for the birds, as not one was tempted to move to other bushes just yards away.
Sometimes the birds were two-dimensional, silhouetted through the bush against the dunes behind, dunes brushed with the gold of a late afternoon sun. In other moments they searched for food on the outer branches, emerging in front of me and close enough to touch. Periodically one would fix me with its gaze, intense eyes like tiny beads of shiny jet that had been washed and polished by the action of sea and sand. Eventually one bird flitted across the gap to the neighbouring bush, its contact calls more intense and prompting the other two crests to follow. I took a lead from the crests and rather stiffly regained my feet to continue my walk.