A Jay, with marshmallow-pink, jet-black and dazzling blue plumage, is sitting in an Oak tree with a ruffled crest harshly screeching at a dog passing unconcernedly below. Wanting a more peaceful place to spend the warm summers day, the young male bird hauls himself into the air with one last grating cry and lopes along on short, round wings with an air of lazy purposelessness. He flaps higher to pass over the lake; the iron-brown water stretches out below him, it reflects with beautiful clarity the lush green woodland that stretches along both banks. Directly below the Jay is his own silhouetted image framed by a mirror-sky of mountainous cumulus clouds gently and silently passing through the dense blue summer firmament.

The Jay sinks lower in preparation to land upon the blasted skeleton of a long-dead tree, as he alights upon a branch he feels the radiating heat coming up from the heather-clad ground. Crickets buzz ceaselessly in the moor-grass and a feisty male Emperor dragonfly shoots with deadly purpose over this patch of heath, scooping up the many midges and hoverflies that dare to get in his way. The Jay scans the hillside heath-land with his glossy black eyes, he knows this is the territory of another Jay but the pickings are too good to resist; with one last glance at the trees he swoops down to the ground and deftly gulps down a large black beetle he had espied out of the corner of his eye. He notices movement to his right; flitting in and out of some young silver birch trees are several small, lean and agile birds with an upright posture and a habit of making regular forays from a favourite branch to snatch passing insects – they are Spotted Flycatchers. Having been engrossed in spying on the flycatchers the young Jay suddenly realises his feet are swarming with wood-ants vainly trying to bite through his tough scales, he rises back into the air with a flick of his feet to dispel the ants and flies off to a large Beech growing imposingly on the brow of the hill.

In the luminous green shade of the layers of Beech leaves the Jay feels cooler, he gazes impassively at the view before him; to the west stretches seemingly uninterrupted woodland, any gaps or valleys hidden by the high canopy, to the north is a gap where the valley exits the high land and opens into a wide plain – in the furthest distance the Jay could discern the wall of wooded chalk hills known as the downs. Directly in front of and below him however was the shimmering purple, red and gold heath leading down to the lake – the Jay’s attention was distracted from the view for a moment by the sight of a large brown Adder moving smoothly through a patch of gorse. A terrible high-pitched sound behind him startled the Jay, he jumped and turned around to see a bulky adult Jay bearing down upon him – he screeched with alarm and fled out over the heath without looking back.

He reached the edge of the heath and was now over woodland of oak, sweet chestnut and birch, the Jay skimmed low over the trees whose canopies were humming with the life of a thousand caterpillars, and a hundred spiders eating them, and tens of small warblers eating them. A Silver-washed fritillary rose out of the canopy for a moment in front of the flying Jay, it looped in the sunlight then plunged back into the green depths, flashing its ochre wings. He now came to a small triangular meadow bordering a golf-course beyond, the grass was tall and the seed heads a dusty brown, grasshoppers sang their buzzing songs from every blade of grass and a few ragged-looking meadow browns wafted over slowly along. Something small and brown caught the Jays eye in the middle of the meadow, he checked for humans or dogs but the area was empty so he landed on hopping feet a short distance from the object. The object was a very small and very dead shrew, untouched and uninjured it was pathetic and delicate – the Jay promptly swallowed it whole and took off again in search of a big tree to rest in.

With a beetle and a shrew in his belly the Jay now needed water before he rested, cruising easily through the thick vegetation of the woodland interior he made straight for a stream he knew well. In a dark and damp patch of the wood, just above the lake, runs the trickle of a brook that feeds the open water beyond; it is lined with lush ferns and mosses, pendulous sedges drape shadows over the water and dragonflies swoop low over the mud in search of good egg-laying spots. The Jay silently stepped down to the edge of the stream and scooped the cool water, rich with iron, into his beak – he had not had more than four gulps when a sudden crashing of branches and scuffling of leaf-litter sent him shooting up into the nearest tree. Below him three Roe deer, all does, leapt out of a holly bush and jumped across the brook, they seemed in a great hurry and made no attempt at stealth. The Jay scolded them in annoyance for disturbing him as their white rumps disappeared into the shrubs behind him, he took off grumpily and made for the other side of the lake.

The wood here is scattered throughout with solemn pine trees, amongst them are Birch, Chestnut, a few Alder and Beech and the ground beneath is a rich loamy brown covered either with impenetrable bracken or dainty but tough Bilberry patches. The young Jay knew of a good place to rest for the afternoon, it was not far from the tree where his nest had been so with renewed courage in these familiar surroundings the Jay swooped up, down, sideways and twisted through the tangle of branches that make up the canopy. In a small clearing in the center of the wood stands a huge and veteran Beech tree with limbs as vast as a whales tail and smooth as ivory; they reach in upward curves for the sun though some have rotted or fallen over the centuries. The Jay lands on one of the great branches and trots towards the main trunk, he nestles himself against the tree, hidden from view by the crown of limbs, and rests contentedly.

The sun melts into the horizon and colours the sky and clouds with a rich burnt-peach wash, Tawny owls call ‘kee-wik’ in the hazy dark of the woodland while starlings in the glowing atmosphere above fly to roost in tattered groups. The Jay hears a fox bark and comes to his senses, the air is still pleasantly warm and there is enough light in the sky to fly by so he hops along a branch and takes once more to the air. He flies due west and soon the wood opens up into a mixed space of heathy ground and birch coppice with atmospheric pines casting their jagged shadows onto the heather and tall grass. The Jay lands on a sandy path and cautiously hops along with his head on one side – looking for food on the ground. A bumbling cockchafer chatters out of the evening air and collides with the Jay’s head with classic clumsiness – the beetle pays for it with his life as the Jay hungrily eats the flailing insect. As soon as the beetle is swallowed the Jay hears a peculiar noise that he has only heard from a distance before – now it is right above his head, it unnerves him so he flaps a short distance away to an oak sapling where he tries to see what is the cause. The noise is somewhat akin to a frog croak and a stridulating cricket but louder and deeper than both with a hint of the mechanical to it – the culprit was a dark form sitting un-moving upon the branch of a pine. The bird (for that was what it was) suddenly took off with another strange call, it was shaped like a hawk but with longer wings and a very short beak, it both scared and intrigued the young Jay though he could not put a name to this queer creature which we humans call a Nightjar.

After this encounter with a twilight creature the Jay decided he had had enough of the dark and enough of the calling owls, the prowling fox, the scurrying weasel and enough of the endless moths and midges that kept flying into his face. He set off once more over the tree canopy and eventually came upon a tall Oak that rose from the shore of the lake, he squatted right up against the trunk, secure behind the leaves of the oak and the ivy that swarmed up the side of it – and fell to sleep after another long day in Buchan Park.

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